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Off limits to New Jersey and Delaware anglers for the entire start of 2018, the Tuesday reopening of black sea bass has wreck hunters dreaming of record-breaking humpbacks to start the season.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  May 14, 2018
Steve Singler of Philadelphia, PA shows off the New Jersey state record black sea bass, a 9-pounder caught on December 12, 2015. Steve was fishing with clam on 3/0 hook while bottom fishing in 180 to 200 feet of water aboard the Voyager out of Point Pleasant.

While sources say that the NJDEP Commissioner has yet to officially sign off on the regulatory change as of 4 p.m. on Monday, May 14, black sea bass season is expected to kick off again this week in New Jersey as well as Delaware, with Tuesday, May 15 the planned restart for 2018 bottom fishermen.

New Jersey Regulations:
May 15 to June 22: 10 fish (12-1/2 inches)
July 1 to August 31: 2 fish (12-1/2 inches)
Oct. 8 to Oct. 31: 10 fish (12-1/2 inches)
Nov. 1 to Dec. 31: 15 fish (13 inches)

Delaware Regulations:
May 15 to Sept. 21: 15 fish (12-1/2 inches)
Oct. 22 to Dec. 31: 15 fish (12-1/2 inches)

By all accounts, sea bass should be big and feisty as of opening day, given that the regional fishery has been closed since the start of the year. With New Jersey and Delaware each adding significantly to their state reef systems in recent years, the artificial reef sites should be fairly well loaded with hungry sea bass.

Rigging is fairly simple, with a pair of dropper loops tied into a stretch of 30-pound mono to which a 4.0 bait keeper hook is added to each. Add a swivel to the top and a simple overhand knot at the bottom for the sinker. Fresh surf clam, while more difficult to find this season, is a best bet. Bucktails or jigheads with Gulp! or diamonds can often take some of the bigger specimens feeding up higher in the water column (for more see Capt. Allen Gonzalez’s Inshore column in the May 10, 2018 weekly edition of The Fisherman.)

NOAA Marine Weather forecast out of Atlantic City for Tuesday (as of 6:30 a.m. Monday morning) is for south winds 5 to 10 knots in the morning turning to 15 to 20 knots out of the southwest by afternoon. While showers look like a good bet for the forecast the next several days, winds are expected to lay down fairly nicely into the latter part of the week and weekend. For a listing of boats in your particular region of interest - including North, Central and South in New Jersey - go to The Fisherman's weekly reports section online. It’s best to call ahead for sailing times, reservations and regular updates throughout the season.

Of course for subscribers to The Fisherman Magazine, don’t forget about the Dream Boat Fishing Challenge; black sea bass (minimum weight 4 pounds) is one of the qualifying species in the subscribers’ only tournament this season for the grand prize of a Steiger Craft 23 Miami with Evinrude E-TEC G2 250 HP Outboard Motor, a Lowrance HDS Carbon 9 with StructureScan 3D Bundle, Global Fish Mount and Engel 80 Roto-molded Cooler ENG80. For complete rules and a full list of prizes this season go to our 2018 Dream Boat Fishing Challenge page.

At 6:06 p.m. on May 14, The Fisherman received word that the NJDEP had finally signed the sea bass season into effect just moments earlier.