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As November arrives, Jersey surfcasters from Sandy Hook to Cape May are hoping that the best is still yet to come; based on the latest reports from the north, it's a pretty good bet!
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  November 5, 2018
Offshore winds on Sunday, November 4 flattened seas and led to a picturesque sunrise at Bay Head, even though very little was happening striper wise. Expect more W/NW winds later this week after a rather blustery start to the week.

In our Beach Talk report this week, field editor Nick Honachefsky reported on another up and down week for surfcasters with rough, dirty seas hampering much of the success you’d normally expect this time of year.

“On the cleaner days, stripers started chomping down on clam and bunker baits,” Honachefsky writes in this week’s surf fishing report in the New Jersey edition, adding “Pluggers are finding much better action during night trips up and down the coast.”

A good southeast heave at the end of last week coupled with heavy winds affected surf conditions along the coast and left many casters wondering where all the fish have gone. However, a heavy dose of offshore winds through the weekend and on Sunday in particular may have finally dropped the ocean water temperatures along the coast into a more striper-friendly zone.

“As water temps dip into the mid to high 50’s now, look for the striper surf to really start firing,” Honachefsky added on Sunday.

Fish of the week honors was a 48-pounder taken on a pencil popper at Spring Lake according to Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar. There were other reports of short to just keeper stripers whacking plugs with teasers from Sea Bright down to Manasquan with some folks reporting on rainfish in the wash. There’s been a heavy sand eel induced bite along the Central South Shore of Long Island too of late, with North Jersey field editor JB Kasper also getting word this week of good fishing in lower New York Harbor which could bode well for surfcasters in the coming weeks.

“Evidence points to a body of fish coming down from the Sound, through the East River and out the bay, which should mean there are more on the way.” Kasper said in his latest report, adding that tackle shop owners believe it’s time for the fishing to break open.

If this Long Island Sound to East River striper migration theory holds water, that puts two converging bodies of striper bass (north shore and south shore) ready to converge at the New Jersey coast sometime in the near future.

Weather has played havoc with local surfcasting tournaments as well. Anglers participating in Ocean City Fishing Club’s 50th Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament - originally scheduled for October 27 but postponed due to yet another nor’easter - will now be held on Saturday, November 17. “We’re hoping for a lot better weather on November 17,” said Mike Collins, the event co-chair. “We expect around 30 some teams with up to six people per team, as well as 15 to 20 individuals participating,” he added.

Registration will take place from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. on the day of the tournament at the Ocean City Intermediate School, 18th Street and Bay Avenue. It costs $80 for a six-member team. Individuals can participate for just $15.

The tournament attracts teams from fishing clubs throughout the tri-state area and is held in coordination with the Association of Surf Angling Clubs (ASAC). For more information, contact Mike Collins at 215-595-7261 or Bob Dever at 267-251-2306.

While a lot of surfcasters in Cape May, Atlantic and Southern Ocean County often get frustrated by the early reports of good striper fishing in Monmouth and Northern Ocean County, it’s been strangely slow to get started all along the Jersey Shore in 2018. And it could be several days before really get word on where the action is really taking place given the week starts with more wind.

NOAA Weather is forecasting 20- to 25-knot winds out of the east on Monday, November 5, with more of the same on Tuesday, November 6 with winds expected to switch around to the southeast. By mid-week however, the Monday forecast from NOAA Weather has winds switching over to the W/NW and gusting, which should help clean things up a bit by end of the week and into the weekend.

Wind, rain, temperature, bait and the very fact that they’re fish with tails has made for a very slow start to the 2018 Jersey Shore striper run. And while boaters are trolling mojos, spoons and plugs just inside the three-mile line for big stripers, it’s still too early to say the big girls passed us by. Not yet.

Just remember the Thanksgiving Blitz of 2016, and the November into December sand eel explosion of 2011. There’s still time, and more fish to come.