Splitting the line between eastern Burlington County and northern Atlantic County, the brooding-to-tempestuous Mullica River is one of New Jersey’s hottest “inland” pure-strain striper fisheries from late September through Halloween. Linesiders to 30 pounds are not uncommon, and the autumn migrants add to the river’s robust population of resident fish.
The springtime run from late March into the Memorial Day weekend is almost as productive big bass wise, but it is the early autumn run that exemplifies just how incredible the striper action can be.
Word about the Mullica’s manic fall bass bonanza is finally beginning to reach receptive ears, and eyes widen with the experience. To be sure, the flow is known for its outstanding open and hard water white perch fishing. It receives a lot of attention during the late spring and early summer bluefish and fluke opportunities, and this past summer offered decent shots at keeper to six-pound weakfish at the river mouth. The weakfish action dries and dies by about the second week in September, but within another seven to ten days, the bass run begins to rev, red lining by mid-October.
From its collision with Great Bay between Graveling Point and Oyster Bed Point, it’s an approximately a winding two-mile ride up to Chestnut Neck and Port Republic where the river crosses under the Garden State Parkway at Mile Marker 48. From there, it’s another 13 miles up-current to the hamlet of Sweetwater where it’s more about local fish than the much larger seasonal transients.
The Mullica’s maximum depth is in the 35-foot range, with a mean reach of half that. Top spots for second season stripers are Deep point, Doctor’s Point, the Swimming Over, Hog Island, Swan Bay, the mouths of the Wading River, Bass River and Nacote Creek, and the Hay Road stretch to Lower Bank. Other productive areas certainly exist, and these are the domain of locals who would just as soon give up their legs than their GPS waypoints.
“It is truly a slime crime this time of year on the Mullica,” observes Violet Meyer at Chestnut Neck Boat Yard, ground zero for the fall run. Eels are the top bait through October and even into early November if the weather holds and there are no storms to dirty the water. Live spot also catch stripers, but for the biggest bass, the eel is the deal.
Those who eschew the use of breathing meat score with the Gulp! Eel and the Z-Man EelZ. The fish will also hit plugs, but again, it’s the live offering that will lasso the longest linesiders.
Boats can be launched at Chestnut Neck Boat Yard off Route 9 (GSP Exit 48 southbound) or Great Bay Marina at the end of Radio Road on Mystic Island off Route 9 just south of Tuckerton. Make a left (southbound) or right at the Mathistown Road light and follow to Radio Road. Make a right at the light and the marina is 2-1/2 miles down on the left just before the Graveling Point access.