Easily accessible and perfectly productive for both small and large boaters, the Barnegat Light Reef is an easy 3.1-mile run straight east out of Barnegat Inlet. Known as a fluke fisherman’s paradise, the reef stretches into depths from 46 to 63 feet, and spans roughly .85 square miles with dimensions of 1-3/4 miles north to south and 3/4-mile wide.
The real attraction of the reef is that it contains tons of tanks, bunches of reef balls, concrete castings, and low profile structure including some worthy wrecks such as a 40-foot crew barge, the 41-foot sailboat Antares, and 42-foot tuna barge. All that low-lying structure sets up perfect ambush points for fluke to pounce on prey.
During the summer months, drift fishing for fluke and sea bass reigns supreme here. Most anglers out for a day of drift fishing for fluke either drop bucktails or drag three-way swivel rigs with spearing and sand eels as bait and start their drifts at the north end and gradually move south over the site. Pick a path and drift between tank units, reef balls and such, making sure you hit the spaces between tightly clustered areas for the best results.
Early morning and noon time hours are the best bets to get that special drift because when the south wind kicks in after noon, the cooler water gets pushed up the coastline and the reef is close enough to shore for the fish to feel the effects, in other words, the fluke shut their mouths. One big, hour long drift usually puts a stack of flatties into the boat, and the outgoing tide produces best, as nutrients and forage outflow from nearby Barnegat Inlet into the ocean waters sticking to the reef.
June through August is prime for fluke. Black sea bass are also prevalent during summer on the shallow site, and simple hi-lo rigs tipped with squid strips, Berkeley Gulp! Swimmin’ Minnows or clam baits on size 2/0 baitholder hooks will hang you plenty of doubleheaders. During those tropical temperature summers when waters breach the 80-degree mark, you can find bonito, Spanish mackerel and even an errant chicken mahi patrolling the area. Try trolling small 00 Clark spoons or 3-inch Williamson feathers in green/yellow or blue/purple to see if anyone is around.
As fall wears on, look for the reef to hold scores of blackfish as they root down and work on and around the structures to feed on mussels, crabs and other such crustaceans. Pay attention to the cluster of tanks that are submerged on the southwest side, as it’s a virtual city for blackfish during September and October before they make their move into deeper waters offshore.