Garden State Sisters - The Fisherman

Garden State Sisters

2018 4 Garden State Sisters
Images courtesy of Navionics & the Navionics Boating App.

Twins, almost, birthed by the New Jersey Bureau of Marine Fisheries (the dam) and then artificial reef coordinator Bill Figley (the sire). The 1.1-square mile Garden State North Reef’s first deployment was August 15 back in 1984. The 52-foot Good Times, a retired charter boat loaded with 36,000 tires as additional ballast was laid to rest. Since then, there have been an eyebrow-raising 164 deployments, including 25 sponsored sinkings.

Two months later in the same year, 60 tire units, with 380 road rubbers per block, were deployed on what was to be the .06 square mile Garden State South Reef. To date, 92 deployments have been accomplished.

Situated between the Barnegat Light Reef to the north and the Little Egg Reef to the south, the Garden State North layout is 6.5 nautical miles from the beach and a 7.7-nautical mile ride from Barnegat Inlet; its southerly sibling is 5.1 nautical miles from shore and a 9.1-nautical mile cruise from Little Egg Inlet.

The parallelogram-shaped Garden State North Reef boasts a maximum depth of 90 feet with a 50-foot relief. It is jam-packed with a laundry list of structures, all of which lend themselves to exemplary attracting and holding habitats for the likes of fluke, sea bass, blackfish, porgies and triggerfish. Besides the aforementioned charter vessel, deployments have included freighters, tankers, barges, reef balls, Redbird subway cars, tug boats, tire units, and armored personnel carriers. Debris fields of vary sizes consisting of concrete, rubble and rock add to the cooler-filling potential of the venue.

“The Garden State North is one of the most productive reefs in the system and with the tanks and armored personnel carriers, is a tog factory,” said artificial reef coordinator Pete Clark.

Figley concured. “It is really hot for blackfish, and I had a great November on it last year.”

Tog testimonials don’t get any better than these! Double anchoring is the key to taking advantage of the tog, sea bass, triggerfish and scup opportunities afforded by the expanse. While the entire reef is rife with fluke from start to finish of the annual season, it’s the western edge in particular that is the drifter’s dreamland. While not doormats or area rugs, flatfish in the 4- to 7-pound class are not uncommon, especially if a whole (5- to 7-inch) squid or snapper blue is proffered, or the 6-inch Gulp! Swimming Mullet or Nemesis, or the 6-inch Mr. Twister Grub, either as a teaser or mated to a bucktail or jig head (preferably sporting a ball head and swing hook), finds its way over the structure-strewn grounds. Seasonal sea bass, porgies and triggers will be pulled by clam, squid and cut bait.

The smaller, rhombus-figured Garden State South Reef is oftentimes an afterthought during those rare times when the neighboring 1.5-square mile Little Egg Reef residents prove tight-lipped. For “Southie” regulars, this submerged debris field being overlooked and/or utilized only as a last resort is fine, as they continue taking advantage of the fluke, sea bass and blackfish seasonal abundances sans the fleets. Oh yeah, porgies here too.

With a 50-foot relief and a maximum reach of 63 feet, the structure includes tire units, tug boats, reef balls, tanks, tug boats, armored personnel carriers and crew boats. As with its more northerly sibling, the tanks and armored personnel carriers are tog magnets, and while greenies on a standard rig or snafu are the poo, increasing numbers of Southies are getting the crab-baited jig on, especially over the more shallow structures. Sea bass and triggerfish, and the late summer/early autumn porgy visitors are suckers for fresh clam, squid, the Fishbites Clam Chunks or cut bait.

As far as the hot numbers are concerned, there are still a few coordinates as yet unpublished (the charts on the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife’s website under the saltwater/artificial reef section) which provide unparalleled opportunities for fluke, sea bass and tog. Or as Clark put it recently when divulging the latest information, “Let’s get the fishermen on the fish.”

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