Hot Spot: Deal Lake - The Fisherman

Hot Spot: Deal Lake

Deal Lake is located just off the ocean block at Loch Arbour, and its depth and contour lines can be charter using Navionics and other chartplotting technologies (images courtesy of Google Maps and Navionics).

It’s an acquired taste, much like foie gras, caviar, ketchup on a hot dog, and anchovy pizza.  Once procured, though, it will keep you coming back for more, albeit on a limited basis as per its physical limitations and your drive to master largemouth bass in a shallow stained water challenge.

Welcome to Deal Lake in Monmouth County!

With a short underground direct connection to the Atlantic Ocean with its salty intrusion in the lower reaches, a splayed, multi-forked layout spread throughout and along seven municipalities, an overall average depth around 3-1/2 feet (max depth approximately 6 feet), significantly limited shoreline access and recreational boating traffic, especially during late spring through early autumn, it’s not one would consider a fishing hot spot.

At 158 acres, Deal Lake spans from Loch Arbour at the lower end where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean, to Ocean Township at the upper end with passages under road overpasses, the upsides here are a steady population of largemouth bass, and robust counts of channel catfish, sunfish and common carp. Fair shots exist for pickerel and crappies. Various size stripers are encountered in the lower end during the spring, where herring and gizzard shad enter via the flume entering from the oceanfront.

Northern pike continue being stocked in Deal, the lake classified as a “pike surplus” swim wherein excess northerns propagated and raised at the Hackettstown Hatchery are released. Sizes range from fry to fingerling. This is done in the hopes of establishing a viable pike fishery in the central part of the state.  From 2016 to 2022, a mind boggling 105,704 pike averaging 4.74 inches were loosed in the mocha precincts. So far, the return has been scarce; we’ve heard a few pieces of anecdotal evidence of pike in in the 12- to 17-inch range being caught over the years, but no photos.

Images courtesy of Google Maps and Navionics

In addition to northerns, channel catfish are stocked on an annual basis. With the exception of 2022 when no kitties were released, 1639 channels averaging 13 inches have been stocked since 2016. With the statewide minimum length of 12 inches, these can be caught and kept as soon as they hit the water. Cats approaching double-digit weights are caught here, as are carp in the 20- to 30-pound range which make this a favorite venue of serious carp hunters.

Largemouth bass are Deal’s top draw with fish in the 3- to 6-pound class the primary players, with heftier mossbacks reported. However, they are tough customers as per the myriad hangouts and decision to strike as per the abundance of existing forage.

The unlimited outboard rating, extremely rare among Garden State still waters is, for all intents and purposes, moot, as save for east of Route 71, is an extended No Wake zone as per the heavy duty bank side residential development. On the overall, ‘yaks, canoes, car-toppers and smaller aluminum craft are better suited to Deal. Full blown bass boats? Not so much.

The concrete boat ramp is located just below a railroad overpass off Seventh Avenue in Asbury Park. If passing through via Deal, make a right just over the overpass onto Seventh Avenue. The 7-11 will be at the one o’clock position. Make a right into the launch area. There is parking space (albeit tight) for three vehicles/trailers.

Shoreline access is limited along the entire length of the swim, some relegated to numerous small cutouts along the brush-festooned banks. Save for the much wider open lower end at Loch Arbour, it’s basically a guerrilla bassing operation. Parking is pretty much along residential streets and around overpass areas, with two of the better access points at Bridlemere Avenue and Edgemont Drive (the Corlies Avenue overpass is another).

Besides the brush that extends over the waters, cover includes docks, laydowns, and occasional patches of lily pads and submerged vegetation…all in a shallow, turbid environment.  As such, the lake’s character screams “chatterbait”, with buzzbaits and spinnerbaits also eliciting strikes. Creature baits and plastic worms skipped under docks and shoreline brush, and along laydowns will also be inhaled.

Carp are all about corn and dough baits; however, Dennis at the nearby Fishermen’s Source tells of an exciting springtime and early summer flyfishing carp experience.  Channel cats? Chicken livers, live or chunked sunfish, hot dogs, fresh bunker chunks, and half-cooked bacon will tickle the whiskers.



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