Hot Spot: Sandy Hook - The Fisherman

Hot Spot: Sandy Hook

Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

It’s the last official northern coastal sandy beach in Jersey and it packs a wallop!

Sandy Hook, the entrance to the Gateway National Recreational Area, has an immense historical significance. Throughout its storied past, it’s been a haven for 18th century pirates, a WW II bunker Cold war era equipped with a Nike nuke launch site and Coast Guard central headquarters, but most importantly, it’s a true treasure for surfcasters.

Anyone who “Hits the Hook” knows the true magic it holds for surf fishing.  Upon entering the gate, many people stop at Parking Lots A, B, and C along with Gunnison Beach to blast striped bass both during the spring runs and fall runs as bass pin bunker schools along the deep sloping beaches. Swimming plugs, shads and darters claim the bass. Parking Lot B and C have some jetty structure which can attract bunker and bass during the run.

Further up, North Beach is the spot where surfsters can reach 30 to 50 feet of water right where the Rip exists with its churning, turbulent waters. Bluefish are always prevalent at the Rip as the swirling currents disorient bait getting flushed out of the Raritan Bay, creating the perfect opportunity to launch plugs and poppers out for a bluefish strike. It’s a bit of a walk around a mile from North Beach to get to the Rip, but it’s always worth the trudge through the sands. You can start at Fisherman’s Beach at Parking Lot M on the north end and work your way out to the Rip if the bite is hot.

During summertime and early fall, the Rip is the spot to realize your false albacore dreams as The Fisherman contributor Allen Riley is always the first and last guy to toss out metals to intercept the roving albie schools that hammer the spearing and peanut bunker. Fluke anglers are also in their glory on the oceanside as floated killies on bobbers seem to always catch some large fluke pushing 6 to 8 pounds.

Not only does the oceanside of Sandy Hook produce, but bayside anglers also get into the bass run. Behind Parking Lot B at Plum Island, stripers school along the flats and into the ICW channel as you can reach the schools in the channel by wading outward to make casts. Along the northern part off the old Coast Guard Row on the bayside, often overlooked, rock piles are present where porgies, sea bass and even lately, sheepshead and blackfish can be found among the rocks. Summertime flukers can cast out bucktails with Gulp baits to trick up plenty of flatfish all along the bayside parking lots while kids can have fun pulling on snapper blues with small Kastmaster metals.

Surf anglers fishing during the summer season from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend have to pay a fee.  Beach parking is $20 per day or $100 per season for most vehicles. For oversized vehicles (more than 20 feet) the charge is $50 per day or $200 per season. Hours of collection are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. All toll booths are cashless and accept credit, debit and contactless payment only. Visitors arriving prior to 8 a.m. can park in a designated fee lot free until 8 a.m. Once the fee is effective at 8 a.m., visitors staying in the park would need to pay the required fee or park in a non-free area.

The summer months require a charge to get into the park, but on either end of the summer during spring and falls runs, you can get in for free without any fees.  True surfsters won’t have to worry about the fees as bass, blues and albies are mainly omnipresent outside of the summer months, so don’t worry. Sandy Hook is a truly, preserved gem of the Jersey shore. Put it on your map this year to realize your surf fishing dreams.

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