A quick 14-mile shot E/SE of Barnegat Inlet puts you at one of the primo inshore spots along the Jersey coastline – the Barnegat Ridge. The ridge is known to be broken up into two areas – the North Ridge and South Ridge. The distance between the two ridges is just under 1.2 miles from edge to edge, and you can jump between the ridges easily.
The North Ridge (39° 42.203’N / 73° 47.958’W) covers roughly a 3/4- by 2-mile elongated area that runs in a northeast to southwest fashion. The shallowest point hits 54 feet on the northwest corner and the shallow area extends like a tabletop through the middle of the ridge down to the southeast corner, with two deeper gullies on each side that dip between 60 and 62 feet, and then shallower water of 56 to 58 feet on the outsides of the gullies.
The South Ridge (39° 38.786’N / 73° 47.015’W) is shallower and a bit thinner than the North. It runs northeast to southwest but covers a slightly smaller area of roughly half by 1.5 miles. A productive nook lies on the southern end where the depth runs from 56 to 61 to 54 feet in a cut-out notch. About a half-mile immediate south of the south part of the ridge is a steep drop that plummets into a black hole from 57 to 93 feet very abruptly.
The Barnegat Ridge always conjures up anticipation for pelagics that drift inshore. Through the summer and fall, you really never know what could be lurking in the area. Mainly anglers will try for bonito, little tunny, and Spanish mackerel by trolling small feathers and Clark Spoons to get a dynamite hit. More dedicated anglers will anchor up and start a slick just as you would do for tuna, but using fresh spearing instead to get the speedsters feeding through the water column. It is not uncommon to find football bluefin tuna in the slick.
Near the end of fluke season in September, fluke move out and stop at the ridge on their way out to the continental shelf as they feed in the deeper waters surrounding the area. Doormats pushing 10 pounds and greater can be found along the ridge lines and deeper holes. Use long strip baits such as fluke or salmon belly to target large model flatfish.
On good years, bluefishing is lights out at the Ridge as you can always see the beaming lights of party boats on night chunking trips set up there. Blues will hang in the area nonstop as bunker chunk baits can have the rods bent all night long. Daytime jigging with larger Ava 67 jigs can also hang a bunch of blues.
In recent years, November and December have brought in medium bluefin tuna as the radio chatter will blow up with BFT of 50 to 150 pounds running through the ridge area. That time of year the spreader bars generally are put away in favor of butterfly jigs, RonZ rubber baits and poppers if you get the tuna feeding on the surface.
Barnegat Ridge has plenty to offer as it presents both inshore opportunity that flirts with offshore pelagics. Dial it in this season!