I was told from the late, great John Geiser of the Asbury Park Press that rumors have always had it that The Farms earned its nickname because anglers said it was like going to the farm to catch fish as fishing success was that easy.
Historical lore notes that Henry Beebe, a Fulton Fish Market “smack” fisherman (using a small boat to fish) brought the area into the limelight in the early part of the 20th century when it was known as a major cod fishing locale as he continually provided the NYC market with an endless stream of huge cod. And before it got its contemporary name, it was considered the Rocky Grounds.
However it earned its name, The Farms still holds its ground to this day as a major bottom fishing spot. Glacial rock and natural submarine boulder fields define the area roughly 6 miles east of Long Branch which can span on average from 75 to 100 feet in depth off the coast of northern New Jersey. The shallowest spot was once known as “High Rock” around the 75- to 80-foot depth. That kind of rocky structure attracts all makes and models of bottom brawlers including ling, codfish, pollock, sea bass, blackfish, bergall, porgies, ling conger eels and ocean pout.
However, during the spring and late autumnal months is when the spot really shines. With black sea bass season running full steam now, this is the area to concentrate on. Springtime sea bassing this year was absolutely lights out as the biscuits were hovering over the rocks en masse hitting 3/0 octopus hook hi-lo rigs baited with fresh clams, Berkley Gulp grubs and squid baits. While “boxers” hit the bait, diamond jigs accounted for bigger stature fish in the 2 to 4-pound class.
Come fall, the action and technique should continue the same approach, bumping around the depths to find where the sea bass are staging. Start with a drift that takes you over varied depths fairly quickly to determine where the fish are. If you get a real good chew going on, anchor up and pull away at the massive amount of sea bass that congregate at the lucky parts of the area.
Though sea bass are a main focus, October ushers in some serious porgy pounding as the joltheads hang over the rocky structure to machine gun hit small bits of clam and squid. Moving into November, tautog fishing is always awesome here. Crab baits dropped on tog jigs or single-hook Belmar rigs will score your limit of blackfish with even a few 8- to 10-pounders hanging around.
Winter months used to mean the ling bite was set to impress but recent years haven’t produced the barbelled bottom brawlers on The Farms we’re used to; though you can still find cod, pollock, conger eels and blackfish biting strong through December and into January during legal portions of any season.
There’s no sharp wreck structure on the area, or very limited if any, so any time you get hung up you can generally keep bouncing the rig to get it out from between rocks. One thing’s for sure, if you want sea bass this fall, you can bet the farm on it this is the spot to hit.
The Farms 40° 17.003’N / 73° 50.381’W