River Monsters: Targeting Two River Doormats - The Fisherman

River Monsters: Targeting Two River Doormats

Expect to find the author in the hunt for doormats on the Two River region of Monmouth County this month.

While many trophy hunters head for the deep, many anglers find Twin River fluke options aplenty in June. 

Bait, bait, bait! 

The Navesink River and Shrewsbury River are an estuary for all different types of bait in the early summer months. You have killies, grass shrimp, small crabs, bunker and spearing all in that general location. During the early season of fluke fishing I focus all my attention on the doormats that are exploring that area looking for bait.

Growing up as a child my father always took me out fishing on the Shrewsbury River. At that time he taught me a lot of what I know now. Back then nobody bounced bucktails; it was strictly dragging bait and matching the hatch. Over the years the techniques have changed quite a bit. I now bounce bucktails and teasers, though I will still drag bait when the fish are picky.

As years passed by and I’ve gotten older I started exploring more of the Navesink River in search of new spots to target shallow water doormats.

The Twin Rivers

Navesink and Shrewsbury River fluke act much differently than your typical deep water fluke. The waters are much shallower so the fish can’t run deep when hooked, making runs a little more like bluefish. In these shallow waters I typically fish depths from 4 feet to at most 16 feet.  A good technique that I have learned is using your fishfinder to find schools of bait holding tightly to the bottom. Once I get a good reading I proceed to set up my drift so that I am drifting over those schools of bait that are holding tightly to the bottom where doormat fluke are picking them off one by one.

Edges of the main channel are also good spots to fish the drop-offs; old structure that is scattered throughout the rivers also holds quality fluke. Something that I have also noticed are other fishermen driving their boats right past the docks of the residents who live on these rivers. I have casted under these docks jigging back to the boat with great success on quality fish.

The Navesink
The Navesink (running roughly east and west up top) and the Shrewsbury (which runs mostly north and south before turning SW into Little Silver) are commonly referred to as the Two Rivers of Monmouth County.

While fishing these shallower rivers you have to downscale your tackle. That means no heavy sinkers, heavy jigs or heavy pound test line.  I always like to have with me two setups, number one being the Tsunami 6-foot, 4-inch Slim Wave paired with a Fin Nor Lethal 40. With this setup I bounce bucktails from a half to 1-1/2 ounces.

My second set up is a Tsunami 6-foot, 6-inch slow pitch spinning rod also paired with a Fin Nor Lethal 40.  This is the setup I turn to when currents get a little stronger and I need a little extra weight like 2-ounce bucktails.  The second rod and reel outfit is also good when I turn to dragging bait.  On both reels I prefer 15-pound Daiwa J Braid.

Light Tackle Rigging

My go-to rig is typically a hi-lo rig with a bucktail/ball jig on the bottom and a teaser on top. I prefer to use the Mustad Big Eyed bucktails or Jigging World’s ball jigs in sizes ranging from half-ounce to 2 ounces at most.  When it comes to ball jig colors I like to use the “pink shine” and white colors. Bucktail colors are very simple white and white with chartreuse.

The teasers I prefer when fluking the Two River region are the Tsunami glass minnows with the longer shank hooks and All Pro swinging teasers, which have a ton of action. I make my fluke rigs out of 20-pound Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon, tipping my bucktails and teasers with Berkley Gulp. In these shallow waters I also tend to downscale the size of the Gulp, the 6-inch versions staying home until it’s time to hit the big bay. The 4- and 5-inch Gulp swimming mullets and 5-inch grubs are perfect in the back.

I like to keep the colors pretty simple and tend to start off with what I last left off on my previous successful fishing trip. White is my go to color of choice, turning to chartreuse, pink shine or nuclear chicken next when the fluke are finicky. The jigging pace all depends on the day; some days a rapid jigging approach does better, other days slow jigging gets the job done.

While many folks prefer the deepwater of the Raritan all summer long, many anglers start their fluke season in the river complexes of New Jersey like the Navesink.

When I’m not successful jigging I switch over to dragging bait. On the boat I make sure that I have live killies.  When the peanut bunker are around I also have a cast net ready.  I typically use two live bait rigs in the rivers, the first being a fish-finder rig. Hook size of course depends on the bait; for live killies I drop down to a 3/0 octopus hook, whereas for live peanut bunker I will go up to a 5/0 octopus hook.

Leader length depends on the current.  I may go as low as an 18-inch leader up to a 24 inches, tying my leader to a swivel and sliding my sinker slide and bead up the braided line, then attaching the braid to my leader.  For the second rig I go southern style with a Carolina rig. The Carolina rig has the same theory as a fish-finder rig but instead of sinker slides I use an egg sinker. The hook sizes are the same, but leader length goes to about 3 feet.  In the middle of the leader tie an overhand knot, then slide a bead down to the knot and slide the egg sinker down to the bead.  At that point attach the leader to a swivel tied to the braid. This rig lets you get away with using smaller weight than a fish-finder rig allows. I have been highly successful with fishing this rig.

In these shallow waters besides catching fluke don’t be surprised at the other species you could potentially catch. Good size weakfish roam these waters along with schoolie stripers that are there pretty much all year long. Let’s not forget about our “yellowed eyed demons” that also are lurking in these waters. Along structure you can also catch Northern kingfish and blowfish as well.

Every year I hear the same thing from folks. There are no fish in those rivers, they’re only out in the ocean or up on Raritan Bay.  Well, I’ve got news for you, there are plenty of fish and quite a few doormats in those shallow waters, especially in the beginning months of fluke season.  This is where you’ll find me spending my time in search of doormats!