Our weekly Beach Talk reporter is back with his first bold prediction of the 2022 season; lock it in!
Nature and life itself generally exists in repeatable patterns. Much like Mother Ocean’s residents follow migratory paths, the ocean itself can be predicted with some pretty close accuracy when it comes to seasonal patterns.
For instance, along the Jersey Coast, after a low pressure system rolls up the coastline, northwest winds will prevail afterwards cleaning it all up. This April, you’re going to watch an annual pattern happening once again in the New Jersey, Delaware region; usually around the second to third week of April – from say the 10th to the 24st of the month – a three-day nor’easter will come rumbling through.
As nature can be fickle and slide one week or another due to general environmental conditions, you can bet that on average, ceteris paribus, that nor’easter will hit in mid-April. And when it does, what does it mean saltwater anglers?
Rough & Tumble Stuff
The April nor’easter is the true changing of the guard. As March is still relatively cold and stagnant, the storm is the true spin cycle that stirs up all the stagnant brown snot water of the winter and ushers in clean, green, freshly churned seawater, both into the surf and into the back bays. The rough stuff with pounding 4- to 6-foot waves in the surf creates smashed clams while displacing crabs, sand fleas and other forage, which brings migratory striped bass in tight along the beach for the coastal buffet. The nor’east push also ushers in a spate of warmer water temperatures which ignites the feeding pangs for stripers.
Surfcasters launching out fresh clam or bunker baits will be rewarded with a solid focus of fish anywhere from Manasquan Inlet down through Brigantine and beaches along Cape May. Not only will bass feed on the heels of the nor’easter, but bluefish will have followed the currents up to crush bunker chunk baits in the surfline. Try and fish the first day of the nor’east blow when it has that clean green look to it with a little froth before it gets too chocolate milk brown.
Usually right after the blow, the first wave of bluefish come rumbling through the inlets and into the backwaters as well. The nor’east push of water will funnel bunker into the inlets and back bays, thus attracting bluefish to feed and follow the fish. If the timing is right with water temps into the low 50’s combined with that nor’easter and bait presence, the blues that enter into the bays at Great Bay, Barnegat, Manasquan and the Raritan Bay can be pushed way back inside and stack for weeks of exciting, rodbending action.
If the nor’easter coincides with a full or new moon tide, then it’s even more of a possibility that bunker and other bait schools will get stuffed way back inside the baywaters and stack up for weeks before being able to exit. If that’s the case, look for blues to be on a terror spree in the back waters of Barnegat Bay, Toms River, Little Egg Harbor and Great Bay.
This is where you really need to watch the marine forecast. Right before the nor’easter hits onshore, you want to get just ahead of the low pressure system moving in, meaning the day before the winds begin to pick up. If you can time it right, any of those large tiderunner weakfish hanging in the back bays may get on a chew. Perennial hot spots such as Oyster Creek off the Barnegat Bay or the BB and BI Buoy areas, Ludlam’s Bay in Sea Isle, Corson’s Inlet and out back around Little Egg Harbor and Absecon could have weakfish getting active as the pressure drops.
If you’re in the hunt for spring weakies, try tossing light 1/4- to 1/2-ounce leadheads fixed with 4- to 5-inch Fin-S fish, Bass Assassins, Kettle Creek paddletails with pink being a primo color. Cast out and reel them in slowly, without even really twitching or jigging the bait. Any April weakfish that are around are going to be large in the 5- to 10-pound class.
Inevitably, the nor’easter will pass after two to three days of rumbling and the waters will begin to clear. This is when westerly offshore winds will flatten out the surf and begin to clean it up. Usually the first day after west winds the surf waters get out of the brown and put on a blue-green tinge. You’ll notice all sorts of shells, rocks, sand fleas, clams and other debris that has gotten dislodged and washed up onto the beach. I find that this particular time is most effective to cast fresh clams into the surf for stripers as they patrol the new cuts, sloughs and bowls created by the storm.
Alongside jetties in spots like Asbury Park, Long Branch and Deal, plugcasters working metal-lipped swimmers can begin to target striped bass hanging tight to the rocks or bait slingers can toss in sandworm and bloodworm baits close to the rocks. All the detritus from the roiling surf will collect alongside the jetty pockets, attracting fish to feed.
This year, the full moon falls on April 16 and the new moon on April 30. Those spring tides are going to be heavy and full on those dates. If our annual spring nor’easter coincides on those dates or within a day or two of them, we could really be in for a solid late April and early May of fishing as the huge inflow of ocean water, bait and gamefish can really stack up in the backwaters.
Make a note of what happens this April with the storm watch. Mother Nature can be fickle, but usually can be predicted with some yearly accuracy. The April nor’easter happens more often than not; keep an eye on the marine forecast and plan your fishing outings in the surf and back bays around the blow. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.