Our resident surf reporter breaks down the November options at the Jersey Shore.
Water temperatures descend into that perfect striper range of 55 to 62 degrees, bait schools run thick in the suds and the fall run truly initiates. How does this year’s fall run lay out for surf fishermen? Let’s take a look in the ol’ crystal ball of the Beach Talk column.
Instead of relying simply on this week’s surf reports – which you can of course find in the middle of this edition – we’re going to give you a projection of what is to come in the November surf. Can we see the future? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s a solid bet to ask some top tackle shop owners their opinions and looking into old logs books to have a solid chance to get it right.
At the Tackle Box in Hazlet, Phil Sciortino expects a lot of activity to center around Sandy Hook. “Going by last year, we had a lot of schoolie bass hitting the Hook at Parking Lot B and C and then up at North Beach,” Phil said, adding “it wasn’t a usual plug bite but small metals worked best as the bait that was around and seems to again be around this year is thin profile bay anchovies and spearing.”
Phil also advised casters to be on the lookout for cocktail blues that have been hanging tough to the area through the end of October. “We can hope that there will be some little tunny schools roving about and it’s not uncommon to see them at the early start of November off the Rip or along the Jetty Country area,“ he said.
Northern Ocean County
Providing the skinny on the NOCO surf, Jason at Fishermen’s Supply in Point Pleasant said the main driver in November is when the bait in the back shove out during the full moon and pour out of the inlets. “We usually see the peak of the bass bite occurring around the 3rd to 4th week of November,” Jason said, noting that small profile baits are key. Jason recommends to put teasers on everything and said the hot lures include the 4-1/2-inch Gambler rubber bait in pearl with a half-ounce leadhead. Poppers and metal-lipped swimmers such as Storm Chug Bugs, Yo-Zuri Mag Poppers and metal-lipped swimmers can be tossed at sunrise, though when the sand eels start pushing up as waters really get into that November chill, the 7-inch Tsunami sand eel, Ava 17 jigs, SP Minnows and half-ounce bucktails with 6-inch twister tail grub work.
“The way I see November unfolding is week one, river fish push out into the surfline, week two better action starts with schooling fish,” Jason said. Continuing on with his November predictions, he said week three should see bigger migratory fish begin to make their way into the area, with week four into December finding bigger fish trickle out leave it all for the rats as sand eels get clipped while rising from the sand floor. “And don’t forget that the night bite can be red hot with Black Bombers,” he said, recommending that surfcasters work any area north of Manasquan in Spring Lake, as well as the Manasquan jetties and then again in Bay Head and Point Pleasant.
Southern Ocean County
At Grumpys Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park, Ray Kerico said last year’s bite revolved around sand eels. “In mid-October here we still have mullet and peanut bunker in the back and the final push of that bait out the Manasquan Inlet and Barnegat Inlet should be around the full or new moon in November,” Ray said, adding “I expect the chew to be similar as last year with thin profile lures working best such as SP Minnows, Needlefish, Tsunami Sand Eels and Bill Hurley rubber baits in colors like bone and olive.”
“And always put a teaser on anything you throw out, you’ll get even more fish on the teaser than the actual lure,” Ray said, remaining hopeful that the Jersey Shore fall run is pretty good. All signs from the east look good, as word of Montauk’s class of 20- to 32-inch fish up there at the east end of Long Island this season that should be making their way down. “I’m a believer in the bite being time dependent rather than tide dependent,” Ray said, adding “for me, I fish the pre-dawn hours then the dusk hours to an hour after dark. Look for the peak of our surf bass run to come the second to third week of the month.” In SOCO focus on the deeper pockets; and don’t forget about the ongoing LBI Surf Fishing Classic where some of best action with biggest fish are often taken during the first couple of weeks of November (think bunker chunks on a three-way or fish-finder rig.)
Andy Grossman of Riptide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine said the run will hit Brigantine shores and span anywhere from the sand out to a half mile. “Favorite artificials from my customers are SP Minnows with a teaser and colors are bone during the day and blurple at night,” Andy said, adding “Mag Darters and Sebile Magic Swimmer in 160/190 sizes are also top lures.” Though lures score a fair share of fish Grossman’s customers like to sling the bait on the Rock. “We throw the meat, fresh bunker, especially the heads sent out on 10/0 circle hooks on a one dropper rig are standard on the Rock,” Andy said, adding “salted clams also get the nod.”
Hot spots for many Riptide customers usually revolve around the North End, south of the Hotel the Seawall and the South Jetty. As waters are shallower in Brigantine compared to the northern and central parts of the state surf, best times to fish are an hour before and an hour after the high water mark around sunrise and sunset. Grossman adds, “Not only are stripers on the menu but you’ve still got a shot at scoring with bluefish, that you never know, could be huge like we are usually used to 8 to 15 pounds, or even a few black drum in early November.”
Cape May County
Down at the furthest tip of the state, Jeff Dilks of Hands Bait and Tackle in Cape May speaks of expectations for the fall run. “We don’t really see the migratory fish insomuch as it’s our resident stripers that provide the bulk of the action,” he said. As the days get shorter, Jeff said the bass become more active through all hours of the day. “Most of our guys like to sling clams or bunker chunks out in spots off Poverty Beach or around the jetties,” he said, adding “All you really need to do is find a little pocket on the oceanside and work it over.”
“Plug guys seem to have luck with SP Minnows and Mag Darters, especially in the Cove,” Jeff noted. And while stripers are the main draw, Cape May’s generally warmer waters offer up other species as well. “Bluefish will stick with us though the second week of November and we also see a handful of red drum caught around the jetty areas, actually even more than a handful,” said Jeff, adding “last year we saw dozens and dozens of redfish caught on mullet and bunker. Another welcome visitor is speckled trout.”
For those looking to hit the specks, Jeff said the most successful anglers are those who really pound the jetty rocks with pink rubber baits like Zooms or Fin-S. “This year’s spring weakfish run was solid so I hope to see them return in November too,” he said.
There’s your crystal ball projection; will it come to fruition? The time has come to find out!