The Old Grounds - The Fisherman

The Old Grounds

Scott Wheeler and crew with 11 keepers taken during the 2018 season from the Old Grounds. Photo courtesy of Sterling Harbor Bait and Tackle. Chart graphic courtesy of Navionics.

38 34.407 N / 74 47.724 W
LAT/LON position for the Old Grounds as published in Pete Barrett’s “Saltwater Fishing Guide” 

The Old Grounds are named as such for a reason. Many moons ago, sailing ships would drop their ballast rock in the area in order to prepare to enter the shallower Delaware Bay waters. Those jettisoned ballast rocks are what make up a big bulk of the Old Grounds area.

At least that’s the story I heard.

Roughly 18 miles south of the Cape May Inlet, the area’s depth is varied, spanning anywhere from 63 to 100 feet. All that ballast rock is also bolstered by the presence of old growth mussel beds and other natural forage built over the years, meaning fish stick to the area to feed. When hitting the Old Grounds, a first telltale sign that you are creeping up to the spot is the yellow Delaware Bay (DB) buoy where the fleet tends to congregate. The area around the buoy will range from 65 to 75 feet, but north and a tiny bit east of the area, the depth will sound to 90 plus feet.

Bottom bouncers find the grounds a paradise as it’s far enough offshore to not get pressured as much but not too far to reach for small boaters. The spot is all about the doubleheader tag team of fluke and sea bass. Respective to the seasons, May through October is red hot for both species. The key to flattie success here is to think big. It pays off to go for all the cake and throw down large strips of squid, herring, sea robin, or dogfish for the doormat of your dreams. Medium size flatties of 3 to 7 pounds are regularly taken and will hang themselves on the strip, so it’s a win-win situation for you to go at it with a strategy to solely target big fish.

Sea bass will be carousing about over the rockpiles during the summer and into the fall with squid or clam baits knocking the snot out of the biscuits. It is not uncommon to box your limit and hang doubleheaders here on each drop. The implementation of braided line is paramount to upping the odds in your favor, as the ultra-sensitivity and ability to cut through water will aid you to notice a bite in the deep water conditions. And you best bring a healthy bunch of bank sinkers from 6 to 16 ounces, as it can get sticky with the rocky structure.

As the grounds are prolific down deep, in the heart of the summer months, don’t be surprised to see mako and thresher sharks hanging around as well as other exotics like cobia, king mackerel and triggerfish. Hands down though, hit this spot during the middle to the end of the fluke season when flatties begin to migrate offshore. You’ll be hoisting in fluke worthy of bragging about.



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