So many choices during these months. We can fish the bay for any number of species. In fact, that's the goal, to catch 10 different species of fish. Weakfish (sea trout) are always the target. They are hard fighting, have spectacular colors, and are delicious to eat. We use one of two different specialty baits: live grass shrimp or live shedder crabs. Anchored up and chumming with this bait we usually encounter weakfish, kingfish, snapper bluefish, spots, blowfish, burrfish, puppy drum, sea robins, sand sharks, croaker, and daily surprises that visit our chum slick. We use a combination of 6 pound ultralite outfits or the 10 pound rods. We could also anchor up with clams and target blowfish. They are fun to catch and tasty, too. Kids never tire of seeing them inflate......OK, neither do I!
BARNEGAT RIDGE SPEED DEMONS
We can also run offshore 15 miles to the Barnegat Ridge, an underwater mountain range that attracts all kinds of gamefish. Bonita and false albacore are the intended species here. High speed trolling is the method we most commonly use for these speeding bullets but once we get into September and October we anchor up and chum with spearing. The albacore average 5 to 10 pounds and give an incredible fight. They are inedible so it is a catch and release fishery. The bonita run 3 to 8 pounds and are one of the best eating fish we catch. Any way you prepare tuna you can also prepare bonita.....including sashimi! Most days we have the soy and wasabi in the cooler to have a taste right onboard. It is also possible to catch school size bluefin tuna, mahi mahi, and spanish mackeral on these trips but these catches are the exception, not the norm.
SHRIMPING THE JETTY
Finally, the last option is our live grass shrimp trip on the Barnegat Inlet jetty for schoolie size striped bass, blackfish, and houndfish. The stripers are almost always under the 28 inch size minimum but these 20 to 26 inch fish are "Hell on Wheels" on our 10 pound spinning rods. The blackfish are down and dirty brawlers averaging 2 to 4 pounds, you can usually keep one per angler during this time of year so this trip isn't so much about fillet bags as it is doing battle with very light gear. It is also a rare thing to catch both of these species with no weights or terminal tackle. All we use is a hook baited with shrimp, sometimes a bobber. The last few seasons has also brought a lot of houndfish our way on these trips. They are 3 to 4 feet long needlefish with lots of spunk. Greyhounding and jumping all the way, also a release fish. This trip has a very specific tide and as a result a small window of timing that only give us a 2 to 3 hour window once a day. It is ever changing with the tide, so if you give me a date, I could reference a tide chart to give you the time for that date. It is possible to combo this with either the bay trip or the offshore trip.
That's all we use fom July 1 to the end of September while fishing the bay. The two best baits you can fish in Barnegat Bay when targeting weakfish, kingfish, and the entire mixed bag population of species that call this bay home are live grass shrimp and/or live shedder crabs. Both are expensive and hard to obtain. We get them daily. You can buy these baits frozen anywhere, getting them live is another story but the
results are well worth the trouble and the expense.