If you're looking to host a Fourth of July fish fry, it shouldn't be too hard to catch your feast.
Fluke fishing has been hot on the Manasquan River over the past week, several local captains have reported. As we are now moving into the midpoint of the summer season, the fluke bite will most certainly shift farther east, with the area of the Route 35 bridge to the banks of Gull Island being the hot spots.
In the Manasquan, the fluke often feed on the many muscle beds just west of the inlet. To find them, seek out a diver or snorkler and ask for a hand, or use your fish finder to detect a "rough" bottom. The area just north of the eastern portion of Gull Island is a great start, as well as the channel edges to the north of "flag island."
In the river, your bait of choice should be either Berkley Gulp swimmers or the classic squid/spearing combination.
On board the Gambler party boat out of Point Pleasant Beach, fluking started out July with a bang. Pool winners have been in the 5-to-6-pound range, with a good percentage of the overall catch being keepers, the crew said. The sea bass bite has trailed off slightly, but some nice fish are still mixing in during fluke drifts.
Your fish fry, of course, can't be just finfish.
Crabbers were hauling in some great catches at Mantoloking Bridge County Park in Brick Tuesday afternoon, when I stopped by to take some photos for a story we're doing on the Brick Patch site. I spoke with a few folks there and all said they have been catching keepers at a good clip.
While I was there, I also saw a novice angler hook a baby weakfish, believe it or not. With a bit of "prompting," he decided to throw it back. It's not like he could've gotten a meal out of it anyway.
Crabbing is steady in central Barnegat Bay as well, according to the folks at The Dock Outfitters in Seaside Heights. The staff at The Dock has seen crabs galore being pulled from the "depths" at the dock outside their shop.
But for the dedicated fluke anglers, the flatties are also being caught on the ocean side. Gulp and killies have been the baits of choice. The staff also said in a report that fluke action has improved from the BB buoy in Barnegat Bay all the way to the lighthouse.
This time of year, in my experience, the majority of fluke in this part of the bay can be found at the eastern end of Oyster Creek channel to the "convergence zone" of the O.C. and Double Creek channels north of High Bar Habor. As the season goes on, more fish will be found closer to the lighthouse and along HBH.
The Miss Barnegat Light party boat has been targeting blues lately, with some trips turning out better than others.
"Anglers with spinning rods did better catching the blues," on Tuesday, according to a report from the boat.
That seemed to be the trend lately, according to the crew, so dust off those spinning rods (light tackle always makes it more fun, of course) and get fishing!
"Fluke, bluefish, stripers and with weakfish joining the party a Barnegat Bay Grand slam can't be far behind," was the prediction in a report from Reel Fantasea Fishing Charters on Tuesday.
Capt. Steve Purul reported "constant" action from the back bays and inlets and ocean, with more weakfish sneaking into the bay recently. On the ocean, wreck anglers have seen quality sea bass fishing, he said.
In the southernmost haunts of the bay, the cleanest water after recent storms seemed to be in front of the Fish Factory, according to the folks at Scott's Bait and Tackle in Little Egg Harbor. Ocean jigging for fluke has been the best option, though, with the L.E. reef, A.C. reef and the Rutgers cans all producing flatties.
That about rounds things out. As always, we want to see your catches of the day to be included in these columns, which normally run on Friday mornings. Send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.