The first breath of the November woods ends my saltwater fishing season. Bowhunting has my full attention at this point. I logged well over 100 saltwater fishing trips this year, I will post a season review soon.
Striped bass continue to be the best bite in Cape May County waters. However, do not expect to drive the beaches and find them schooled up under the birds. The beaches have produced very few stripers this season, reserved for the skilled and dedicated fishermen. The same way for the rips and traditional fall chunking spots in the Delaware Bay, so far. I had 47 degree water temperature at my dock today, 49 degrees at my fishing spot in the back waters.
There is a pretty good swing in the amount of effort it takes to catch fish. When you have the right conditions and knowledge coupled with a large number of fish, your chances of catching fish are best. As the fish numbers decreases, the amount of effort, knowledge and time it takes to catch them increases. The number of sport fishermen also decreases with each step of difficulty. Long before any fish management authority declares the Striped bass or any other game fish over-fished, the ability to catch fish is out of reach for most.
In the past, many striped bass fishermen caught ,100, 500 and a few hit 1000 28″ keepers in a season here in Cape May County, NJ. Most of these exact fishermen have not caught a striped bass this season, let alone a keeper. Weakfish, at one point recreational fishermen would line up at fish dealers like Jack king’s, with hundreds of weakfish to sell. I doubt, if any of these fishermen could catch a single weakfish using the same fishing techniques today.
The good news is the Striped bass and weakfish population numbers are good enough for the (skill sharp) angler to consistently catch. However, an adjustment of expectations is necessary for anyone striped bass fishing this season.
Here is the new norm: 25 striped bass for the season, including shorts , is obtainable for the weekend fisherman. A 100 striped bass season is within reach for those that are able to pick their days.
Many skill sharp anglers that dedicated their time targeting weakfish, during primetime, caught 25 weakfish for the 2014 season. An elite few hit 100 weakfish for the season. I would say a good 95% of these weakfish were released.
The jury is still out on New Jersey red drum and speckled trout for the 2014 season.
Striped bass fishing in Cape May County, NJ has been dependent upon our local striper population, so far this season. The conditions necessary for the migratory fish to show up , wind direction, water temperature and other factors, have not lined up yet and may not. Mother nature dictates the conditions, every year is unique. However, if you arm yourself with information specific to fishing for our resident striped bass, your catch rate will skyrocket. Watch for upcoming articles in On The Water magazine (New York/New Jersey) for detailed information on this subject.
I had planned on pushing hard for speckled trout and red drum this week, but the conditions are not in place yet. However, targeting and catching weakfish this time of year is just as rewarding. The NE wind that is blowing today could jump start the weakfish east south migration, ending the season in the back waters. The water temperature is 68 degrees and the water clarity is excellent. This was a beautiful day to be saltwater fishing.
It is time for me to focus on Jersey red drum and speckled trout, so today’s weakfish could be the last of the season for me. The first red drum of the fall season has been caught, I call this fish the motivator. The fishing news travels at the speed of light today , even with the (do not tell anybody) tag on it. I am sure the Jersey red drum specialist will be fishing a little harder next week. The peanut bunker, mullet and snapper blues are still pretty thick in the back waters and along the beachfront. We need the water temperature to drop a few degrees and a good NW wind to jump start the fall fishing season.
Finding big weakfish in the fall can cause insomnia for me. Big weakfish will not hold in one spot for long this time of the year. I will usually fish every tide until they move on. Sure enough, this pod of fish only held for a few days. Now I can catch up on sleep and a few responsibilities, before the hunt begins again.
If you are interested in how to catch weakfish, check out the 2014 May addition of On The Water magazine NY/NJ addition. http://www.onthewater.com/magazine/
The bluefish finished off almost all of my favorite rubber baits before I found the stripers. There was very little fishing pressure, but the wave runners and water sport boats were all over. It is hard enough to find keeper stripers during the day in August without the traffic. These guys are up and down small creeks and skinny water, so it took some effort to find undisturbed water . They are enjoying the water just like me, so it is all good. Just about every cast produced a fish, once I found them. It was a beautiful day to be on the water.
The new moon night is usually the darkest, but it was pretty dark last night. The stripers could be heard, not seen, popping along with bait fish splashing. The bite really slows after days of north east wind, like we had recently. The spot I was fishing is an excellent summer weakfish spot. I was hoping even with the bad condition I would still catch one, I didn’t. However, the striped bass picked up the slack.
The more difficult the hunt, the more value and satisfaction is found in the catch. Targeting and catching big weakfish this time of the year takes some effort, but is beyond satisfying, it is a rush.