I spent this morning scouting for weakfish. I found the water temperature in key locations to be marginal at best, 57 degrees. I found 60 degree water on the out going, but the area was covered in 3 pound bluefish and summer flounder.The water temperature needs to hold at 59 degrees for three consecutive days, to get the weakfish bite going. This includes incoming ocean water.
I fished numerous areas for them, and applied a ridiculous amount of effort. I found clean water, baitfish and the correct water temperature, not a hit. Not even a rumor of a New Jersey red drum or speckled trout being caught, to spite prime conditions this past week. The only way I avoid getting skunked, is by cherry picking striped bass on the way home. Worst October for Jersey reds and speckled trout in a lifetime, so far.
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.
Obviously, there are still a few weakfish remaining in the back waters. My son caught 3, to 25″ last night. He also hooked some nice stripers and a few flounder.
I was out today in the back water striper fishing. No pictures today due to the driving rain. It was a real hunt to find the stripers on this trip. However, when I secured the gear for the run home, I had boated 8 stripers to 28″.
I spotted brant in the sound for the first time this season, ( before the rain). This is a good indicator that red drum, speckled trout and migrator striped bass are close by.
The Striped bass can be very elusive this time of the year in Cape May co., NJ, but they are here. This is a transition period between summer and fall fishing. The bluefish are still just about everywhere, they are from the snapper size to about 3 pounds. They are making it difficult to fish for anything else. The water is still warm at 71 degrees. The clarity is good but not excellent.