Get your own spot: Where to target fluke in the back bays

I see it all the time on facebook, “Yo bro where did you catch those?” which is usually followed up by an angry retort like “no @&!$ng spot burning!”. For those of you that have not discovered what “spot burning” is, it is when you take a fish picture with some type of notable landmark or clear view of where you are fishing and post it on the internet for all of the world to see. You will then be reamed out by all the internet fishing community for ruining that spot (unless your a charter captain, they are for some reason immune), and I know I have been shamed by Facebook fisherman before for committing this cardinal sin. It is not always easy to find a good “spot” and it can be tempting to just ask that guy you saw who posted the pics of all those keeper fluke he just caught but don’t you want to find the fish on your own? Now don’t get me wrong a network of friends that will share good intel with you is key, and if my friend tells me he just slammed them in the False Hook Channel I am probably going to check it out. You will feel way more manly though if you a find spot where no one else if fishing and start catching fish.

Bottom Contour Maps:

Probably the easiest way to find new areas to fish are by looking at bottom contour maps

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Pic 1 Channels

 

which are readily available on the internet at places like www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov . or you can download the Navionics app for around $15 for your cell phone or tablet. I really like the Navionics app because the charts are much more detailed and you can also mark locations you might want to try and allows you to look for new spots while your doing things like watching the 4th grade concert or a wedding ceremony. Probably the most important thing to know is how to read the lines on a contour map and it is really very simple, the closer the lines are together the more drastic the depth change is. For example in picture 1 is a screenshot taken directly from the Navionics app that shows a channel that drops from about 16ft to 64ft and if you notice between the depths of 16-20 feet the drop is more gradual and from 20ft-60ft the drop is much more drastic.

Channel Edges:

Now when looking for areas to drift for fluke you are going to be looking for a number of different types of bottom contours that may hold fluke on any given day and probably the most common and easy to find areas are channel edges. Depending on water temps and number of other factors you will typically find fluke hiding near these channels, but the key is to pound the edges and concentrate your drifts on the edge and in the middle of these channels to key in on what depths the fish are located on that day. When the tides are moving these channels act kind of like highways for everything floating around in the bay which includes bait. During the early months like May and the beginning of June you may find fish on the warmer shallower side of the channel and as waters begin to warm you will typically find them in the deepest parts of the channel. With all of that being said sometimes the fish just are where they are, I have had days in the middle of August where I was consistently catching fish in 8ft of water on the shallow flat leading into the channel. That is why when you start your drift try to cover a range of depths until you start to see a pattern of where the fish are holding and then make smaller drifts over a concentrated area.

Creek Mouths:

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Pic 2 Creek Mouth

Another very easy thing to locate on you bottom contour maps are shallow creek mouths that empty out into deeper water. In picture 2 there is a perfect example of one of these shallow creeks 2 ft or less that empties into a nice deep cut where fluke or any predator can lay waiting for food to funnel out. This type of spot is typically one you are going to want to fish on the outgoing tide because as the tide drops the water flows out of these creeks along with all the baitfish, crabs, etc. that have been taking refuge in them.

 

Humps, Lumps, and Holes:

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Pic 3 Deep Hole

A key pattern you may be noticing in these spots are depth changes, and if you could only have one thing in a back bay fluke spot where things like artificial reefs do not come into play, it would be a drastic change in depth. Picture 3 shows a nice 2oft hole and fluke tend to congregate around these depth changes for a number of reasons, these areas break up the current flow allowing fish a place to rest including baitfish, holes can provide cooler water during the deep summer months, humps can provide cover for predatory fish to strike from. In Picture 4 you can see an artists rendition of a hump with a fluke waiting on the down current side for his meal to come drifting over his head. The important thing to remember here is to present the bucktail or bait with the current or fluke will know something is not right.

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Pic 4 Hump

 

 

Structure:

We all know that structure almost always hold fish and in the back bays structure is not always easy to come by but it is there for those willing to take the time to look for it. Structure does not have to mean a sunken wreck it could just be a piece of sod bank that broke off into a deep run or rock pile in the middle of the bay but these areas are almost always home to some type of food source like crabs, mussels, and baitfish which means the fluke are not far behind. Finding these places can be tough, sometimes you just notice something on your depth sounder when your moving along and others can be seen on contour maps like the rocks in picture 5. Most of the time structure like the rocks found on the map take a little effort to find, they are often times not exactly where they are shown on the map and sometimes they are just not there or are not there

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Picture 5 Rocks

anymore. With a little effort though many of these smaller spots will pay off, the most important thing to remember is to stay focused on that piece of structure and its surrounding area, the further you get from that particular piece the less life you will find.

 

Choosing Your Spot:

Now that the 4th grade concert is over and you have an entire library of new spots to try the last thing for you to do is choose which spot your going to fish. Often times a certain spot is going to be more ideal for you one day than it is the next. One of the first things I like to do is gauge how the drift will be, now this is subject to change due to wind and tides but if you have a nice west to east 1 knot drift than that channel that runs east may be a good choice. Let’s say its late August and the water temps are very high, chances are you are going to want to fish the deepest holes and channels you can find or vice versa in the early months you may look to fish a shallow flat that drops off into deep water. Another very important thing to remember is to look for clean water, this is actually one of if not the most important factor that is going to affect your fishing. If your not in clean water than you are better off moving on to a new spot until you find clean water, and some days the only spot you do find is going to be the cleanest water you are able to find.

Hopefully this information will get you well on your way to prospecting your own fishing holes, but just remember no “spot burning”!

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NJ Local catches monster 21lb Tog

Joe Zagorski of Manasquan Park, NJ has put a lot of time and hard work into targeting blackfish this season and I would say it has paid off with interest. While fishing this spring April 27th with Captain Jerry Postorino on the “Fish Monger II” out of Point Pleasant, NJ Joe caught what most fisherman would consider the fish of a lifetime heaving a 21lb Tautog over the rail. IMG_2991.JPGThat isn’t even the half of it, Zagorsky has been on fire this year with an incredible 12 fish in the double digits under his belt. Check out these numbers 4@10lbs, 4@11lbs, 3@12lbs, 1@13.75lbs, 1@16.75, and now 1@21lbs I don’t know about all of you but to me those numbers are staggering. When I asked Joe if he could tell us a little about how it all went down this is what he had to say.

“Fished our first spot with just a little life. Captain Jerry made an adjustment still just a little life and Jerry says lines up we are moving on. Along the way he tells us “well boys if it’s gonna be picky today lets pick at the slobs.” He warns mates John and Mike along with the rest of us to check all of our knots, top shots, hooks, and drags, “we are going to where the big boys live.” Drops two anchors and quickly an 8 and 9lb fish along with a few others are landed, wind shifts again so its lines up and we make an adjustment to get back on the piece. I get 2 nice fresh clams and Captain says lines in again. Usually I let it sit for 30 seconds or so before I search the bottom I want to settle in on, well 15 seconds in it happens. Two small bounces on the rod tip and fortunately for me I had been fishing soft bait since April 1st. I knew immediately it was a classic soft bait big fish bite and I swung for the fences, fish on. The fish doubled over my rod the tip almost hit the gunwale, I kept hard pressure to keep it up off the wreck.

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Captain Jerry (Left) and Joe with the 21lb Monster

Finally I got it to stop, got two wraps on the reel and she took off left. By this time the rod tip is in the water and she is peeling off line. Got her to stop again, one more wrap on the reel then she screams to the right peeling drag again. I finally get her up and down and straighten her out, one last dig for the bottom peeling drag then she finally gave up with no fight left. Easy reel to the top where John is waiting with the net, he gets her in with one fell swoop and the fish is in the boat. The biggest tog I have ever seen in person I could not believe my eyes, I am thinking 18-19lbs but Captain Jerry and John both say over twenty. We measure and weigh her and she bounced between 21 and 21.5lbs on two separate scales 29.5″ long with a 24.5″ girth. I’m a very lucky guy….lucky to be able to fish a lot, lucky to get that bite, lucky to land it. I am also very fortunate to have had Captain Jerry teaching me how to tog fish the past two seasons. I owe it all to him, so how appropriate I catch my personal best monster tog on his boat the Fish Monger II

 

For those of you that know and for those who have not yet figured it out, being truly good at tog fishing being a “sharpie” is not as easy as you think you have to put in your time. I have seen Joe fish as well as Captain Jerry and these guys are trying different things you are not even seeing, the are whole different plane that guys like me don’t even understand. Jedi? quite possibly, but I know one thing when it comes time start fishing for Tog again I will be putting time in with Jerry and Joe on the Fish Monger II .

Joes Setup:

  • Mike Garone custom rod United Composite CE700l blank
  • Diawa Saltiga 15 JDM model 5:1 Retrieve
  • Diawa 55lb metered J Braid
  • Trik Fish 60lb mono top shot
  • Owner 4/0 octopus hook
  • Two hook slider rig tied with Seaguar Blue Label 50lb Fluoro

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Finding my MOJO

Before now I have owned a leaky jon boat (the previous owner named it the “Happy Hooker”) a hobie kayak and now the “Reel Stupid” a well worn 20 foot center console that my wife was super pissed about me buying. Whatever she’ll get over it but now I have all this fishing to do and all this ground to cover. With that new found freedom comes the ability to employ different techniques to get fish in the boat. Trolling for me meant pedaling my kayak as hard as could while pulling around a deep diving plug not without success I might add but I was limited. Now I have the ability to troll popular lures like umbrella rigs, stretch plugs, bunker spoons, and the new crowd favorite Mojo Rigs I just have to figure out how…

The spring bass run in the Raritan Bay has been great so far this year and I had a chance to try out some of these techniques in the past few weeks with some success but not to the level I had hoped. My first trip out was successful as we were able to bring a few fish to the boat in the middle of the Saturday parking lot but the fish would only take an umbrella rig that felt like I was dragging around a cinderblock. I kept hearing how well everyone was doing fishing Mojo rigs and I was determined to get in on the action. At this point these rigs have quickly become the go to trolling rig for just about every striped bass fisherman

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S&S Bucktails Rattlin’ Mo

on the east coast. The Mojo itself is basically just a giant bucktail head, a heavy swing hook, and skirt tied inverted so the hairs flair out more giving it a larger profile in the water and they range in size from 2oz to a 46oz cannonball. There a broad range of options in rigging these oversized jig heads some people rig them as single Mojo usually a larger sized heads of 20+ oz with a large rubber shad or soft plastic added to the trailing hook. By far the most popular is the tandem rig consisting of a heavy duty 300lb 3-way swivel tied to your main line and 2 lengths of 100lb mono, a 12-15ft length on top and a 4-8ft length on bottom. Tied to the short bottom line is a heavy mojo head ranging from 10-460z depending on the depth and what you choose to use on your trailing line. On your longer trailing line you can pretty much experiment with anything but the most popular choices are swim shads, diving plugs, bunker spoons, and a second lighter mojo head.Untitled2e Keeping in mind that the lighter your trailing lure is the heavier Mojo head you will need to use to keep your line down. I prefer to troll with 2 S&S Rattlin’ Mo heads rigged with 9″ rubber shad bodies with. You can use any combination of Mojos like 12oz/6oz or 18oz/6oz but the lightest combination you can use to get to your desired depth is going to be the most fun to fish.

On my last trip to the Raritan Bay I finally found the success I was looking for trolling these Mojo rigs.IMG_2963x  It was a sloppy windy day and I was fishing by myself so I decided to start out fishing one line with a chartreuse tandem rig 16oz/4oz. After a while of poking around I finally found some serious concentrations of bunker in 38ft of water and shortly after my rod went down and for the rest of the day it was fish on every time I passed through a school. It sounds simple and really it is the hardest part is getting your lure in the strike zone but once you find that spot its game on. As a point of reference I was fishing a rig that weighed a combined total of 20 ounces in 38 feet of water and I found that with 175-185 feet of line out (not including the rig) my lures were right were I wanted them to be just about 5 feet off the bottom. I have found the best way to start is to drop your rig to the bottom while the boat is either stopped or barely moving and then lock up your reel, bring the boat to trolling speed 2.5-3.5kts and drop the rig to the bottom one more time. If you see your rigs are bouncing off the bottom than give the reel a few cranks and keep repeating the process until you find that spot you are looking for which is typically just a few feet off the bottom. This is where reels with line counters and metered braid can help you find that spot and get back to it very quickly without having to slow the boat down. I use Power Pro Depth Hunter braid which is color coded and marked so that I can remember exactly how deep I was when I got a strike and I can reset to that exact depth without question.  If you find the fish moving up in the water column give the reel a crank or two until you get hit again and before you know it you will have a very good feeling for how deep that Mojo rig is running.

Some days the fish want one thing and other days they want another but I think more often than not if there is bunker present a hungry Striped Bass will not hesitate to take a well presented MOJO rig. If am going to be trolling there will always be a MOJO in the spread to get the day started and it will probably stay in the spread. Good Luck finding your “MOJO”

jpr

 

Reel Stupid Fish of the Month

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Reel Stupid Fishing will be accepting photo submissions for the “Reel Stupid Fish of the Month”, all photos should include your name, date fish was caught, general location of catch. All other information like length, weight, tackle, and technique is also appreciated but not required.  All submissions must be entered by midnight on the last day of then month. Submit Photos to: Reelstupidfishing@gmail.com

One winner will chosen each month will receive a Reel Stupid Fishing sticker set, 1 pack of VMC 4/0 Octopus hooks, insane amounts of respect by your peers and the global fishing community. Each winner will also be entered to win Fish of the Year (chosen in January) and a chance to win the ULTIMATE GRAND PRIZE PACK!! a Reel Stupid Fishing t-shirt, sticker pack, VMC Hooks,and tackle grab bag (estimated value $50!!!!!!!)

Fishing Reports Coming Soon!

Reel Stupid Fishing is very excited to announce that in an effort bring quality up to date Fishing Reports to its viewers we will be partnering with some of New Jerseys best charter captains(trust me you don’t want my fishing reports). These Captains are on water the everyday that conditions will allow them and we are proud to have them on board with Reel Stupid Fishing!

Our Sponsors:

 

Stalker Fishing Charters: Captain Skip Jastremski Jr.

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Badfish Charters: Captain Brian Williams

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Fisher Price IV Charters: Captain Derek Bielitz

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Pura Vida Sport Fishing : Captain Phil Leo

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Vet Craft Sport Fishing: Captain Harvey Yenkinson

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Parker Pete’s Fishing Charters: Captain Pete Sykes

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Fish Stix Fishing Charters: Captain Kris Black

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June Bug Sportfishing: Captain Lindsay Fuller

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Time Out Charters: Captain Scott Newhall

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Any Captains wishing to participate in our Fishing Report Program please contact Reelstupidfishing@gmail.com

 

 

Get Ready the Bass are Coming…

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Winter is over it’s time to unwrap the boat and get the gear ready because the bass are starting to show. A winter that brought the 5th warmest average temperatures across the state of New Jersey has given the bass a reason to start early this year, and with temperatures in the low 70’s in the upcoming forecast things should only be further accelerated.

A few reports have already started to come in and I’m not talking about those nuclear power plant runoff rats.  A few 18″-20″ stripers have been caught in the Indian River Inlet in Delaware recently. STC Sports Center in Gibbstown, NJ had there first Delaware River caught keeper brought into the shop on 3/5 and a reports of small bass are popping up in the Raritan Bay and its Tributaries.

It’s only a matter of time before things start really picking up fast with the forecast only getting warmer things are shaping up for a nice spring and there is only 72 days until fluke opens so don’t get caught with your pants down!

 

NJ 2016 Fluke and Sea Bass Regulations

 

2016 Fluke Regulations:

May 21 – September 25: 5 fish at 18″. Four fish at 17″ may be kept in the Delaware Bay and Two fish at 16″ may be kept by land based anglers only within the confines of Island Beach State Park

2016 Black Sea Bass Regulations:

May 23 – June 19: Ten fish at 12.5″

July 1 – August 31: Two fish at 12.5″

October 22 – December 31: Fifteen at 13″

I won’t get too much into my own personal opinion on this because most of us have some strong feelings about the current regulations but I will say I don’t understand the current Seabass Regulations…..

http://njfishandwildlife.com/

Change For The Nj Delaware Bay Fluke Fishery

 

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Fisherman in the Delaware Bay targeting fluke  in the past few years have struggled to put together a catch that makes it worthwhile to fish D-Bay. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has instituted new change to the  regional management of summer flounder for 2016 that will hopefully help these fisherman. A 17″ 4 fish limit with 128 day season will be instituted for boats west of the COLREGS Demarcation line in the hopes of evening the playing field some. Delaware fluke regulations are currently 4 at 16″ with a season that is open year round and this  has caused a negative economic impact on the fishing and boating related businesses in the areas bordering the Delaware Bay. Many party and charter boats have seen customers from places like Pennsylvania take the trip to Delaware instead knowing they have a much better chance at putting a few fish on the table than those boats fishing out of New Jersey. Even Marinas are losing customers who are relocating they’re boats to different shore points  Hopefully this change can bring some relief but the Delaware Bay fluke fishery has not been very productive regardless of size people just are not catching fish period.

Overstock Bait and Tackle: A few hidden gems

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Recently I came across this website www.overstockbait.com and of course I found a few things I just couldn’t pass up at the price. Honestly I found a lot of things I would like to buy but my wife has had enough of my “dead of winter buy fishing crap to stay sane routine”. There is a few popular names in the saltwater scene like Williamson and Storm with products being sold on this site and if you look hard enough there are some pretty good deals to be had, and here are a couple that I saw.

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Bomber Parachute Jig: $4.29

I found this 8oz saltwater grade jig that hopefully (we’ll see what it looks like when it arrives) with a pair of these and a 3-way swivel should make a great  $10 MOJO rig. On the website it says the retail price for these is $8.99 but the best I found was $13.25 on eBay.

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Williamson Banjo Eye Jig: $1.99

Spro and other named brand jigs including this one usually sell for $4 or more in stores and they do not include a sweet curly tail grub (if it were GULP! this thing would probably sell for $10) like this one does. In 2 and 4oz sizes I think these jigs will work great for inshore fluke and casting for striper. These go for $8.29 on bassproshops.com and I will report back if any of these products are not as advertised.