A Biting Chance for All

By Margaret Roth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 24, 2007

From Sandy Hook to Cape May, word is that the saltwater fishing has never been better. Okay, so someone's probably exaggerating. But it's true that there's plenty of action this year for those who'd rather stand on the beach, rod in hand, than lie there. Here's what to look for, and look forward to.

IN THE SURF: Fluke (summer flounder), a Jersey shore favorite, is an even hotter catch this summer. The challenge of hooking the sneaky Paralichthys dentatus is intensified by stricter daily limits this summer (17-inch minimum, limit eight) set by the state Division of Fish & Wildlife. You can also catch sharp-toothed bluefish (all sizes, limit 15) and striped bass (28-inch minimum, limit two); both have been biting on cut clams and bunker, or menhaden, which is what they chase after in the surf on the incoming tide. For $2, the state's Striped Bass Bonus Program will grant permission for a third bass 28 inches or longer.

To better your odds, try lures as well, such as pencil poppers, bomber plugs and spoons, said John Christensen of Scott's Bait and Tackle (57 Main St., Bradley Beach, 732-988-6450,, which is hosting a year-long striped bass tournament; the entry fee is $25 for men, $10 for women, with the first-place winner guaranteed 40 percent of the money paid in. Other good catches are weakfish, or sea trout (13-inch minimum, limit eight), and blackfish, or tautog (14-inch minimum, limit one).

OFF THE SHORE: Heading out in a boat is one way to get past the surf line, and if you want someone else to drive while you fish, dozens of party boats operate along New Jersey's coast. Most captains provide the bait, tackle and untangling know-how; you just pay to board (typically $20 to $30 per adult, $12 to $18 for kids 12 and younger). Some boats also charge a few dollars for each rig. Reservations are recommended during the summer.

Tired of the sun? Night bluefishing is big, for as little as $45 ($25 for kids) on party boats. Some charter outfits, such as the Purple Jet (888-780-8862,, take advantage of weekly fireworks displays through August in Seaside Heights (Wednesdays) and Point Pleasant Beach (Thursdays), fishing from late afternoon into evening, then retiring the rigs to watch the skies; $575 for up to six passengers.

Smaller groups (generally up to six, sometimes 15) can arrange half-day ocean trips of all stripes for $575 to $750; a full day runs $650 to $900 and up, depending on the chosen prey. (Trips in bay waters are cheaper.) Artificial reefs and wrecks 15 to 25 miles offshore are popular spots.

YOU'LL NEED: For saltwater fishing, just rod, reel and bait; no license is required. Recreational crabbing and clamming are another story. A crab pot will cost you $2 a year to operate; crab lines are license-free. A clamming license runs $10 a year for residents, $20 for nonresidents. Licenses are sold at sporting-goods and tackle stores.

DON'T FORGET: When rough surf and seas send the fish dashing for cover, a whole different world of lakes and rivers awaits not far inland, with trout, bass, walleye and catfish biting. Most Jersey shore bait and tackle stores can help you get that fish fix you're looking for. A two-day, nonresident vacation fishing license costs $9, seven-day $19.50.

INFORMATION: The N.J. Division of Fish & Wildlife's Web site,, has a great section on fluke. Its online Digest profiles fish with catch limits and links to the latest info on what you shouldn't eat. To find out what's biting (or not), with daily high and low tides, check out Fishing Reports Now ( For specific beaches and some of their party boats, marinas, and bait and tackle stores, visit the state's Commerce, Economic Growth & Tourism Commission site, Another searchable Web site is Sportsman's Resource (

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