After fishing fruitlessly for a keeper fluke all day last Saturday at the Shrewsbury Rocks with Patch environmental columnist John Zingis, we decided to bring things closer to home. The final few drifts of the day, as we hunted for a doormat to weigh in at the Point Pleasant Elks tournament, were close to Manasquan Inlet at a spot John used to fish years ago.
Turns out it would be the spot where I'd land my only keeper, a 2.7-pounder, of the day.
One of the great things about our area is that you never have to drive far to find flounder. I've always been a firm believer that the "hot spot" isn't so hot if it's going to cost you an arm and a leg to get there. And while I may have had a lucky last drift that day, I'd argue that luck can be on anyone's side just about anywhere in our area.
You just have to know where to look. From what I've been hearing over the past week, the rule of thumb in the ocean has been that the action is hot close to shore, but you'll have to sort through a good number of shorts before the prized keeper is landed. On my aforementioned fishing trip with John and a few of his buddies last weekend, that seemed to ring true. Those anglers who fished deeper water farther out had a better keeper-to-throwback ratio, but fishing was a slow pick. The best action (in numbers) seems to be right around 50-feet of water.
On the bay, reports indicate that the BI and BB buoys are the hot spots. I fished the bay in my own boat one day this week along with my Dad, and found the action to be pretty slow, especially near the dyke inside Barnegat Inlet and along the southern bank of Island Beach State Park along the Oyster Creek Channel. We motored up the channel and over to the BI, where we finally landed some flounder. Unfortunately, there were no keepers to be had. We may be getting toward "that time of year" when the big fish are finally heading out to the ocean for good.
The good news is that we've heard positive reports from all three of our local reef sites - Barnegat Light, Axel Carlson and Sea Girt. It's not rocket science, just a matter of exploring the sea floor and looking for those subtle lumps as well as the artificial objects where the fluke are on the hunt for a hearty meal.
For what it's worth, little has been heard about the fluke bite in Little Egg Inlet, which is one of my personal favorite locations to fish. The inlet offers some wide open areas to set drifts with good water flow and depth contours that are rare for a bay-oriented area. Most of the fish I've heard about being caught in that part of Ocean County have been at the clam stakes in Great Bay or out at the Middle Grounds in Little Egg Harbor Bay. Just like the situation at the BB and BI buoys in the middle bay, it's rare that the fish are still there in numbers at this point in the season.
We heard this week from Grizz's Bait and Tackle in Forked River that blowfish have started to show up at the BB buoy. It might be too early to target them in numbers, but this is an excellent sign for late August and into September when the bite is at its hottest level.
One last thing: We've heard a lot this week about stingrays being present in the ocean (a bather at Island Beach State Park was stung Thursday afternoon) and at least one report I read this week mentioned cow nose rays in the bay. If you happen to hook one of these, it's best to be prepared, as these fish can be dangerous. I found some of the advice in this forum thread to be helpful.
As always, please feel free to e-mail your catch photos to Patch, and we'll make sure to show them off in this column!