GET ON THE BOTTOM- HERE’S WHERE
Fluke (aka summer flounder, flatfish, flatties, doormats) and Black Sea Bass- these are two of the best eating fish in the mid- to north Atlantic for the recreational offshore angler, and the season is NOW! If you are a veteran of many offshore seasons, you have your reefs and wrecks all marked and your boat probably is on autopilot. But for newcomers, you might want some info on favorite “community holes” along the Jersey coast.
A) Ambrose Channel- 40'31.25 x 73'59.41- Now for something a little different. This area is situated just east of Romer Shoal in the shipping lanes of Raritan Bay. The Channel cuts a deep gully that runs from 21 feet on its ledges down a slope to the 45-foot range and eventually, down to 70 feet. A good reference is the No. 8 buoy on the eastern side of the channel. This channel attracts some big fluke, but it can get a little crazy at times due to the supertankers that do not stray from their path. Be aware of your drift, stay safe, and you will be rewarded with some good fishing.
B) Klondike – 40˙08.95’ x 73˙54.6’- Common belief is that the Klondike got its name because as the Klondike Gold Rush was occurring, dory fishermen in New Jersey were doing a little “mining” of these fish-rich waters. This area is comprised of natural, porous rock that was formed by the hardening of clay 10,000 years ago. The area is dotted by clusters of rockpiles and semi-hard mats of mussel beds, with depths running 46 feet on the north side to 80 feet on the east side. An underwater ridge runs east to west with a slightly north pull and is about one mile long.
C) Shark River Reef – 40˙06.80’ x 73˙41.4’- Shark River Reef has the largest volume of natural and artificial material of any reef site in the world. It was built 14.8 miles off the coast and provides incredibly diverse habitat and hosts a wide variety of “catchy” species. The entire area encompasses .72 square miles full of sunken tankers, tugboats, and cargo ships. The most highlighted shipwreck is the 460-foot attack cargo transport USS Algol, situated near the reef’s south side. I addition to a variety of tanker wrecks, subway cars were added on the north and south ends of the site. The whole northeast quadrant of the reef site is fortified by 26 solid granite rock mountain ridges that jut up from the ocean floor, each one 500 feet long by 200 feet wide and 40 to 60 feet high. For fish, this is like a luxury resort island.
D) Manasquan Ridge- 40'01.74 / 73'56.01- The Ridge is a solid staging spot for large fluke, as it lies roughly 6.3 miles from Manasquan Inlet and provides an interim point for migrating fish. The spot resembles a tabletop, with water depth ranging from 48 on top to 75 feet around the sides. Flatties will start the day on top and over the course of the day move to the down-tide sides. Unlike the sticky structure areas, you'll want to drift your baits with the tide for maximum exposure to hungry fish. The ridge will serve up quality doormats as well as serve as a fantastic spot to fill your cooler with keeper sized fish.
E) Barnegat Light Reef – 39˙45.20’ x 74˙01.5’- This Reef is a very fishy playground with an area spanning .85 square miles- 1¾ miles north to south and ¾ mile east to west. It contains tanks, reef balls, concrete castings, and wrecks, including a 40-foot crew barge, the 41-foot sailboat Antares, and a 42-foot tuna barge. Barnegat Ridge has a natural upwelling of nutrient-rich water that attracts a lot of baitfish and gamefish. Depths range from 46 to 58 feet. You’ll want to keep in contact with the bottom when you bounce between the various patches of structure. This area is particularly known for its excellent sea bass- some up to 5 pounds could pass through.
F) Great Egg Reef- 39'14.50 / 74'21.50- The Great Egg, 7.2 miles off Atlantic City, is a fantastic summer flounder hotspot. The reef encompasses a one square mile area of bottom chock-full of structure that lies in 42-to-75-foot water. There are large clusters of army tanks on the west and south sides. Plenty of tire piles, reef balls, and pipe sections. The “star” of the reef is a 165-foot tanker, placed nearly dead center on the reef. A lot of older wrecks have deteriorated to low profiles but still provide excellent feeding grounds for hungry flatfish and sea bass.
G) Cape May Reef – 38˙52.20’ x 74˙41.2’- Now that we have reached Cape May, we have covered north to south. This is 3 square-mile area 9 miles southeast of the Cape May Inlet. The reef is manmade consisting of 17 wrecks, including the clam dredge Laita, the buoy tender Red Oak, the Rothenbach barge and the 205-foot tanker Onandaga. The wrecks are spread out fairly evenly across the reef. The rubble from the Ben Franklin Bridge is spilled on the north side, and between all this there are tire units, reef balls, tanks, and subway cars- a real cornucopia of structure. Depths range from 48 feet on the northwest end to 76 feet on the southeast side. The Cape May rip shoal area is one of the most productive places. The bridge rubble sections offer unlimited “fishy structure.
H) Old grounds-38'34.40/ 74'47.72- Close by and sitting roughly 18 miles south off Cape May, Old Grounds lies in a shipping channel from the Atlantic into Delaware Bay. The bottom structure is very rocky, since in past centuries, ships would spill stone ballasts here to lighten their loads so they could safely enter the shallower waters of Delaware Bay. Over decades, that has built up a jumbled underwater terrain of rockpiles that fluke love.
Structure is key to all of these spots, and things can get very “sticky”. You will need to be mentally prepared and stocked up to lose jigs and rigs- try to keep the rigs simple. It is recommended to use braided line of at least 50-pound-test. Use an Albright knot to attach a 25-foot section of 30-pound mono. For a simple rig, one tried and true method is to double up a section and tie off at the top with a double-overhand knot. Loop on a bank sinker at the bottom. Three inches up from the bank sinker, pinch the line into a loop and loop on a #6 Virginia hook. This rig allows a breakaway approach, so you can simply loop on another sinker when it breaks off.