Article Written by Greg Cudnik. Learn More About the author below / Article Read Time: 4 Minutes
From five pounds to fifty pounds, striped bass offer a ton of fun fishing opportunities for all ages and skill levels. Here on Long Beach Island (LBI), the central Jersey coast is home to great striped bass fishing nearly year round. The area here is unique because we are a skinny 18 mile long barrier island which has two inlets (Barnegat Inlet on the north end and Little Egg Inlet on the south end), numerous bays (Barnegat Bay, Manahawkin Bay, Little Egg Harbor, Great Bay) and a couple key rivers (Toms River and Mullica River) as well as many small tributaries.
Our year kicks off when the back bay striper fishing opens on March 1st with resident bass. These fish call the area home all year and are staged up in the rivers and river mouths. In April, fishing only gets better as the waters warm. For LBI, April offers great fishing with small schoolie stripers for anglers fishing the bayside waters. During the early season, things can start off slow artificial lures but once their metabolism gets going they become more active. My favorite technique this time of year is fishing poppers on the shallow mud/grass flats and river mouths (west side banks) which warm up first.
Then comes May and June! This is the time LBI has the year’s biggest striped bass, usually the last week or two of May and the first week or two of June. This is when large post spawn striped bass pile onto bunker schools along the beaches and can feed for days. If the bait and weather cooperate, it can roll on with consistency. The large striped bass move out of the area as the spring transitions into summer and the waters warm.
A good body of striped bass, predominantly in the 15-30” range, hang around LBI all summer and have their way with the seasonal baits; peanut bunker, spearing, spot, and mullet. At this stage of the year, striped bass are not looked at as a primary target since summer flounder fishing is more popular. But summertime striped bass fishing in and around Long Beach Island is awesome! Just know that it has to be early or late in the day as summertime boat traffic can be horrendous!
The New Jersey mullet run which fires up in mid-September and usually fires up on the first or second large coastal storm on or around the second moon of the month. This transitions right into the fall run where striped bass move south down the coast on their fall migration. Usually by mid October the weather changes and a storm or two blows away summer and then the true autumn pattern sets in with westerly winds and cooler temperatures. The westerlies get bunker schools podded up near (and at times on) the beaches. When the migrating striped bass find the pods, ferocious feeds ensue. This can be for an hour, a tide or when fair and consistent weather settles in, potentially days on end. By late November and early December the abundance of striped bass peak but the size class is significantly smaller. In this late season, smaller baits like sand eels can make for great light tackle striped bass fishing. Some years it goes through the holidays and into the new year where things cycle right back around again. I enjoy striped bass fishing multiple ways, but it is always about the eat and strike. For this reason trolling is hardly ever a tactic I employ.
I fish the surf and jetty and prefer the rough water conditions. Casting bucktails and top water pencil poppers. These conditions tend to get striped bass charged up and feeding in the foamy white water. Cortland Master Braid’s thin yet super strong spectra line is essential for making long casts in these windy conditions. The confidence Master Braid offers fishing in highly abrasive situations is vital.
When the bunker are podded up, I try my best to fool big bass with extra large lures; top water swimmers, spooks, poppers and spoons. When there are few and far in between or super picky I’ll liveline as a last ditch effort. In all of these cases Cortland Master Braid’s little to no stretch as well as test (strength) to diameter ratio help in casting, retrieving, setting the hook and enjoying the fight.
If the conditions are right and the wind is light, my go to approach is casting flies to striped bass. Watching them chase, follow and eat is the best! Getting them on the fly is always more memorable than conventional gear, especially when it's on a fly you tied yourself! The universe of patterns is very broad and diverse, yet I always tend to circle back to my primaries; clouser (jig fly), gurglers (top water), sandeel flatwing (slender and long), bulkheads and other spun deer hair heads like the Montauk Monster (larger profiles fished middle and upper water column).
I typically have a couple 8-9wt fly rods rigged up and ready. Most times of the year, one rod will have the Cortland Striped Bass Float fly line which I will fish gurglers on. The other rod will have the Cortland Striped Bass Intermediate, but I also swap out spools and utilize the super fast sinking Cortland Sink 8. There's times when the current is ripping or the fish are hanging low in the water column or both. The Type 8 gets the fly down quick. It's effective when fishing inlets and out front in deeper water scenarios, especially when the sand eels move in and striped bass are feeding on the bottom. We all want experience top water blitzes everyday but that just isn't reality. I find it important to have a range of fly line densities so I can put my fly where the fish are staged up and marking on the sounder. Being able to fish different depths is a must for success.
I’m confident that after reading this info that you can plan a successful striped bass fishing trip to the central NJ coast and enjoy fishing Long Beach Island. I welcome you to my shop Fisherman’s Headquarters which is located in Ship Bottom at the entrance to LBI. Also check us out online at FishermansHeadquarters.com and be sure to follow us now on social media.
About the author
Greg Cudnik is a Long Beach Island, New Jersey native. Greg is the general manager of Fisherman’s Headquarters Bait & Tackle Shop located on LBI in the town of Ship Bottom, NJ. When Greg is not at the shop you can find him fishing the ocean for tuna, tog, striped bass, and anything else that bends a rod and pulls line. Greg currently resides on LBI with his wife Melanie and their son Zach.
Products mentioned in this article:Striped Bass Float Fly Line
Striped Bass Intermediate Fly Line
Striped Bass Sink 8 Fly Line