South Jersey Fishing: Sea Bass Season Opens Friday
On the heels of a six-day nor’easter that ravaged the Jersey shore and shut down fishing from bays to canyons comes the opening of the black sea bass season.
And the timing could not have been better. With fluke season closing September 27, there was a seemingly endless gap before this arguably second favorite inshore gamefish became legal quarry again. The July 1-August 31 summer season, with its meager two sea bass limit, did add to the larder somewhat, but now the daily limit is back to 10 fish.
The minimum size limit remains at 13 inches.
This delectable bottom fish is found around just about any kind of subsurface structure. At this stage of the segmented season, figure-dropping baits (clams and squid) or working jigs (metals and bucktails) are anywhere from 70 to 100 feet. Sometimes shallower, but not by much. Sometimes deeper and then deeper.
The Garden State coast is blessed with an unbelievable artificial reef system, There are 17 reefs in all, including one in Delaware Bay. These are magnets for myriad gamefish, most notably sea bass. Besides these, there are wrecks and rock piles scattered along the bottom that attract and hold sea bass. And with a population riding high in the “up” cycle, you can bet just about any bump or lump in the ocean bottom will have sea bass around it.
This can be drop ‘n reel fishing at its finest, and it will get better through the October 26 closure. For those (like yours truly) who like things close, this is the time to get over the wrecks. There will be bigger bass around when the season re-opens on November 1 and some will still be in relatively short range. However, as autumn progresses and the water gets colder, the fish move off, and by December figure a 30-plus mile boat ride at least. The draw is that these deep-water sea bass will be bigger, many in the four to the five-pound range, with even heftier fish not that uncommon. Plus...the limit jumps to 15 fish. This segment ends on December 31.
Those interested in “canyon sea bassing” can google charter and party boats that cater to this cold weather deep dropping. A toothsome bonus on these deep water wrecks oftentimes hold jumbo porgies, oftentimes referred to as pie plates and hubcaps. While not quite as delish as sea bass, they do make a great fried fish sandwich.
Check out the October 1 Rack & Fin Radio podcast for more about the sea bass prospectus. Tom P. interviews principal marine fisheries biologist Peter Clarke who is also the Bureau of Marine Fisheries sea bass specialist and also the state’s artificial reef coordinator. Peter gives the lowdown on the sea bass population and his five faves south Jersey artificial reefs for sea bass fishing.