Jersey road trip report
Since my last road trip was largely eroded by the incessant winds, I embarked upon a redemption to Raritan Bay / Sandy Hook area. My 3am alarm came awfully early, but I pulled myself out and got on the road. I arrived at my designated launch (Bayshore Waterside Park) by 7:30 am and met a local yak fisherman on his way out.
He didn't have any recent intel that was helpful so after pleasant chatting, we went our separate ways once we got on the water. The air temp was in the low 40s and the water 50, so I was glad I had brought my drysuit.
My original plan was to paddle east towards Sandy Hook and work the inside area. I had some closer marks to the west that I created on my last trip here in the spring, so I made a detour to them first, but came up empty.
As I started making my way to the Hook, I began re-evaluating my original plan. The winds were 5-10 from the SW - directly at my back. They were forecast to increase to 15+ later in the morning. I was also following a strongly ebbing tide. I really didn't relish the idea of paddling against the wind and the tide on my return, so I pointed the boat west in search of structure.
My thought was that I would hump it up wind before they picked up and then cruise back with the tide when they did. The problem was that there wasn't a lot of bottom variation in the area I was heading and thus there were few signs of life beyond scattered bait balls.
I studied the contours on the chart and worked a line that had some irregularities. As I entered a small C shaped indentation, my port rod got slammed. I was working a 1 OZ bucktail in 22 FOW.
I could tell by the drag that it was a good fish. As I got it closer to the boat, I got a good look at it in the clear water and my heart skipped a beat. I was hoping for a new PB, but first I needed to land it.
I let it get most of the fight out of it before hoisting it on board. She measured out at 31". Not a PB, but a very nice fish. I was pleasure to watch her swim away. The 3am start didn't seem so early all of a sudden!
By this time, it was after 10 am and the winds were increasing right on schedule. There was a very interesting hole I had seen on my screen and I wanted to hit it before heading back to the launch. The problem was that it was directly into the wind and the current.
I pushed against the elements for about 15 minutes and made seemingly no head way. I decided to forgo the opportunity to hit the hole and pointed the boat towards home. I was about a mile and a half off shore and thought it better to be closer to shore if the winds increased further.
On the way back, I enjoyed letting the forces of nature to propel me where I needed to go. Along the way, I crossed of the oringal target area that I hit at first launch.
The first pass yielded nothing, so I turned upwind to run a ledge. Sure enough, the fish was where it was supposed to be and hit my weighted Tsunami Sandeel. She was very fat, but only came in at 26". I tried to make another pass, but the increasing winds convinced me to call it a day.
The other kayaker was returning at the same time I did. He had gone to the area I had first planned to hit. Even in a Hobie Outback (and jury-rigged trolling motor), he got his butt kicked by the wind and got skunked to boot. I was feeling pretty good about my calling an audible after I assessing the conditions.
I spent the rest of the day surf casting into the Atlantic, at the base of the Hook. I didn't catch anything, but did see a blitz about 3 cast lengths out that lasted for about 10 minutes. I learned later that it was a school of bunker and that some folks fished snag and drop to great success when the fish moved farther north.
For day 2, I launched in an area based on a tip from a local bait shop guy. It didn't pay out. I fished for about 2.5 hours and paddled over 7 miles before pulling the plug.
I decided to re-launch from yesterday's spot to check out the holes that I wasn't able to get to. As I pulled into the parking lot, there was a parade of disgruntled kayak fisherman, all of whom had been skunked as well. The local charter boat chatter on the radio confirmed it was a tough day for everyone in the area.
In speaking with them, the buzz was about success from the surf, so returned to yesterday beach. Upon arrival, I saw a fleet of boats (and a few kayaks) working a bunker school about 200 yards off the beach.
I spoke to many shore bound anglers who reported no action at all. I watched the boats with binoculars for 15 minutes and did not witness any hookups. There was no bird activity and no sign of life beyond the gathering of hulls.
I was faced with launching my kayak through the surf and then needing to land through the surf. Despite as ideal conditions as I am ever likely to find on the ocean (low surf), I did not and do not feel comfortable taking on the waves alone, so I wimped out. I fear turtling and getting my gear smashed... I need to do it with some folks that have experience with it, before I take it on alone.
Instead, I followed another lead of significant success off of Seaside Park. I drove the half hour south and checked in at the recommended B&T shop - Betty and Nicks. It was clear that this place was the local hub. There were surf rigs and fisherman everywhere.
I went down to the beach to observe and confirmed what they had told me at the shop - the bite died with the tide. I did gather great intel for future trips, however. While there, I was treated to some whales working near a group of boats / kayaks.
All in all, I am happy with the trip, even if it did only yield 2 fish. I can't wait to do it again! Maybe this time on the outside with folks that know their stuff.
Last edited by EMSer; 10-31-2016 at 06:28 AM.
Wilderness System, Thresher 155