With just three weekends to go in New Jersey’s 2017 fluke season, the best way now to fill a few freezers for the off-season is by hitting the deeper, stickier structure along the coast. From Sandy Hook to Cape May, on over to the Old Grounds and Delaware reef sites, the outside rubble is holding the best chance to score, through fluke are still moving through Barnegat Inlet at a good clip and can be found along the jetties, groins and sloughs along the beaches as well. The quickly passing hurricane may have produced a few swells earlier in the week, but it’s left light winds and calms seas as of Thursday on the offshore grounds. By the time the party kicks off on Sunday, August 20 at The MidAtlantic Tournament out of Cape May, NJ the offshore forecast according to NOAA is for 2- to 3-foot seas and winds only around 10 knots. In the back, peanut bunker are stacking up in canals and lagoons which should attract attention from a few smaller, resident stripers; in particular along the Central and South Jersey sod banks where you might consider dusting off those smaller poppers like the CrossOvers and Smack-Its. Meanwhile, with the presence of all those peanuts, some are wondering if the weakfish could deliver a surprise, late summer boom around the Raritan or Delaware Bay; sure, it’s been awhile, but you never know.
While some folks have been tight-lipped about specifics, word of mouth reports have it that the bigger fluke are biting back along the inshore reef and wreck sites. Entering the homestretch on the 2017 season, best bet for bigger bag limits and stocked freezers is out past the inlets or even tight in along the beach for surfcasters looking to score. While looking at some cloudy skies and scattered showers throughout the region this weekend, the NOAA Offshore Forecast for the Hudson to the Baltimore shows light winds and fair seas through Monday night. Over 300 boats are competing offshore for nearly $5 million in prize money this week at the White Marlin Open, with a couple of New Jersey boats on the tuna board after three days of action and an 86-pound white marlin brought to scales on Wednesday afternoon. Nearer shore, summer visitors like sheepshead, triggers, butterfly rays and cobia continue turning a few heads in tight. Look for Spanish mackerel and bonito at Sea Isle Ridge, Barnegat Ridge or Manasquan Ridge, while cobia are popping up in and around the local inlets. A reminder this week from NOAA Fisheries that anglers are not allowed to fish for cobia outside of 3 miles – not until September 5 when new regulations take place for federal waters from New York to Georgia. Presently, New Jersey’s cobia regulations are two at 37 inches, while there is no size or bag in Delaware. Starting September 5, the Atlantic cobia recreational sector will see federal minimum size set at 36 inches fork with a one fish per person bag.