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Barnegat Bay Winter Flounder Hot Spots and Techniques

I was introduced to saltwater fishing when I was 7 years old while ishing from my uncle's Boston Whaler for Winter Flounder in Barnegat Bay. Almost 50 years later and I sill remember a couple of things vividly from that first trip.

Winter Flounder

It was cold!

Unless your boat has a cabin or surround, it seems no matter how much clothing you wear it is never enough to keep yourself warm. Needless to say, my uncle's Whaler did not have any shelter. Generally speaking bay water temps (and Winter Flounder preferred temperatures) are in the 40's and 50's in March and April. If you are fishing for winter flounder, bundle up.

It was fun!

It took me all of one trip to realize I loved this. Quite honestly, it was not until I was over 40 could I sleep the night before fishing. Too much excitement and adrenaline pumping. I think winter flounder are underestimated in terms of their fighting ability and overall aggression.  The fishing is done with light tackle at most 8-10 ft of water and everyone of flounder comes up “green”. 

Since my introduction to winter flounder fishing, generations have passed.  And after dozens (if not hundreds) of fishing trips later certain things tend to become clearer as to how to catch more of these fine tasting fish.

 

When to Catch Winter Flounder


Winter Flounder become active in early spring as bay water temperatures begin to rise. My father always said that St. Patrick's Day was the day to mark on your calendar as the unofficial kick-off to the season. The preferred water temperature range for winter flounder is between 48-52 F.  Once the bluefish enter the bay in force, usually late April to early May you can pretty much count on the season being over until the fall.

 

Where to Catch Winter Flounder

Winter flounder prefer muddy bottom where sea worms are prevalent. In addition to providing habitat to the winter flounder's primary forage, the other thing the muddy bottom does is to soak up the warming rays of the sun. Sometimes, just a small difference in bottom temps can really ignite a bite. There are any number of areas in Barnegat Bay that could fit that bill. I am going to cover 3 of them that I have had my best luck at.

Disclaimer:  Maps and locations are approximate.  Not to be used for navigation:

 

Loveladies ICW

Early in the season the fish seem to lie more away from the inlet One early season spot is to the south of the bay toward Loveladies, NJ. The ICW between buoy 44 and buoy 47 marks the area. You can note on the map that shallow water is on the east side of the area so don't go outside the channel on the green side.  The red side is more forgiving as the water is deeper. Until you become comfortable in the area,  just stay inside the red markers and you will be fine. I like to anchor somewhere near the middle of the shaded area.  Thie area has a thick muddy bottom.  This area only seems to do well early in the season.  By early to mid April, the fish have moved on from here.

 

 

Oyster Creek Run Off

To the north, the mud flats direclty in front of the Oyster Creek outfolow is prime winter flounder area. This area really hits the trifecta when it comes to location. It has a mud bottom, the warm water outflow from the Oyster Creek generating station, and the area is adjacent to Oyster Creek Channel.   Oyster Creek Channel is one of only 2 main channels connecting the west side of the bay to the inlet.  The other channel, Double Creek Channel is not officially open since hurricane Sandy.  

You will want to anchor somewhere in the area shaded on the map.   As a reference you want to stay north of the 'BI' buoy and Oyster Creek Channel entrance.

As the season progresses the flounder migrate toward the inlet. Fish to the north migrate out of Oyster Creek Channel. Fish to the south migrate out of Double Creek channel. I prefer not to fish directly in Oyster Creek Channel because just too much boat traffic goes by for a comfortable day. Double Creek Channel can be good at times and is not nearly as busy with boat traffic but that channel is not open at the moment so unfortunately we miss the ability to 'follow the migration' . 

 

Meyers' Hole 

At the tail end of the season (early May) , Meyers' Hole can hold a large number of flounder. The hole lays right off the main channel toward the inlet and acts as a staging area for flounder before they make their final push offshore. 

 

 

How to Catch Winter Flounder

Not too much disagreement exists on advice on how to catch winter flounder. Commonly, everyone agrees what you need to do to be successful.

 

Anchor Up

Unlike it's summer cousin, the fluke, winter flounder are more sedintary and you can not successfully drift for them. So you need to anchor your boat in a prime winter flounder zone and sit tight. Some (most) would agree it is best to double anchor to reduce swing when possible.

 

Chum Heavily

You will not put together a nice catch of winter flounder unless you chum and heavily at that. Types of chum vary though your choice may be limited to what is available in your local bait shop. The 2 most popular types of chum are clam and mussel. These come in frozen quart size logs in plastic bags which are lowered to the bottom with a chum pot. You should make a couple of slits lengthwise in the plastic bag the chum log is in with your bait knife. This will facilitate the release of chum from the log into the current and start drawing the winter flounder to you. It is best to tie off your chum pot as much up current as possible onto your boat. Periodically, bounce the chum pot on the bottom to help stir things up and get the chum flowing. Using 2 (or more) chum pots is advisable.  The chum pots are weighted so they drop easily to the bottom. You should not have to spend more than $20 - $25 on a chum pot.

In addition to frozen clam and mussel chum, there are a number of other things you can chum with to supplement your chum pot. Any kind of fresh shells such as mussels, clam, oysters et can be cracked and dropped to the bottom. Many old timers mix toghether cat foot, rice, and other ingreditents into a home brew. Grass shrimp are an excellent chum as well.

 

Bait

I have always had the best results with bloodworms for bait. Sandworms would be second best and mussels third. It is important to keep the baits small. You should cut your worms into pieces no bigger than 2 - 2.5 inches. Winter flounder have a very small mouth.  You do not want your worm balled up on your hook but rather dangling freely.

Gulp! Bloodworms are an excellent to use in addition to live bloodworms. It is best to try both live and Gupl Bloodworms while fishing for winter flounder and determine on that day which one is working best.

 

 

Tackle

This is definitely a light tackle fishery. Fish rarely weigh more than 2.5 lbs and you will be fishing in shallow water so heavy sinkers are not required.  You will want to have a rig with 2 or 3 hooks. I like to rig my hooks with small yellow grubs or buy hook sets with corn beads. Yellow is winter flounder's favorite color so I try to give them as much of that color as I can.  I even spray paint my sinkers yellow.  You can get ths rigs you need for Winter Flounder for just a little over $2.

 

 

Technique

2 basic schools of thought here. Dead stick or don't dead stick. This is an easy answer to me. Don't dead stick. Rather I prefer to lift my sinker slowly off the bottom and back down in 3 bounce increments with each increment a couple of seconds apart. Then take a 30 second break and repeat. I believe this light jigging action will help you to put many more fish in the box than simple dead-sticklng.

The 'best' time to winter flounder fish is on a nice warm sunny late morning on the very last of the incoming tide through slack, through the first couple hours of the outgoing tide. Now, those conditions may not coincide with when you can fish but that would be my description of when is the best time. One thing I can tell you, winter flounder is one of the few fish that I don't really try to get an early start. You need the sun to be your friend with this fish. The outgoing tide is key because in the Spring the ocean temps are colder then the bay. The incoming waters therefore tend to shut down the fishing. Once the water starts flowing out, the warmer shallows start draining through the channels and the fish start to feed.

 

 

 

Comments   

-1 # july 4th 2017 events 2017-06-30 07:30
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0 # Munna Michael 2017-07-19 17:50
There is definately a great deal to learn about this topic.
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Reply | Reply with quote | Quote

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Margate Fish Pier
121 S Exeter Ave,
Margate City NJ
08402
(609) 823-9846
Atlantic Ocean

Pier is open for 2016.
Must be a member of Angler's Club to use the pier.
Angler's club cost $400 one time initiation fee and $425 per year which includes a locker.


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Ventnor City Fishing Pier
Cambridge Avenue & the Boardwalk
Ventnor City NJ
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Keansburg Fishing Pier
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Raritan Bay

The Pier is approximately 2000 feet long. You have an amazing panoramic view of New York City, along with awesome sunrises and sunsets.


Private
Lavallette Pier
Magee Avenue
Lavallette NJ
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Barnegat Bay


Lavallette
Keyport Fishing Pier
1 American Legion Drive
Keyport NJ
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Raritan Bay



Wildwood crest
Sweet Briar Rd. and Park Boulevard.
Wildwood crest NJ
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Mantolooking Bridge Fishing Pier
30 Mantoloking Road
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With great views of the Barnegat Bay, this is sure to be one of the best fishing or crabbing spots in all of Ocean County.


Ocean County Parks
Berkley Island County Park
399 Brennan Concourse
Berkeley Township NJ
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Barnegat Bay

Park is Closed for Construction


2016 Opening TBD
The Pier is 285‘ long x 24’ wide. We provide landing nets, a fish cleaning station, picnic area, and toilet facilities. It is well-lit at night, family-friendly, and produces some of the finest catches of Flounder, Striper, Bluefish, Weakfish, Croakers, Kingfish and Blue Claw Crabs!!! Also the occasional Trigger Fish, Sheepshead, Drum Fish, & Almaco Jack. The Crabbing is Excellent!


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Grassy Sound Marina Pier
13 Old N Wildwood Blvd
Wildwood NJ
08260
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Grassy Sound
The Pier is 285‘ long x 24’ wide. We provide landing nets, a fish cleaning station, picnic area, and toilet facilities. It is well-lit at night, family-friendly, and produces some of the finest catches of Flounder, Striper, Bluefish, Weakfish, Croakers, Kingfish and Blue Claw Crabs!!! Also the occasional Trigger Fish, Sheepshead, Drum Fish, & Almaco Jack. The Crabbing is Excellent!


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Pier Fishing Tackle Reccomendations

 

If you are new to Pier fishing, then there are a few things to keep in mind with regards to having the correct tackle. If you are on an Ocean or open bay fishing pier where Bluefish and Striped Bass are known to run, your not going to get by on light tackle. Still, you don't want anything too heavy to slow you down from casting and retrieving is in order.

 

Fishing Rod/Reel Requirements for NJ Pier Fishing

 

  • Fishing Rod Must Be At least 7.5 ft tall

Additional length means better casting and leverage. You want a pole longer than you typically would use on a boat. Don't go too tall though because taller rods are also clunkier to operate so you really want to stay in 7.5 – 9 ft range with your pier fishing rod.  This size rod will allow you to handle almost all types of fishing opportunities that will avail themselves while you are pier fishing.

Rod Must Have Plenty of Backbone

In addition to the possibility of big fish, the ocean is a challenge on your equipment as well. You need something that will handle dropping several ounces of lead as required on occasion.  You do NOT want a light action rod for pier fishing.   A rod with a MH (Medium-Heavy) designation is best to get started with.

 Spinning Variety

It just makes so much more sense to use a spinning rod for pier fishing. They are easier to cast and operate for experienced fishermen and newcomers alike. If you are looking specifically for a rod to fish on piers with, make it a spinning rod.

Quality Matters

It is worth noting that saltwater is really unforgiving. Whatever you can afford, buy the best spinning reel you can. If you take care of a good reel, it can last you for you years. However, some of the lower end models will last you 1 year and you will need to replace it. The quality of the rod is important also, but even the low end rods will last you a while, unlike the low end reels.

Our Best Pier Fishing Combination Value Reccomendation

Penn Pursuit II 6000-2 Piece Spinning Combo, 8-Feet/Medium-Heavy

Penn has been a well known name in saltwater fishing for decades.  This combination is a great starter outfit for pier fishing and can also be used for surf fishing.  And it won't break the bank.  You can get this for less than $75.

 

Additional Tackle You Will Need for Pier Fishing

 

Telescoping Landing Net

You should make sure you have a long handle or telescoping landing net when you are pier fishing. Most fish of any size will be lost as you try to land it on a pier if you don't net the fish.  Telescoping nets make it easier to travel. 

 

 

 

Quality Aluminum Fishing Pliers

No fisherman can go without fishing pliers. It pays to have a decent pair of pliers in your box for your pier fishing adventure. Remember, saltwater is unforgiving so make sure you get a pair of pliers made for saltwater use.

 

Stainless Steel Fishing Hooks

Of course you will need to have a variety of hooks and swivels at your disposal. You can save some money over the course of a fishing season by buying hooks in bulk, but be careful because if they are not Stainless steel they will rust quickly just being exposed to salt air. So, either buy small packs of hooks and leave packs closed until ready to use or buy stainless steel hooks. In either case you will need a a variety of sizes.

Saltwater Leader Spool 40lb Test

You need to have a just a few different sizes of leader spools here. You MAY want to also add some flouo to your mix but it is pricey

 

Berkley Gulp! Alive! Curly Tail Swimming Mullet

If you are a saltwater fisherman, you need Gulp. They make many varieties and most are quite qood. For pier fishing, 2 most haves are Curly tails and Shrimp.

3 Way Swivels

Nothing complicated here, just make sure you have 2 way, 3 way, and snap swivels in a few different sizes. Most pier fishing is done with a very simple set up of a 3 way swivel, a leadered hook with bait and a sinker.

Bank Sinkers

You will need an assortment of lead sinkers with most in the 2-5 oz range. You will save much money by buying in advance online as mark up on sinkers at piers and other tackle shops is high.

 

Diamond Jigs

You need bucktails, diamond jigs, and swimmers. Your set.

Marine Cooler

Much like surf fisherman, many pier fisherman get coolers on wheels. 

Fillet Knife

This is another area where you want to buy the best you can afford. Cheap knives loose there edge quickly, rust and will not give you satisfactory value for your money over the long haul. Handles of something other than wood is preferable as wood never really comes clean and it acts as a germ hangout on your knife.

 

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