A fun New Jersey fishing trip with positive results

April 6, 2013

Saltwater fishing remains very slow due to the continuing cold water temperatures. The average temperature in the ocean and bay has hovered in the low 40s for weeks, and until it reaches the low 50s, the poor fishing will continue.

Boats from Lewes and Indian River had some tog over the weekend with few if any limit catches made. On the plus side, some big tog to 17 pounds were caught.

Freshwater fishing has been decent for crappie, perch and bass with jigs and live minnows the best baits. White perch in tidal creeks and rivers will take bloodworms and grass shrimp as well as minnows.

Next week promises to bring much warmer temperatures, and while the water will warm slower than the air, we could reach the magic 50-degree mark in the next two weeks. Shallow water with a mud bottom will warm first, and there could be flounder caught out of the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal and Indian River Bay by next weekend.

Jersey head boat fishing

Last Friday, my son Roger and I fished on the Jamaica II out of Brielle, N.J. The boat leaves the dock at 5 a.m., so Rog and I were up at 3 a.m., on the road at 3:30 and on the boat by 4. Even at that early hour, we were far from the first ones there.

The motley crew that had assembled for this trip was all seasoned anglers until a very attractive young lady and her boyfriend joined us just before the boat got underway. The reason I say he was her boyfriend instead of her husband is because very few wives would get up at o’dark thirty on a below-freezing morning to spend 12 hours on a boat with 30 or so mostly old men just to catch a fish.

It took two hours to arrive at our first fishing station, and all hands were anxious to get a bait in the water. In New Jersey, head boats use two anchors to keep the boat steady on the chosen location. This procedure takes a little time, but makes tangles and lost tackle much less a problem than having the boat swinging on one anchor.

Rog and I dropped down together, and as soon as our clam baits hit bottom 200 feet below we had fish on. Rog cranked his to the surface first due to his high-speed reel, and I was delighted to see it was a cod. My fish was next, and it too was a codfish. Unfortunately, Roger’s fish was an inch short of the 21-inch minimum size while mine was well over the minimum. With my target fish in the box, all was well with the world.

The bite slowed, with Roger catching a nice ling and me catching nothing more over the next hour.

By 8 a.m., I was hungry and retired to the cabin for breakfast. In the time it took me to down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Rog managed to put five more ling in the box. I was really excited and figured we would end the day with a nice box full of fish. I was wrong.

Neither one of us had another fish until 2:30 p.m., when I put a ling on ice. The story was the same for everyone on the boat. At each stop one or two fish would be caught, then nothing until the captain moved again. I am pretty sure everyone on board caught some fish, but no one had a cooler full. The pool-winning cod weighed around 12 pounds.

As for the young lady and her boyfriend, they caught about the same number of fish as we did in spite of the fact that they used gear supplied by the boat, and she was dressed more for working in a fancy office than fishing in cold weather. Every man on the boat was covered in Grunden or Helly Hanson gear from head to toe, and I figured the young lady would be back in the heated cabin within a few minutes. Once again I was wrong; she stayed out as long as any one of us and spent less time in the cabin than I did.

The two-hour run back to the dock was uneventful as just about all hands were sleeping. On the way out everyone is excited and talking about the day ahead or telling stories of past fishing trips. On the way, home such is not the case. While we slept, the mates cleaned the fish and the deck so when we arrived at the dock it was simply a matter of unloading our gear and heading for the house.

That evening, Roger used the cod and some of the ling to make fish tacos. It was the perfect ending to a beautiful day.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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