Striper Lockjaw Off Barnegat Light
“No birds – not a good sign”, sighed an older gentleman standing next to me. We were on board the Doris Mae, heading out of Barnegat Inlet, and the horizon was barren except for the silhouettes of small boats. On top of that, the weather looked almost too perfect, with light westerly winds, clear blue skies, and a bright sun that was quickly killing the early morning chill. Last year at this time, the fishing started with lots of bird-play and fish that were obviously on the feed. That was not be the case this day.
I had arrived at my parent’s house in nearby West Creek, NJ, the previous evening. After chowing down on one of my madre’s most special meals, I was ready to do battle the next day on the Doris Mae – one of three party boats sailing out of Barnegat Light.
I was equipped with my ever-trusty Penn Slammer spinning rod and an arsenal of good fishing hardware including crippled herrings, AVA’s, and bucktails – trademark jigs of the fall striper fisherman. As one man noted when he saw my gear; “that man’s ready to fish!”
The Doris Mae left the docks on schedule at 7 am and 15 minutes later we arrived at an area just outside the inlet that was crowded with small boats. It wasn’t long before I had a good thump on my jig on the drop after working it off the bottom. The fish fought like a blue, but I was surprised to find I had the first striper of the day. This fish ended up being a short – party boat parlance for a striper under the minimum 28″ length, so back it went to the sea…
Unfortunately, that early morning fish was all she wrote for me, and for the other anglers on the boat it was much the same. We fished from 7 am to 2:30 pm, and came up with a few blues and one additional short striper. Our captain, one of the famous Eble (pronounced eb’lee) brothers, took us far and wide in search of feeding fish. We drifted off Island Beach State Park, but the only action we saw was from the small boats trolling umbrella rigs, picking up a striper here and there.
The other Barnegat party boats found the same conditions and all reported that they were marking fish with a serious case of lockjaw. While I did have the one striper, I’m more proud of the fact that I hung in there and fished hard the whole day. I noticed as the day wore on, the rail thinned out quite a bit.
I’ll have more to report on party boat fishing in a future post, but for me, I’m most likely done with saltwater for the year. For those of you still itching, the fishing can be quite good through December, so give it a shot.