Monday, July 17, 2023

NJ Bay Fishing With The Caplans

 Today was certainly a day for the books. See, whenever over the years I’ve visited my relatives, the Caplans, by the Jersey shore, I always look out over the bay and the grassy patches and creeks thinking about all the types of fish living there and wishing I was able to take a boat out on the water. Finally, the day had come. I was set to visit the Caplans today, so Ben picked me up from Cherry Hill last night so that I could sleep over there to get an early start for the fish. Larry’s friend, Capt. Bill, invited us all out on his boat to fish for flounder in the bay.

We got out of the house at around 7:15 and made our way over to the dock at Brigantine, with a quick stop at Wawa on the way. We met up with Bill, who loaded up two bait buckets with live Mummichogs, or "minnies"/minnows as they called them. One would be kept on the boat, and the other would be kept in the water attached with a rope in order to keep the fish alive while we were drifting and didn't need excess minnies all in an un-aerated bucket on board. We set off from the dock and through the creeks to the bay.

Our strategy for the day was to drift with live minnies on rigs with two jigs that we would bounce off the bottom, which Bill called the "Jiggity Jig." It proved effective, as we used this method successfully throughout the day although ion different ways. We started off in the morning by drifting over ledges in the bay next to shorelines, where waiting flounder at the bottom were eager to come up and grab unsuspecting baitfish. We missed a few hits to start off, but Bill was the first one to catch a flounder! We were all pretty excited to have one on board. Next to catch was me. I felt nibbles and hits but kept it steady. When the fish seemed to keep a long, sustained strike, I lifted the rod tip and the fish was hooked. It fought well, but I brought in my first Summer Flounder! It was in many ways cathartic to see my flounder right out of the bay in NJ, as I'd envisioned myself catching for years. The Summer Flounder, or Fluke, is a staple bay fish in New Jersey. It was great to be there having caught such a special fish.

As the day went on, we kept drifting while Bill and Larry told me more about the fishery. Flounder fishing normally starts in the spring, with cut bait being preferred. Only when the summer heat warns the water temps do the fish become more active and aggressive, making live bait the bait of choice. Striped Bass, another staple I have yet to catch, pick up in the fall. In the winter, not much fishing is done because of the cold weather; something to which I couldn't relate as a born-and-raised south Floridian.

Larry, Bill, and I each caught a few more flounder in the bay as we moved from spot to stop. In between, we caught a few Black Sea Bass on a sabiki rig tipped with fishbites, and I hooked into a Spiny Dogfish, a small type of shark, on the jig setup. That was another new catch for me, and an interesting one to be sure.

When the water heated up even more by midday, we made our way to the inlet by Atlantic City to try for the flounder making their way out to the sea. The fishing was slow for the next few hours, but we enjoyed the good breeze, calm seas, and clear skies. It was a great day to be on the water, and I knew I'd be envious of the fishing boats if I was on the shore.  We hooked up a few more times too, although not only to fish. At one point, Ben, who hadn't caught anything yet (but probably missed more hits than any of us), found himself hooked up on a rock. We chased it down and circled it with the boat to get it loose, as we had already for about three or four other snags. It came off, but he still reeled in with a bend in his line. Larry said something along the lines of "you know what, I think that's a fish" only to see a big Flounder show up at the surface. All of said yelled "WOAH" with surprise when we saw that one come out of nowhere. We netted the fish and brought it over. Our second keeper of the day, and a solid way to get Ben on the board.

By the end of the day, I had caught about 4 flounder and 6 fish in total. It lasted a lot longer than we expected, as we got back to the dock and cleaned the fish at close to 3:30. It was a fishing trip full of learning and even more laughing - altogether a really memorable experience. I wish I was able to cook and eat the flounder, but we had no time that night. Perhaps it will wait for another time. After we left the dock, Larry, Ben, and I, met up with the rest of our family and had a classic barbeque, topping off another great day down the shore.

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