Surf Casting: Fishing Sandy Hook New Jersey
Surf Casting New Jersey
As a surf fisherman, I try to find prime fishing spots with minimal interference and noise. One of those spots is actually one of the most popular. The trick to getting easy and productive access to Sandy Hook prime fishing spots is to know when to fish there.
If you are a summer only fisherman, skip Sandy Hook altogether. It is packed and will take you a long time to get in and off of the barrier spit. But before I get into when to fish there, a little more information about this productive fishing spot.
Sandy Hook is a federal park that is commonly referred to as Gateway National Recreation Area. It is one of several national parks in the tri-state area. It is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service of the United States. It is roughly six miles in length and varies in width up to one mile across. This barrier spit is situated in Middletown Township and protects the lower New York and New Jersey bay shores of the Raritan and Sandy Hook Bays.
The Atlantic ocean crashes onto the eastern side of Sandy Hook. The western shoreline is prime bay shore for fishing. As a word of caution, unless thoroughly knowledgeable about the depths in the adjacent Navasink River and Sandy Hook bay wading out is not recommended. There are many deep holes on the bay shore side with several people meeting with near fatal accidents and two cousins who were swept away and drowned while seining bait.
Bathrooms and snack bars are available throughout the different parking lots. Many historic sites are also available including Fort Hancock and the coast guard station.
As I hinted to earlier, I rarely fish this area on summer days. It is just too crowded. However, if you go to the ranger station, you may purchase a night fishing pass which allows you to stay beyond the park closing time and come in before opening. Check with the park for actual hours of operation. I fish in this area primarily in the spring and fall. There is no fee prior to Memorial Day and after Labor Day weekend. Otherwise you will be paying a fee to enter the park.
The advantage in fishing Sandy Hook is accessibility. If you decide to fish for striped bass at low tide in the early morning, you can always switch to the bayshore side and fish the high tide for bluefish, fluke and weakfish. The bayshore is very natural. You must exercise caution as storms constantly move large rocks around, create new deep holes, and deposit a lot of debris like fallen trees and timber on the bayshore.
There is no shortage of places to fish. As long as there are no lifeguards in the area you fish, you are free to go fishing there. The ideal time for me has been April to the weekend before Memorial Day and all of the fall season after September.
Types of Fish
In the early spring you will have a chance at monster size bluefish as they come in and attack bunker, spearing, and anything else in their path of destruction. The largest of these can exceed fifteen pounds plus. Throwing cut bunker on wire leader rigs will safely get you into this action as well as large popping plugs. By early June the large bluefish will leave for deeper water and smaller one to three pound bluefish will remain for the rest of the summer.
Striped bass are best stalked at dawn and dusk. They can be very finicky in this area as many boats travel through the bayshore and the surf side. Clams, cut bunker, and lures work well. While there are no man-made jetties to fish from, most of the surf falls off into rather deep water. You will not need to cast to Portugal to get a decent chance at some fish. Just an easy cast should get your bait or lure into the zone.
The most elusive fish to catch are weakfish. They are there. I've seen many taken by veteran fisherman, especially fly fisherman who put the time in during the wee hours of the morning. The best time for a trophy tiderunner would be late April to May. Soft plastics such as Fin-S and Sassy Shads should get a look from these elusive but tasty predators.
As summer moves into the fall, you will find summer flounder, or fluke as we call it, all over the place. They are usually right in the wash on the surf side. Casting no farther than the first wave will get you into these aggressive flatfish. A typical fluke rig will work, but I prefer a small bucktail bounced off the bottom drenched in bunker oil. It works just as well or better.
Sandy Hook is a fun, family friendly, and natural place to visit. Rangers are constantly patrolling the park and are always available for information. Please note that Sandy Hook practices trash in, trash out. They do not have garbage cans available so be prepared to take your trash out with you when you leave. Good luck, tight lines, and enjoy.