Story by Tom Pagliaroli

The third segment (no kidding) of the 2018 sea bass season kicks off Monday, October 8 and continues through Halloween which will see an increase in the daily limit to 10,  with the same 12.5-inch minimum length.

Suffering from a weather-whacked and a financially frustrating fluke season, party and charter boats are salivating at the opportunity to put clients on the omnipresent and always-hungry sea bass whose numbers are so elevated that they are pretty much eating the paint off boat bottoms...metaphorically speaking.

How ironic: New Jersey’s already over-regulated saltwater anglers willingly go along with ever-increasing restrictions and yet, with the sea bass biomass recovered an amazing 230%, the limits are still so restrictive.

Things will hopefully change for the better in 2019 as new management procedures unfold, but for now let’s be happy with putting a few meals in the freezer.

This will be, at least during the first couple of weeks, drop ‘n reel fishing. They don’t hesitate when you show ‘em the bait, with fresh or salted clam, squid and green crab the prime offerings. Want no muss, no fuss? Opt for the Fishbites clam or crab chunks. Incredibly effective sans the slime ‘n guts.

When the sand eels appear in big numbers, and they are already beginning to show in scattered pods in deeper waters, jigging will catch the bigger bass. While any one the AVA trio (17, 27 and 47), either naked or dressed with a tube tail is effective, predicated on current, it’s the Run Off Lures Bent Sand Eel in 1.5-4 oz. in the Natural, Olive or Bronze color pattern that is the big bass banger.

Bear-ly Legal

The governor’s August 20th executive order banning bear hunting on state-owned lands (many of which are funded by hunter/angler dollars) certainly put a crimp in the Segment A (archery/muzzleloader) season which opens Monday and runs through next Saturday. All told, 122,970 acres (80,338 State Forest and Park lands, and 42,632 Wildlife Management Area lands) are closed in the five Bear Management Zones in, or portions thereof, Sussex, Passaic, Morris, Warren, Bergen and Hunterdon counties.

A no-holds-barred lawsuit challenging the EO has been filed by the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance/Safari Club International/Sportsmen’s Alliance triumvirate. Unfortunately, it will not impact the Segment A hunt, but will, if ruled in favor, re-open the previously off-limits tracts where bruins are beyond numerous for the December 3-8 Segment B (shotgun/muzzleloader) season.

For segment A, the primary public (federally-owned) lands open to bear hunting include the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge (5,000-acres), the Newark Watershed (special permit required; 24,000-acres), and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (31,000-acres).

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