Story by Tom Paglianoli

When John Matt dragged in what proved to be a robust 48-pound striped bass into Surf City Bait & Tackle early in the afternoon of Wednesday, November 1, it pretty much signified the autumn north-to-south striper migration was underway in, uh, a big way!

The bass inhaled a small chunk of fresh bunker in a trough during the last hour of the outgoing tide. The cast was made from a Surf City stretch of sand. A close to the coveted 50-pound linesider at what was, for all intents and purposes, low tide? Anything is possible during the autumn bass mass movement.

Prior to Matts’ corralling of the cow, stripers from the low teens to low thirty pound weight class were being caught here and there in the suds from Sandy Hook down through Island Beach State Park. However, John’s 48-pounder is by far the heaviest (it measured 51-1/2 inches with a 26-inch girth) surf-caught striper so far this season and put him in first place in numerous tournaments, including the prestigious LBI Surf Classic.

“I knew it wasn’t a good tide, but it was the only time that day I had to go fishing,” said Matts. Just goes to show you that the best time to wet a line is when you can!

Fresh bunker chunks, freshy shucked or salted clams (if you can find a shop that is able to get them…tight supplies right now), or even eels in the surf will be inhaled by hungry migrating stripers, as well as resident bass. Bluefish are still around and no doubt their numbers and sizes will increase, so it’s smash mouth time in the suds!

Meanwhile, trolling bunker spoons and tube umbrella rigs, live lining a bunker or doing the snag ‘n drop from boats are all putting stripers on ice, and the numbers will no doubt balloon as the waters chill even more and increasing schools of linesiders make their way down the coast.

Up-to-the-minute beachfront information can be had by calling Grumpy’s Bait & Tackle: 732-830-1900 (Seaside area), Betty & Nick’s Bait & Tackle; 732-793-2708 (Island Beach State Park), Surf City Bait & Tackle: 609-494-2333 (LBI from Barnegat Light to Ship Bottom), and Fisherman’s Headquarters: 609-494-5739 (LBI from Ship Bottom to Holgate).

Don’t want to do the surf thing but still want to catch stripers? Check out the Miss Barnegat Light (609494-2094) that sails Friday through Sunday. Bare bones (amenity-wise) but a bass buster is Laura Sportfishing (856-341-6562) or, for the comforts as well as the catching, it’s Miss Liane Sportfishing (908-319-6751).

Remember, the daily limit is two bass, one between 28 inches to just under 43 inches, and one 43 inches or greater. If you have a bonus tag, it entitles you to one fish between 24 inches to just under 28 inches.

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