Story by Tom P.

How do you spell “transition” when it comes to September-into-October inshore bottom fishing?


Or, if referring to the proper name, S-C-U-P.

No matter what you call this delectable panfish, you will discover that, with the exception of triggerfish and maybe sea bass, its sweet fillets make the best fried fish sandwich in the Garden State saltwater fishing universe, period!

The best parts? Schools and more schools of this fresh clam connoisseur are currently inhabiting the wrecks and reefs, rubble-strewn and sticky bottoms, and rock piles all within a ½ to 5 miles from inlets such as Manasquan and Barnegat. And more, and bigger, are on the way as waters cool with the advent of the Halloween Month.

Another porgy point is that the always-famished scup is easy to catch. Sure, it will take a couple of swings to get the knack of the quick peck-peck-pull of clam commitment, but once you hook a couple, you’re on your way to epicurean pleasures.

One more?

The daily possession limit is 50. You read that correctly: 5-0 big ones, baby! And the way the porgies are pouncing, maxing out is pretty common.

“We have guys and gals catching their limits by 11 o’clock in the morning, and every day the porgies are getting a bit bigger and more plentiful as more fish move down,” notes Capt. Ron aboard the Capt. Cal II.

Capt. Willie Egerter III from the Dauntless concurs. “Just great fishing the past couple of weeks in between the bad weather and rough conditions, and since last weekend it’s getting even better.”

The k.i.s.s. principle is the mantra when seeking scup. A basic hi-low rig baited with fresh clam (salted clam or the Fishbites Clam chunks will work in a pinch, but if fresh is available, by all means, use it) is all it takes to pique porgy appetites.

Sinker weights are predicated on the pull of the subsurface currents. Oftentimes, 2-4 ounces will suffice, but there are occasions when 6-8 ounces of ballast is required.

The more assiduous anglers oftentimes up the game by utilizing small jigs sweetened with a bit o’ bivalve or opt for a three hook set-up and bait the third barb with a segment of Gulp! sandworm (sandies used to be an old timer fave on the party boats decades ago, but their use has long been forgotten) or a chunk of pink or chartreuse Gulp! discard from a Swimming Mullet, or glow or new penny Gulp! Shrimp that had its tail nipped off by a small bluefish or sea bass.

When the bite is even more intense than the norm, it becomes a case of “drop ‘n reel” fishing, with the sinker barely having a chance to thump bottom before the bait(s) is grabbed.

By all means, bring a big cooler because you’ll need it. The minimum length is 9-inches, but as the heftier scup move in, the sizes are generally described as “pork chop”, “pie plate” and “hub cap”. The latter pair are more prevalent later in autumn and in deeper water, but nothing wrong with keepers-to-porkers!

A party boat is the way to sample the September scup bounty, especially if new to the bottom fishing game. The skippers and mates will help get you stated and offer assistance through the trip, tackle can be rented for a very nominal fee, bait is provided, and the mates will (for a very nominal fee) fillet and bag your catch for the ride home. Fares? Think two movie tickets, two medium popcorns and a pair of large drinks.

Two top porgy party platforms are the Capt. Cal II (Belmar Marine Basin; 732-977-2020) and the Dauntless (Broadway Basin, Point Pleasant; 732-892-4298).

Float Your Boat: You could not pick a better time or place to peruse and pull the trigger on a new or used boat than by visiting the Jersey Shore Boat Sale & Expo that will run September 22-24 at FirstEnegry Park in Lakewood, a few minutes off the Garden State Parkway north or south bound.

It’s expected that in excess of 300 new and pre-owned vessels will be on display and available for purchase, and no doubt a substantial percentage will be fishing boats, from back bay skiffs to center consoles to walkarounds.

This is prime time to be sure, especially if contemplating a brand new float. Why? There are leftover models available (the 2018 models are already out) and these are generally steeply discounted. Add the 3.5% sales tax and it’s a stealio dealio for those who could care less about the boat’s birthday.

This is a family event, as there are plenty of activities for the youngsters, the Kid’s Cove among them. Admission is $5, with all under 12 years of age admitted free. Plenty of free parking is available, as are great eats and refreshments. For additional information, call 732-292-1051.

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