Sweetwater Bass Bonanza At The Jersey Shore
Story by Tom Pagliaroli
It’s prime bass time, and I’m not referring to the striped kind nor the sea kind, but the bigmouth kind!
Yes, stripers and sea bass remain the saltwater headliners (you can include bluefish in that as well), but the largemouth bass bite is on fire in central and southern New Jersey waters, from impoundments to lakes to ponds to the tidal Delaware River and its tributaries.
To be sure, the Garden State offers outstanding opportunities for largemouth, and in select northern tier county swims, as well as in Union Lake in Cumberland County, good shots at it’s bronze ‘n barred kin, the smallmouth. How good is Jersey bass fishing? It’s spawned mega-popular $million-pus dollar winner pro angler and Bass Master Classic winner Mike Iaconelli, and a bunch of other up-and-comers including “Jersey Boy” Adrian Avena and John “Big Country” Hagaman.
Opines Chris Smith, a principal biologist with NJ’s Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries in charge of the state’s warmwater and coolwater fish projects, a former bass pro circuit competitor (twice garnering the much-coveted NJ Bass Angler of the Year award), “New Jersey’s bass fishing, through careful management, is constantly evolving in a positive way and offers a quality experience, from the novice angler to the tournament fisherman.”
The bass “season” technically opens June 16, and that’s when keeping bass for the frying pan and/or grill becomes legal. For now, it’s catch-and-release only, and this sixth turn of the calendar page is one of the best times of year to be on ‘em, be it from the bank or from a boat.
‘Yak Attack: The main gripe about bass fishing in New Jersey is the lack of venues that allow unlimited outboard power. For those with the sparkled, gel-coated bass boats, this is indeed legit. Only a handful of waters statewide allow wide open power, most notably Lake Hopatcong (Morris/Sussex counties), Budd Lake (Morris County), Greenwood Lake, the Salem Canal (Salem County), Deal Lake (Monmouth County), the Delaware River (entire length) and its tributaries). On some key waters such as Union Lake (Cumberland County) and Hunterdon County’s Spruce Run and Round Valley reservoirs, a 9.9 HP power plant is allowed. On all others, it’s electric motor only except on Prospertown Lake (Ocean County) where no power, except arm or leg strength, is permitted.
Enter the canoe or, much better yet, kayak.
“Jersey waters are perfect for the kayak bass angler,” claims Layne Ell, president of the South Jersey Kayak Bass Fishing Club. Ell also competes on the power boat bass circuit, but maintains that utilizing a ‘yak allows him to get in places where a boat simply cannot, thus unveiling bass-holding areas that would otherwise be unreachable.
To learn more about the bass ‘yak attack, read his article on pages 34-35 in the 2019 Freshwater Fishing Digest.
In the 105.7 The Hawk listening area, expect hot bassin’ on Lake Assunpink, Turn Mill Pond, Lake Shenandoah, Propsertown Lake, Lake Carasaljo, Allentown Lake, Stone Tavern Lake, Manasquan Reservoir, and Oakford Lake.
Again, it’s catch-and-release only until June 16.
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