A spiky dorsal fin pierces the water’s surface on a skinny water flat. A cast is made. The line comes tight. Fish on! Wait, you’re flats fishing in … Jersey?!
You bet it is. New Jersey hails as a primo location for striped bass fishing, with unique opportunities to target them on the so-called flats of the backwaters. High tides swell through estuarine channels filling up the shallow mudflats. During high waters, stripers creep into 1- to 3-foot depths to feed on fiddler crabs, bloodworms, sandworms and bay anchovies that get trapped in the shallows.
As the tide drops, stripers stage in the skinny water along the craggy cordgrass sodbanks to pounce on prey. Anglers on skiffs silently push-pole, casting soft baits 4 to 5 inches long paired to light 3/8-ounce lead heads. Long-rodders wave the fly rod with Clouser minnows or Deceivers, coming tight from the streaking runs of powerful bass. Topwater enthusiasts get rewarded with exciting visuals, as swirling fins lead to vicious popper attacks.
Myriad back bay hot spots brimming with flats fishing opportunity line Jersey’s 128 miles of coastline, including Barnegat Bay, Great Bay, Sea Isle City, Manasquan River and the Shrewsbury River. From May through October, pick a back-creek channel, plan around the new and full moons, and fish the high to outgoing tides to experience shallow water stripers on the flats.