Luckily, we were able to find a parking spot at Sandy Hook even with our late arrival. Although the 15 minute hike isn't very long, the heat and humidity made our journey felt longer and much more strenuous.
When we arrived at the beach, there were already two groups set up in the area we wanted to fish. We moved to the left of the group in the same location where Michael and I had fished on the last trip. I helped Eli set up so he can target Summer Flounder. In the meantime, Michael strung up some mackerel and other baits to toss into the water to attract perhaps a shark or ray into our area.
When Eli was all set up and fishing, I took a look at the soaking bait stringer and saw a lot of Atlantic Silverside swarmed over the bait. On the bottom, there were some fish that I thought might be goby species. With the potential of a new species, I rigged up a tanago hook on my 9' surf rod (the lightest rod I brought that morning) and caught an Atlantic Silverside.
Fishing was very slow for the first hour or two with zero bites. I continued to try for the "goby" in the wash until something a little bigger took my bait. It was a Striped Killifish!
Since fishing was slow, I put the Striped Killifish on one of Eli's rod to make a squid/minnow combo. Later, Eli would received a hit on that combo as he was reeling in his line to check his bait.
Meanwhile, as I was helping Eli check his rods and putting on fresh wait, Michael rigged his rod with a tanago hook to target the Striped Killifish. It took a while before he caught something other than Atlantic Silverside, but it wasn't a Striped Killifish. It was a Northern Kingcroaker!
We finally figured out what those "goby" were. It made sense now since I saw those Kingcroaker swimming up onto the beach as the wave wash in, and swimming out as the wave receded. It was typical Kingcroaker behaviour.
I turned my attention again to these Kingcroaker. While Eli was checking bait, I caught an Atlantic Silverside so I put the silverside on Eli's rod. Summer Flounder loves these silversides and this one is as fresh as you can get. It wasn't long before I noticed the rod was bending over and Eli reeled in his lifer Summer Flounder.
Although I can see the Kingcroaker swimming about, they were simply not attracted to my bait. I took off the little washed out bit of clam and put on a fresh bit. Using fresh bait, I was immediately swarmed by Atlantic Silverside. I placed the bait on the bottom so that I can be washed by the waves. After a 5 minute wait, Michael and I simultaneously hooked up.
Northern Kingcroaker (Menticirrhus saxatilis) - Species #410
This was the smallest Kingcroaker I had ever caught!
Fishing was really slow except for the Atlantic Silverside. Eli did catch two Summer Flounder but no Striped Searobin. Everyone that passed by reported very poor fishing. By 1:30pm, we decided to end the session.
Initially, I planned to pick up some rods from the Tackle Direct retail store. However, the GPS took us on a long, roundabout route and we couldn't get to the store before closing. Instead, we grabbed dinner early and proceeded to spend the afternoon/evening at Longport Pier to try for sharks and Tautog.
After getting two dozen of Green Crabs and a couple of frozen mackerel, we arrived at Longport Pier just before sunset. The wind was really howling and whitecaps were in the bay. The water was brown and it did not look promising for shark fishing. But we bought bait and we were here...so the least we could do was try to fish in the poor condition.
The entire evening was basically a bust. None of us had a bite at all. The rough water and wind brought along piles of sea lettuce. We had thought about fishing in a protected bay, but since it would take at least an hour to arrive at our new location and it was in the opposite direction from our hotel, we decided to cut our loss and end the night early at 10pm.
This was basically the end of our fishing. Originally, we had planned some fishing on Monday morning as well as a quick stop on our way home for Cutlip Minnow and Tessellated Darter, but since we had to pick up my rods from Tackle Direct in the morning, it eliminated our fishing time.
Overall, the weekend was so-so with slow fishing from shore. I was extremely fortunate to experienced good lifer hunting that morning on the party boat. But everyone caught a few lifers so it was not entirely a lost cause. There was so much potential that never materialized for Eli and I felt a bit ashamed I couldn't be a better guide. Hopefully Eli will have a chance to fish the area for Flathead Catfish, Tautog and other species that is high on his list.