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Late Summer Beach Fishing in Cape May

Posted 08/01/05
By Paul Kerlinger
Outdoors Editor

With miles and miles of beaches and jetties surrounding the Cape peninsula finding a fishing spot along the shore isn't that difficult.

For sure, there are fish just about anywhere you wish to go. It is just a matter of knowing what may be there and choosing the right tackle and bait.

Although late summer fishing doesn't have the allure of catching large striped bass or fishing huge bluefish blitzes, both of these fish can be caught, along with fluke, croakers, weakfish, and kingfish.

Cape May Beaches

For small bass (mostly less than 20") and small bluefish (less than 2 pounds), the outer beaches, such as Poverty Beach , the jetties along the Cape May Beach front, and other surf areas can produce. Most of these beaches are restricted during midday, because of the bathers, but at dawn and dusk the fishing is best so why bother at midday.

Casting small swimming plugs and poppers can be the most productive way to catch small bass and blues. I've even dredged up small flounder on swimming plugs as I drag them across the bottom just beyond the surf line and an occasional weakfish will be mixed in. Small poppers (<1 oz) fished through the foamy water near a jetty can often bring a violent strike, but don't expect large fish. Most of the bass around these jetties are not keepers and they readily hit poppers and swimming plugs (about 3-4" in length). These fish also will hit a bait-tail (lead-head jig with a rubber tail) if fished slowly along the bottom, especially near the jetties.

Another method for catching bass is to use clams and fish right on the bottom. Fishing the surf with these rigs requires surf rods and reels, which are larger than the lightweight spinning rods we use for plugging for small bass. This is more of a waiting game, and some of the best anglers fish only at night.

From the Point to the Bay

The jetties of Cape May Point, the Cape May Lewes Ferry, Higbee Beach , and the sandy beaches between those jetties can provide lots of fun for croakers, weakfish, and even some kingfish and fluke. Mid-July through August can offer excellent fishing for croakers and kingfish.

As with most places at this time of year, dawn and dusk produce the best. You won't need a heavy rod and reel or heavy line. Try a lightweight 7 foot rod that can cast 1-2 ounce sinkers. Twelve to fifteen point fishing line is all that is needed at this time of year.

There also are plenty of places from North Cape May to Reed's Beach along the Delaware Bay that offer fine fishing. As with all beaches, access is not always easy and there are restrictions.

Wildwood Fishing

The seawall in North Wildwood and the Wildwood Crest beaches can also produce kingfish, fluke, small blues, and some other species.

Croakers and Kingfish

For croakers and kingfish, fish right on the bottom with high and low rigs. Small hooks work better than the larger hooks used for weakfish or fluke. Bait for both species can include sea worms (or the new artificial blood worm baits), mussels, clam, or even squid.

This is a patience game, although if croakers are around, you probably won't have to wait long. In late July, some anglers at the Cape May Point jetties were catching double-digit croakers, some of which were more than 12" in length.

Kingfish are a bit different. These fish can be found along virtually all the Atlantic Beaches of Cape May County, especially where there is a trough between the lines of surf or where there are deeper holes near the beach. These fish like smaller baits and are somewhat spotty in their occurrence, being here today and gone tomorrow. They may also be a few hundred yards down the beach or right at your feet. To find them, read the surf and use the right baits. Bloodworms and mussels are usually the best.

Salt Water Fly Fishing

If you are a fly fisher, try a sinking line (fast sinking if you are fishing in the Cape May Canal or off the ends of the jetties (a slow sinking line works from the beach), with small clousers and dropper flies a foot above the clouser.

Croakers are suckers for this method, which can be emulated with a spinning rod with small bucktails and dropper flies. I've even caught double header croakers on flies. These same rigs will also catch spike weakfish, fluke, mostly in the smaller size ranges. However, there are a few larger weakfish mixed in at times, so don't set your drag too tight.

Fishing the beaches and jetties of the Cape May Peninsula can be a fun and productive way to enjoy a few hours of fishing. Learning where the fish are and how to catch them takes a little time, but by giving it a few tries, you are likely to start catching fish. Croakers and some of the other smaller fish are also great for teaching kids how to fish.

[NOTE: If you aren't going to keep a fish please return it to the water gently. Get it off the hook quickly by using pliers and don't keep it out of the water for any more time than you need to get the hook out of its mouth. Don't squeeze them too hard and don't drop them on the rocks. By gently returning fish to the water, you and all other anglers will insure that we will have a healthy stock of fish to catch next week, next year, and for the rest of our lives. Treat fish gently!]

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