cape may fishing



Take Your Kids Fishing

by Paul Kerlinger
Outdoors Editor

Kids and fishing! They go together like bread and butter (or fish and chips). My mind immediately conjures up images of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn fishing with a cane pole on the banks of the Mississippi. More importantly, I have fond memories of my father taking me on party boats to catch flounder, porgies, and sea bass.

If you plan to vacation in Cape May this year, think about taking your kids fishing. This may seem daunting at first, especially if you've not done much fishing yourself. The challenges include knowing what fish to go after, what tackle to have, and where to fish. To many who visit the shore, trying to deal with all of these things, while enjoying yourself, staying safe, and keeping your kid's interest is too much to deal with.

Party boats

There is a way to put all of these worries out of your mind and still enjoy a fun fishing trip. Simply hop on one of the dozens of party boats that leave from ape May, Wildwood, and the other south Jersey ports.

For boats, see:

Cape May Fishing Boats
Wildwood / Avalon Fishing Boats

These boats are safe (U. S. Coast Guard inspected and licensed), clean (bathrooms on board), and the crews are knowledgeable and courteous. They take you to where the fish are, they can rent you a rod and reel if needed, they supply bait, they will help you rig your tackle, land your fish, and even clean fish for you at the end of the day. They also take special interest in kids and recognize that if you and your kids don't have a good time, you won't come back. If the sun is too hot or it rains, virtually all the boats have cabins for shelter.

What kinds of fish will you catch?

From May through September, South Jersey waters are teaming with flounder, weakfish, bluefish, croakers, and a few other species. In a days fishing you may catch a couple of fish or more than 20 fish. The size of these fish ranges from less than a half pound to more than 10 pounds. Fish like flounder and weakfish have size limits that are 15 ½" and 14" respectively. You will likely catch as many throwbacks as keepers. The usual trip for these species means a 20 to 40 minute cruise from the dock. After reaching the fishing grounds, the captain usually establishes a drift during which everyone drops their line and waits as their sinker bounces along the bottom. If no fish are caught, the captain will blow the horn and take you to another location. Finding the fish is half the game, but once you do, the real fun begins.

If you hear that the croakers are running, that should be an open invitation for young kids (eight to twelve years). The fish are usually less than twelve inches in length but they fight like mad and they are usually plentiful, providing lots of action.

How old should a child be?

If your child is younger than about seven years of age, they may be too young for a party boat experience. For the eight to ten or eleven year olds, a four hour trip is advised, at least until you know they are really interested. Once they are older or show real interest, a six hour or full eight hour day-trip may be indicated.

Keep those lines untangled!

Eight hours is a long time on the water, but when the weather is good and the fish cooperate, it doesn't seem long at all.

Night fishing for bluefish is not for the younger kids, or the faint of heart. It is a bit bloody and you need strength to crank in a five to ten pound bluefish. Kids younger than about twelve years of age should not be on these boats.

Party boat fishing tips

When you go out on a party boat, there are several things you do need to bring with you:

  • a small cooler with ice - for your food and the fish you catch
  • your lunch and drinks (nonalcoholic)
  • sun screen and hat
  • something to protect you from becoming seasick if you are susceptible or even if you think you might be.
  • cash to pay for the party boat fare and to tip the mate.
  • a cheap, throwaway camera
  • a jacket (for wind and possible rain - it can be cool on the water),
  • clothes that will keep you protected from the sun and cool weather (long sleeved shirt, etc.)

Remember, a day on the water is always cooler than onshore. It's always a good idea to check on weather conditions before you go...especially with small children. Other things you may want to know before going out on a party boat:

  • You will see things you can't see from land. The views are great. You may encounter dolphins, seabirds, and other animals that you won't see from shore.
  • In midsummer, weekdays are less crowded than weekends. Try to plan your trip for a weekday, if possible.

To find a party boat, simply check those listed on this website. If you have more time, you can also make a few phone calls, go to the dock the day before to look at the boat and see if people seem happy when they get off. You may also wish to ask the captain or the mate about what they are catching. Then make your plans to have a fun day on the water with your kids!

Paul Kerlinger has been fishing since he was 8 years old.

He's a dedicated salt water fly fisherman who enjoys nothing more than working a Cape May area sod bank or jetty.

Have a fishing question??
Go to the Cape May Fishing Forum.



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