This year a couple of friends and I entered the Sandy Hook Bay Angler's Fluke Tournament. Our fishing crew consisted of 6-8 people on a 24ft Hydracraft that our friends Adam and Noah purchased a few years ago. Our good friend Zach and a few others joined us on the water for the two day event.
Sandy Hook is a National Park on the northern coast of New Jersey, just across from New York City. Located in a highly populated area of the country, many people are surprised to learn that the Sandy Hook Bay offers some world-class fishing.
Although our catches didn't come close to the 14lb tournament winner, we had a great time enjoying the water and catching our fair share of keepers and throw-backs. Over 120 boats entered the competition, so the water became crowded as the day wore on. We were able to get out on the water just as the sun was coming up, which proved to be earlier than most, so we were able to enjoy some space and move freely for a good part of the day.
Over the two day period, we hooked into a variety of fish. Sand sharks and rays were common. Our strategy mostly consisted of drifting along the edges of the main shipping channel just off the coast guard station and infamous Sandy Hook nude beach.
Our bait included live killies, salmon belly, clam strips, and big bright Gulp! plastic jigs. My rod was a 7.5ft Ugly Stik with a spinning reel spooled with what I think was ~20lb monofilament with a flourocarbon bucktail jig to keep it all together while bumping the rocky bottom.
Now is a good time to stress reel maintenance as mine had not been used in quite a while. I should have respooled and tuned the rig up as I did encounter a few kinks and the line seemed to be keeping the curl on my casts. All in all it worked well though, although it could have been smoother with a little more preparation.
Our friend Zach brought in a barely-legal sea bass on one of our drifts. His excitement over reeling in the little guy must have rubbed off on us and we all seemed to be bouncing the bottom with a special touch.
We started hooking into the good stuff, little bay flapjacks and legal sized doormat-wanna-bes were flopping on the floor in no time. As the tournament wore on we started working well as a team with one person grabbing the net when fish were on the line and others preparing new rigs for the next drift.
As is the case with any day of fishing, we burned a lot of gas and after a long day we stopped by some of the local bay-side bars to get some food and cold ones. The weather held out for the most part, with only a few passing showers and a pretty serious downpour as we were coming in on the last day. Some of our best fishing was before these fronts rolled in. We did manage to get soaking wet due to some flippant driving through choppy waters, but that comes with the territory.
We came away with a cooler full of fresh flounder what we considered to be a successful tournament under our belts. Our largest flounder was about 25inches and weighed in around 6lbs if my memory serves correctly. Overall, nothing beats the feeling of stepping off the boat with a solid day of fishing behind you and the ground still swaying from working the water all day. Or maybe it was the beer. Either way a good time was had by all.