Dutch captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, while exploring the Delaware River in 1620, came across a peninsula at the southern tip of what is now New Jersey, and liked it so much he named it after himself. This was the same year the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The spelling later changed as the further-developed area prospered and, over a century later, in 1761, Cape May became the first seashore resort in America. This lovely peninsula stretches 20 miles out to sea, and has become a picturesque and exciting destination for people not just from New Jersey but from all around the entire eastern seaboard. The most distinctive feature about Cape May is its Victorian heritage, apparent in the largest local collection of authentic Victorian structures in the nation. Arguably the second-most distinctive feature here is the water – or, rather, what comes out of it. Fishing is what people do in Cape May; that is, when they’re not too busy relaxing. Or is that the same thing?
At least 15 marinas host more than 100 charter fishing boats who will proudly take you and yours into the hottest fishing holes, sod banks, estuaries, and tidal flats in the New Jersey back country; and there is always the deep blue expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, just offshore. Charters can last only a few hours, in the morning, afternoon, and evening, with some farther offshore or in the deepest back country waterways lasting overnight and possibly longer. Competition is high, with such great numbers of charters available; and the expertise from locals who have been doing this their whole lives only helps to make your hook-ups quicker and shorter in-between. Party boats are a staple for large crowds and families, and they always pay off in loads of fish, or at least tall tales.
Night fishing trips inland and among back country waters are good for Drum in May and June, then Weakfish and Stripers come out in the warm nights through July. Croakers are popular from July through September; and cooler fall nights bring good numbers of Jumbo Bluefish out under the moon. Half and full-day trips aim for full limits of many popular local species. January is the only month during which fishing may be considered slow, and it is used as a time to simultaneously rest up from the previous season, and prepare for the coming season. In February, wreck fishing yields good catches of Jumbo Sea Bass, Ling, and Blackfish. These numbers grow intensely with the arrival of Mackerel and Striped Bass in March and April. The same species become more numerous – though a bit smaller in size – with the onset of spring. Fluke are prominent in these waters from May through October. May also heralds great numbers of Blackfish, Ling, and the arrival of more Weakfish, which stick around through the summer and become most numerous again in September. Weakfish seem to enjoy the onset of fall more than other months, with September and October hosting good sizes. October and the onset of cooler weather sparks action around wrecks, involving Sea Bass and the migration of Striped Bass towards inshore waters. Offshore charters primarily target Blue, Yellowfin, and Bigeye Tuna, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Bluefish, even Blue and White Marlin, by trolling and chunking rich areas of deep water. Offshore wreck fishing is becoming increasingly popular here, with continual bounties of large Sea Bass, Tilefish, and Cod being landed practically year-round. Sharks are a highly attractive offshore quarry, with many full boats leaving dock specifically for such beasts. Cape May hosts multiple tournaments throughout the year for the most popular Atlantic and inshore species, with a number of state and international records being set in the local waters.
In 1976 Cape May was officially designated a National Historic Landmark City – one of only five in the nation at the time – lending further credence to its prominence among the state of New Jersey and, indeed, the country. Long before and since, however, savvy folks have come to enjoy the friendly environment of this lovely seaside town; with anglers among the majority. From the Victorian Era in the 1800’s, through present day, Cape May is still considered among the top vacation resorts in the United States. Anyone with fishing line and bait will surely agree.