Sandy Hook Fishing
Sandy Hook, New Jersey is a 1,665-acre barrier peninsula along the Atlantic Ocean coast of eastern New Jersey. This hook-shaped spit is an extension of land separated from the mainland by the estuary of the Shrewsbury River; and it encloses Sandy Hook Bay, an arm of Lower New York Bay on the west. Sandy Hook is owned by the United States federal government, and most of it is managed by the National Park Service. Public beaches comprise the entire eastern shore of Sandy Hook, and many are considered among the finest in New Jersey. One section (Gunnison Beach) happens to be one of the largest clothing optional beaches on the East Coast. Sandy Hook has historically been a convenient anchorage for ships before proceeding into Upper New York Harbor, and home to a former United States Army fort, military base, and proving ground. The “hook” is open year-round, with a parking fee during summer months, and is a popular place for anglers – many of whom compose the steady crowd of vacationers from Manhattan.
On the hill across the bay, and at the southern part of Sandy Hook is the community of Highlands, the highest point on the eastern seaboard. Though now a sleepy seaside town, Highlands was paradise for bootleggers during Prohibition. Most visitors to Sandy Hook spend their nights here, where the majority of hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and nightlife are located. Fishing opportunities abound in this happy location, with Sandy Hook Bay on the western side of the spit, and Raritan Bay to the north and along the eastern coast. Two rivers south of Highlands, Navesink and Shrewsbury, trade currents with Atlantic waters; and the ocean begins east of the Raritan Bay, not too far offshore. Local marinas provide docking and storage space for private and smaller commercial boats, numerous seafood restaurants and bars, and many recreation areas. There are two major locations which serve the majority of Sandy Hook’s charter service. Sandy Hook Bay Marina at the northern Highlands area doubles as a sheltered resource for pleasure craft as well as a harbor for the United States Coast Guard. Twin Lights Marina is nearby, at a location which joins the Raritan and Sandy Hook Bays as well as the Shrewsbury and Navesink Rivers. Others take advantage of this ideal setting, and most are home to numerous fishing charters and guides. Charter trips can be as short as a few hours, with half-day options in the morning, afternoon, or evening; and as long as a full day on the rivers and bays, or the ocean. Some overnight charters go much farther out into the ocean, targeting the biggest fish in the deepest waters.
The Sandy Hook area sits at a prime location for Striped Bass migrations, and these waters provide ideal environments for other local favorites like Fluke, Flounder, Bluefish, Tautog, and Weakfish. These fish are accessible by surf fishing from the many rock jetties along Sandy Hook, and places where “The Rip” occurs, when ocean and bay currents meet. Depending on wind, current and tide this may be located in different places along the most northern sections of the Hook. Striped Bass and Bluefish are attracted to baitfish held by the confluence of these currents. Fluke can be caught along any stretch of the beach, while Blackfish tend to stay around the jetties and rock piles. Sandy Hook and Raritan Bays are popular destinations for charters using techniques of worming, chunking, eeling, trolling, and jigging. The Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers open into the Atlantic Ocean, but basically act like bays with calm inland waters. These are great areas to kayak fish, but the knowledge of charters and guides will help you find the best spots with the most fish, quickly. Flounder are most popular in the rivers and bays from mid-March through April, while Striped Bass are all over the place from April until December; the largest sizes occur earlier in this period. From May until September Fluke are numerous in the bays and ocean surf. Bluefish are caught by chunking, jigging, and trolling from May until October; and Weakfish are a bonus between July and October. Offshore charters get into Tuna, Makerel, Sea Bass, Cod, and Whiting; even Marlin and Shark are popular targets of trips to deeper waters. Tournaments are held from local marinas throughout the year to take advantage of these outstanding choices.
Though the majority of visitors to Sandy Hook are vacationers taking advantage of the 40-minute ferry ride from Manhattan, word has gotten out to the rest of the world. Many people come to spend the day enjoying the ocean or basking in the sun on this beautiful seven-mile stretch of beaches; or just to enjoy peaceful views of the water and the spectacular New York skyline. But the real attraction is the fish, and Sandy Hook’s curious geographical shape sits at an advantageous location to consistently pay off in some of the best fishing on the East Coast.