2018 Fishing LBI NJ Aboard Fish Head Charters

The 2018 Fishing Season was full of fun fishing on the waters of Long Beach Island. Things started off with few bluefish (no big showing of gator blues like ‘15/’16/’17) but this allowed us to work a light tackle approach for resident bass in the bay. Stalking the flats of Barnegat Bay is our specialty and 2018 proved to be a very productive time in the shallows. Spring time striped bass fishing was good. Summer fluke fishing wasn’t phenomenal but there were an abundance of fluke in the bay all season. The shinning start of the 2018 fishing year was by far the MULLET RUN. It was one of the best showings in a decade or more. It started early and lasted a full two months. This helps to transition from summer into fall with almost no fall off in action. The 2018 Fall Fishing was good but short lived. Cold temperatures came early and the fishing slowed earlier than 2017.

The Year In Review - Fishing Aboard Fish Head Charters by Captain Greg Cudnik

While at the time of this post it’s winter, I can’t help take a look back on my logs and photos. What a ride it’s been! The 2018 season was very special. It was an honor to fish with so many passionate anglers from all around the country. Thank you to all for allowing me to show you my local waters.

2018 Fishing Highlights

I had a blast fishing all year long. would have to say I had two highlight of the year been!!! While this day was not the best numbers wise, nor size wise… it was special. I had the honor to introduce Matt a young avid angler to his first striped bass. Thanks Mr. Lutz (Chris) for giving me the opportunity to take you guys fishing!

For a breakdown of reports please see FishingLBI.com. There you’ll find all of my detailed fishing reports from nearly ever trip through the year.

December ‘18 Fishing LBI

December 2018 did not come come close to December 2017. In ‘17 Fish Head Charters experienced awesome fishing from 2nd through the 8th.  Then the 11th and the 17 were both stellar! My last trip out was December 21, 2017 and it was a fishy one. December 2018 was full of much more and a smaller class of fish early month. Whatever the case, we didn’t see the large bass like the first week of December ‘17. We capitalized with fly and light tackle approach for the utmost fun! One of the best days was December 1st with Mr. Polito and son Matt. We had school bass rolling on top. It was hot fishing catching a bunch of bass fishing bucktails, small metal and epoxy jigs. We also whipped some on the fly.

November ‘18 Fishing LBI

Always the prime month that makes up the heart of fall fishing. November is when the fish invade. The best section was found between the 10-24th when piles of sand eels staged up. Here’s some details of how the month played out…

Friday 23rd - (Full Moon) Black Friday’s Arctic Blast Was No Joke! We braved the conditions and were rewarded with a good pick of striped bass! Fortunately conditions improved as the day went on. The mid day and afternoon session had beautiful conditions with little to no wind and lots of sun. I did my best to keep Matt Rand and his father tight on fish, cranking to stay warm. We finished the day going 12 for 16 on bass up to 17 pounds.

Wednesday 21st - Chris Lutz and friends were aboard for a fun day of fishing. Things were scattered so we got on the troll and were into fish right away. The entire morning was a good steady pick of bass from 10-30 pounds. I found bunker spoons and mojos were getting the bigger fish while the umbrella rigs were getting more consistent bites but smaller class of fish. After having a ton of fun cranking on trolled up fish we switched over to a drift/jig. Our first couple drifts were productive. Then the bait and fish scattered.

Tuesday 20th - Oak Leaf Media were on to capture video for a Ocean County Tourism project. Lines in at about 7:05 and a screaming drag before 7:30am. We were back to the dock at 9 am. Mission complete. Johnny (one of the talents) got his first striped bass! Turns out the afternoon trip was off the hook! Super fun light tackle fishing school bass.

Monday 19th - Jay Endick and his two daughters were aboard for a great day! No wind, oil slick calm Lake Atlantic conditions with lots of life. About three miles from the Inlet we found a breaching whale putting on a show. Shortly after the depth finder lit up and out lines were tight. Everyone aboard cranked on one or more fish.

November 18 - Tim Gallagher and his buddy Ed were in for fun day of striped bass fishing trip. They caught 11 bass from 15-35 pounds on the troll and casting lures (bucktails and SP Minnows).

November 17 - Anthony, Frank and Matt from Central Jersey Anglers were in for a fun day on the water. Early we found some birds and Frank got one bass on a bucktail. It was released. Things scattered so we were forced onto the troll. It started slow but we started picking fish. Turns out we put together a good catch with everyone cranking on a couple.

November 13 - The Fall Run Is On!!! Expert muskey fly guy John Bentley from Jefferson County PA got into quality striped bass fishing a two day charter. Day One Sunday 11th we went three for four, dropping one fish. Monday 12th offered better tide as well as weather. Only a few cast in and John was hooked up at sunrise. He was dialed in and did a great job putting the fly where it needed to be. In a short amount of time John released five striped bass, two of which were health sized keepers, up to 32″. As the tide picked up and the sun got high the bite tapered off and went dead. We made a move and found more active fish. It was alive on top with sand eels, turns and striped bass. Feisty striped bass from 15 to 40++ pounds were chasing sand eels under small bird plays. My first cast on a top water spook got crushed. John managed to feel his fly to a pig. We both upped our game getting new personal bests on the fly.

November 8, 2018 - Chris from Madison, NJ “Any days open next week? I would like to get out on the water with my son.” Only having a day later in the week I suggested we go Thursday because the weather looked good. It turns out we set up a double; an evening trip then a morning session. Wednesday afternoon/evening trip started off right with Chris landing a nice striped bass on one of his first 10 casts. It went for a Rapala X-Rap swimming plug.  Unfortunately that was the only fish of the two hour session.

It was our goal to put 12 year old Matt (Chris’s son) on his first striped bass. Since my Wednesday morning trip was a skunk session, I had to prepared for Thursday’s morning trip with real expectations. Knowing the father and son were staying in town for the night I suggested we got for a short night shift trip. Fortunately we did! Matt earned his first striped bass! (below) We fished for about an hour total and called it a night.

Our good morning greet from an stiff northerly wind gave us a dicey morning commute to the fishing grounds. We wanted to go back and hunt the same waters as Wednesday but the conditions had us second guessing. We ended up running to IBSP’s Bather’s Beach and starting there. With scattered bait and a few gannets roaming high over head things were looking good but it was a slow first hour or two. A friend picked a fish trolling by us and gave a call. [Thank You Ryan!] Still no luck for us. With conditions improving slightly we made the move further north to where I fished Wednesday and where I wanted to originally start the day. It turns out store staffers Max and Kelley called us in on a bite just a short ways away. They put us on the mother load. Our screen was looking good all morning but this area was the real deal. Big patches of bunker with also scattered bait reading and beautiful big bass boomerangs.

In short time we had three good shots. The first bite came on a plug/mojo combo (Custom Deep Diver Pikie by Blake at Cedar Run Lures fished above a white Magictail Mojo). 12 year old Matt took the rod and cranked in his second striped bass like a pro surfing it right into the net. This 26-28 pound (on Boga Grip) fish was perfect for the diner table and into the cooler it went.  About ten minutes later the extra heavy Tony Maja spoon goes screaming. This time Chris went to work and cranked up a bigger bass. This one was released to swim another day. About 15 minutes later the plug/mojo combo had a good hit but after a second or two it came loose.

November 4, 2018 - Finally got back out after tied up for too many days due to weather. We decided to opt against the troll and fish the waters where we had loads of fish (small but active fun) previously. Unfortunately we were greeted with water like PORTER! Things were not good. We tried a few different areas with lures and live bait but no love. To make the most of the day we called it early and rescheduled.  I’m tossing this up because I got an email two weeks ago asking, “You only post the good reports. Why not share to poor ones?” Right now I’m looking forward to redemption!

October ‘18 Fishing LBI

The month started off with lots of bait staged up and on the move with resident striped bass and small blues on the feed. It kicked off strong mid month with phenomenal false albacore fishing, larger bluefish and also live baiting (spot and eels) striped bass. The classy stripers appeared in the inshore waters mid to late month and that’s when things really got rolling.

Halloween night we checked out some midnight haunts and found a couple hungry striped bass. Both Kelley and Blake released a couple striped bass.

October 26 - Lee and Seth from SaltwaterHeartFishing were in for a stellar dawn patrol session. It started off hot and stayed that way all all day. Lee and Seth traded off one after the other with numerous double ups.  Lee was high hook in the early part of the trip bucktailing but later in the day Seth caught up and he dialed in on an X-Rap lure from Rapala. It was a great day (best quality fishing on the Fish Head this fall).

October 25 - Early was active with healthy bonus tag size (24-28″) striped bass. Both Max and I had these stripers eating bucktails. It was awesome to see that two or three were keeper size fish. After catching about a dozen we switched gears and looked for albies. As far as quantity it was nothing like yesterday but greenies were present. The feeds were quick and small but Max managed to get hooked up with only a few tried. He then took the wheel so I could work the long rod. Despite having a number of good opportunities I couldn’t connect.

October 24 - Brooks from Cortland Line Co was aboard for a morning fly session. We took a look up the beach and found bait stacked. No sooner it came alive with albies. The powerful westerly winds made fly casting very difficult but with proper boat positioning we made it happen. In my opinion there’s nothing better than catching false albacore on light tackle. Stay tuned for a short video.

October 22 - Right off the bat we were into a couple striped bass and bluefish on plugs. The first light bite was quick so we went on the hunt for albies. Eventually we found bait some fast moving “pop-up run and gun” feeds where we caught bonita but no albies.  On our way back in we took a look at some bayside spots and found small bass.

October 19 - Good dawn patrol bite with some small blues and school bass on light tackle. A late morning look out front and we found the same bait that’s been stacked up for weeks but this time… it was frothy! Albies busting!!!

October 17 - The backwaters of Long Beach Island offer productive fishing opportunities all fall.  Right now there’s good fishing (no quality size that we’ve heard about yet) along the sod banks, flats and thoroughfares. This morning Dan and son from Missouri fished aboard Fish Head Charters. The trip was a lot of fun with striped bass and bluefish on light tackle.

October 16 - Some nice bluefish on the feed. 1-5 pound blues offered lots of fun today plugging.

October 14 - Slow day with Bob Bruns. Fortunately a couple bluefish kept the skunk away. The dirty water from recent swell didn’t help anything.

October 10 - Early October was full of persistent ground swell. Staying in the bay clamming was great. Also some small weakfish showed.

October 3, 2018 - Tim White joined for a fly trip. First cast bite from a blue chewed off the fly off.  From there it was slow. We looked around and tried different areas. While on the hunt we found a striped bass and a couple bluefish. Towards the end of the trip things came together like a flip of a switch. A feeding frenzy broke out with bass, blues and albies. They were pushing bait and on the feed.

September ‘18 Fishing LBI

Late September was really good to the anglers on Fish Head Charters. Here’s a link to a short video from one trip. This day we had light winds with a residual ground swell and mullet pouring out of the Barnegat Inlet. It was a hot bite for about an hour around the top of the tide.

September 30 - Store staffers Blake and Mike were aboard. We went for a quick morning session. The early morning bite was good with striped bass and a few bluefish eating poppers and small swimming plugs. The sun came up the bite went down. Early bird got the worm! We switched and tried out the flats. There was very little bait and once again not many fish. We could only muster up two boils.

September 29 - Awesome with Konrad and Nate from the Eastern Shores of Maryland. Both have experience fly fishing fresh water but never tried saltwater. This was their first. Some how both hooked up on their first cast. You can’t be introduced to saltwater fly fishing for striped bass any better than that! Konrad and Nate caught fish, just about one after the other for the first hour of the trip. Then, things slowed down. We looked around and found a couple big schools of mullet in the waves. We tried out best to get in tight but the long periods swell made it difficult. After wasting too much time we shifted gears and headed into the backwaters where we hunted the flats. Working the shallows we found small bait and had a blow up right away, on one of the first casts. Our expectations went up but it didn’t pan out. There was life but no hungry striped bass willing to commit. Only follows and swirls. Luckily Konrad pulled out some magic and fooled one on a Stillwater Smack-It Popper. It was a great way to end the trip.

September 27 - Well into the second full week of the Jersey Shore Mullet Run and it’s going strong. This is definitely LBI’s the best mullet run since Sandy. Today I was back on it. This time for first light and sure enough it was the right call. Again acres of bait scurrying for their lives with bass and blues all over them. Within 5 minutes the boat was a murder scene with blood and regurgitated bait all over the deck. The all out blitz went on for about two hours. We surprisingly caught more striped bass than I would have expected, about 10-12 all together. The largest was about a low teen size fish about 13-14 pounds. The rest were blues from snappers to four pounders. Too many fish to count with no one around!

September 26 - Brooks from Cortland aboard for some saltwater fly fishing. Anyone who’s not familiar with Cortland… Let me introduce to you the oldest and best braider in the country! Since 1915 Cortland has been dedicated to fishing line now offering top quality fly lines, Dacron, Master Braid (great spectra braided line) and C-16 (the world’s best hollow core spectra). Best of all Cortland line is made in the USA! We started out the morning working a number of different areas in the fog. On the hunt bait was found but no game fish (striped bass, bluefish, weakfish). All we had to show for our efforts was a boil but that was all we needed to stay active. Fortunately by late morning (930ish) the dense fog lifted and the wind started up. Despite the super rough conditions, we made a quick decision to see what was around the Inlet. We were greeted by monster swell and acres of bait! Mullet were pushing in every which direction and fish were all over them. It was ROUGH but the bite was on like Donkey Kong! First cast and Brooks was tight with a screamer on a white deceiver. This nice striped bass in the rough conditions took him for a ride on the six weight rod meant weakfish and small striped bass. We made a couple more drifts each time hooking more fish but we were forced to call it quits when the Brooks got green. These conditions could have turn any good sea legs weak.

September 12-24 - Lots of swell as poor weather made for a great time to play catch up. I pulled the boat for a cleaning and some gear work.

September 5-11 - It’s Hurricane Season Surf’s Up! Lots of swells hitting the beach of LBI. No time for fishing right now.

September 4 - The mid shore tuna fishing is off the hook. I got out and enjoyed with the crew from the Reel Innovation.

September 2 - Mahi fishing mid-shore is strong and fluke fishing is prime time along the beaches, inshore and in the inlet.

August ‘18 Fishing LBI

There’s all sorts of fishing opportunities on Long Beach Island this time of year… From bucktailing fluke, fly fishing school striped bass, light tackle bluefish to wreck fishing sea bass, night time bayside brutes (brown sharks) and hunting the inshore bluewaters for cobia, mahi and small mackerel/tuna.

August 26 - Fluke fishing is on fire and many other species are in the local waters. Bonita, mahi, mackerel (spanish, chum, king), cobia, pilot fish, banded rudders and almaco jacks are near. Anglers are catching trolling, chunking and casting lures to hook up. Kelley got a nice bonita on a Deadly Dick Lure.

August 22 - Return clients Tom G. and son we in for four hour early morning light tackle trip. We loaded the bases getting into striped bass, bluefish and fluke but struck out looking for a weakfish (they are around).  The strongest present was made by bluefish ranging in the 1-3 pound range. Two were in the five pound class. Tom’s son finessed two striped bass; one on a bucktail tipped with a Jig Strip and one on an Daiwa SP Minnow lure.

August 21 - John and Nick jumped aboard for a four hour bayman trip (clam/crab). We started off with a slow pick of crabs but it got better as time went on. In the two hour attempt we boxes three dozen keepers, most of which were good size eaters. The clamming was also good. We filled a KB White bushell basket and called it a day. It was a fun day on the bay while the north east wind was cranking.

August 17 - We headed off east to see what we could find in Lake Atlantic. About 10 miles off we stopped in some 78 degree beautiful bluewater where flying fish were dancing and there were a few slicks on the surface. It didn’t take long to find mahi on top. A large school with at least ten mahi were spotted and cruising down sea towards us. I picked up and casted a popper into the breeze, landing perfectly in front of the school. One pop, two pop, three pop. One came up, nudged and away while another looked from along side. Pop, pop… another mahi came in from out of nowhere and fright trained it with an explosion. A strong strip set and I was into my first mahi on a fly rod. The fish took off, cleared my line and had me into backing within seconds. I catch up a bunch of line and the next thing I know it’s tail walking. This took the excitement to another level. It makes not only the first move but then two  more acrobatic dance flips. I got through the first and second but on the third the violent head shakes shook the hook. I was bummed in defeat yet stoked for the 1 minute mahi rodeo experience on the fly. While I’ve caught plenty of mahi while big game fishing this little 15 pound mahi had me amped for more bluewater fly fishing adventures.

August 18 - Ron Rett was aboard with 11 year old his daughter and her friend for a half and half trip (fishing and clamming). We started off right with a cocktail blue on the initial cast. The first hour was fun catch and release light tackle fishing. After having fun with blues we switched gears to fluke and picked at some short fluke then went clamming. Turns out clamming was really good and for size quality it was the best trip of the summer. The girls found a good section of small to medium size clams and we all put in a great effort. In about 2 hours we scored a two person limit 300; 1/4 smalls, 1/2 mediums and 1/4 large. We are all having a clam feast!

August 15 - Freelance content creator Jon Coen (The Sandpaper’s Liquid Lines) and crew were aboard for filming of an upcoming Just Beneath The Surface episode. Stay tuned because this episode is gonna be the best one yet! Like most fish, they were camera shy. We did not have nearly as many bites the the previous nights but we made the most out of what we were served. We did manage two. One of which was a good size.

August 14 - A night full of very good bayside brown sharking. Return anglers Mike and Jay from Connecticut enjoyed a fun filled night releasing about a dozen sandbar sharks. Nearly the entire night was full of consecutive bites, even during a short rain storm.

August 11 - Resident striped bass continue to make their presence know with awesome light tackle game. Cocktail bluefish crash the party adding to the excitement. Fluke fishing is great on quantity but there’s no denying the quality isn’t where we would all like it to be. Putting together a catch of keepers is difficult. Mahi are showing up inshore.

August 10 - Mike Fitzgerald was aboard for a morning 5 hour power trip. We pushed off the dock at 5am, made bait (line baby bunker and snappers). Before the sun poked, Mike was into active fish casting lures. The top water feed put on a great “top of the morning” visual. After catching a bunch of cocktail blues from 1-4 pounds and bass, we switched gears.  With four nice keepers yesterday, we set our sights on the same reef site. First drop produced a keeper sea bass. It was full of life with short fluke and sea bass with little to no garbage. I managed to hook an unexpected catch… a bonita on a Gulp! tipped jig. With 76 degree pretty bluewater only five miles offshore you never know what’s around. As time went on the drift slowed and even power drifting couldn’t outwit. With only a little time left in our session we decided to run back and give it a few drifts in the bay. We picked more a handful of fish in a couple short drifts but no quality. Everything considered it was a great day on the water with lots of fish caught and released.

August 9 - We fluke fished a nearshore reef site and found life. The bite was good when the tide was moving.

August 8 - Matt Polito started the morning off with light tackle bluefish action on lures. He then switched gear to fooling his first striped bass on a fly rod.

August 7 - Fish Head regular Bob Bruns was on deck for an early morning fly fishing session. It turned out to be one of the best morning’s of the summer. Consistent action all day with both striped bass and bluefish hammering the fly. Clousers, deceivers and epoxy fly foil anchovies all made by yours truly! It was game on. Catching on double digit striped bass on the fly in August with not another boat around is a special day.

August 6 - I had Jake and Joe aboard for a Monday morning charter. We started off with a productive light tackle dawn patrol fishing small plugs (mostly Daiwa SP Minnows). Fish Heads introduced Jake to striped bass putting him on his first. After catching a few linesiders and some bluefish (up to 5lbs) we switched gears and headed off to a local reef. Our first drift produced a couple short fluke and two keeper sea bass. Our next drift a keeper fluke and another keeper sea bass. Then it slowed down. We fished a couple hours and headed in. Others in the area reported good things early too.

Early August fluke fishing is good with the reefs starting to light up with action. In the bay crabbing and clamming are good.

July ‘18 Fishing LBI

July is the heat of summer and LBI offered hot fishing. It’s prime time for both fluke and shark fishing. As far as shark fishing goes… Over the past 10-15 years it has been amazing to watching this once endanger species come back so strong. Some time ago we were super happy catching one or two a night with one big fish a season. Some nights we are getting 6-12 bites a night. Nothing sends a hard set drag singing louder than a good size brownie.

July 30 - Great day fly fishing with Heide Mason working the fly rod to fool some striped bass.

July 26 - Great Day Clamming

July 20 - Frezza and Lutzy were aboard for some fluke fishing. Made bait quick with two throws of the cast net. With a full livewell of peanut bunker we headed out to the reef. With very few reports we wanted to go take a look for ourselves. On our way out the inlet we came across bass on top slapping bait and small birds were active. First cast and Frezza was hooked up. Shortly after Kelley was on. After getting our fill we point out to the Garden State North. Turns out fishing wasn’t all that. Kelley got a 21.5″ fluke which was the only keeper (one right at 18 went back ). In all we had seven shorts, one keeper sea bass (could of filled the boat if we targeted them) a handful of sea robins. It was fun but we hoped for more. My fingers are crossed for good ocean fluking after this blow. It should be heating up by now.

July 19 - Rhonda and Bill from Newton MA for a light tackle fly charter. We tried our best but could not do much because the weed was atrocious! Everywhere we went there was grass. Some patches looked like islands that you could run around on. The crew worked through it and managed to finish the day with one bluefish and one bass. They were stoked so it was a success.

July 17 - Fluke fishing is good.

July 9-14 - ICAST Fishing Tackle Show, Orlando Florida

July 5-8 - Solid Fluke Fishing on the inshore reefs and wrecks!

July 5 - Kevin from the Monmouth University was aboard with the goal of tagging brown sharks. We found them and got to stick some radio and spaghetti tags in them. Fish Head Charters is looking forward to working with his team and helping in the project this summer and in the future.

July 3 - Tuesday night the Fish Head was back on it with store staffers Max and Kelley aboard. Almost the same story… minutes in a rod goes off. I pick it up, set the hook and instantly knew I was in for a ride. Ten minutes in I was down to half a spool and the fish wasn’t phased. The Penn SSVI Spinfisher Spinning reel (SSVI6500LL) did it’s job putting out 17 pounds of drag to help subdue the beast. Turns out it was another bay monster with a bowling ball sizes mouth. This was bigger than Monday’s and possibly our biggest to date. Just short of 7′ with a thick head and shoulders. We estimate it was between 150-170 pounds… a definite a contender to John Norton’s currently retired NJ State Record 168lb 8oz sand bar shark from 1987.

July 2 - Michael Nictakis and his son from Louisiana aboard Fish Head Charters for a four hour bay shark trip.  We pushed off the dock at sunset and before dark set in we were hooked up with a SCREAMER. It nearly spooled the Penn 20LD twice.  After the 20 minute tug of war the fish was boat side and turned out to be a monster 6.5′ sandbar shark.  The night turned out to be consistent, picking a couple more each hour. All smaller ones.

June ‘18 Fishing LBI

June started off with good fishing for striped bass and bluefish. There were a surprise abundance of black drum too. Fluke fishing progressively got much better and sea bass fishing the wrecks was good. Mid month weakfish showed in small numbers. June is the one of the best months to catch fluke, bluefish, weakfish and striped bass… Prime time Barnegat Bay Slam or better yet Grand Slam! Light tackle anglers fishing the bay and Inlet find the variety but getting to ever base is no easy feat. Clamming and crabbing were good. I took the opportunity to get out offshore for big game with the Reel Innovation Crew and get into quality tune fishing. I also made the trek west to Reno/ Tahoe for a wedding.

May ‘18 Fishing LBI

Early May both striped bass and bluefish provided fun for anglers aboard Fish Head Charters. By May 10th more blues, more bass, black drum and fluke were active. Bigger bass showed up on the 13th and 14th. The 15th was a great day bucktailing bass as well as putting the fly rod in the game. On the 17th we fished poor conditions and were rewarded with the biggest bass of the month. Fishing got very good and stayed that was right throughout the month. On May 23th we were into some large bluefish, 10+ pounders. Another big fish day was on May 24 as well as the 25th. The 26th I had Rich Beverly and Doug Moore aboard for a phenomenal striped bass trip. It was very active fishing on light tackle and fly all morning. The 29th Bob Bruns was aboard for a fun day of fly fishing striped bass. May 30th Matt Steadman caught both bass and blues with Fish Head Charters.. The 31st was a fun day too.

April ‘18 Fishing LBI

After finishing up gear work and prep, the Fish Head finally got in the water mid to late April. Small resident striped bass showed first at the bayside shallows. Very poor showing of bluefish this April.

Melanie Cudnik