TackleDirect Blog

April Blackfishing

Bucket of crab bait

Want some tips on bagging a limit of early season blackfish in New Jersey? Nick shares his tips and go to setups for tackling nearshore and backwater blackfish.

New Jersey anglers are lucky enough to have the blackfish season reopened on April 1 with a 4 fish bag limit and 15-inch minimum size, but alas, it then closes yet again after April 30. As blackfish migrate back to shallower waters this month, look to target rockpiles and wrecks close along shore in 20 to 50 feet of water, and even get ready to ply the bay backwaters around canals, bridge pilings and piers, especially during the latter part of the month.

Usually, tog have soft mouths right now from wintering over in frigid waters, making fresh clam baits and thin shelled crabs like fiddler crabs or Asian crabs being palatable baits. This winter however has been pretty mild so you might be able to go right into using green crabs and whiteleggers. A majority of the early season backwater and nearshore tog will be "chocolate chips" of short size up to fish reaching around 5 to 6 pounds.

Early season nearshore, pier and bridge tog can best be battled with a 6-1/2 to 7-foot moderate to heavy action rod, such as the Penn RAMBW3050S70 PEN-1073 and brawny reel like a Penn Battle BTLII6000 PEN-1335 or Shimano Spheros SP6000SW SHM-2759 with enough stopping power to turn the head of a tog. Spool up with 50-lb Power Pro Braid. For fishing fresh clams, a pier slide bottom rig consists of a 1 to 3-ounce egg sinker above a 100-lb Spro barrel swivel, a short 18-inch leader section of 50-lb Seaguar fluorocarbon leader and a size # 2/0 Owner or Gamakatsu Octopus hook.

If using fiddler or Asian crabs, employ the use of a section of 50-lb Trik Fish monofilament leader, tie an overhand loop on the end to which a 3 to 5-ounce bank sinker is looped, then pinch a loop 5 inches up from the sinker and loop to loop on a snelled # 4 to #5 Virginia style hook. That vertical bottom rig allows the crab bait to bounce enticingly up and down off the bottom. Tides play a big part for success, with best times to fish around the last hour of incoming the entire slack tide, then first hour of outgoing. Hit your favorite piers, canals and bridges, as well as rocks and wrecks nearshore and see if you can hang a few blackfish before the season closes.

Recommended Gear:

Nick Honachefsky holding up a blackfish An angler on a boat holding a blackfish