Surf Fishing: Manasquan Inlet
I have fished the Manasquan Inlet for more than thirty years. It's a great family friendly fishing destination. For surf fishing sharpies, it's also a great fishing spot for striped bass, bluefish, fluke, and weakfish.
What is the Manasquan Inlet?
Manasquan Inlet, in the town of Manasquan, New Jersey, connects the Manasquan River with the Atlantic Ocean, separates Monmouth and Ocean Counties, and serves as the northernmost point of the Intercoastal Highway. While it has seen many renovations over the years, such as filling in the beach to preserve the sand dunes and reconfiguring the riverfront walk with a new fence, its main draw is the constantly flowing inlet.
Shore-based and small-boat fisherman regularly fish the inlet waters from the mouth of the inlet, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean, all the way up to the Route 35 bridge and beyond. For most this is a summertime fishing destination with the town of Manasquan seeing tourist visits peak from May to the end of August.
Surf fishing sharpies are often present at Manasquan as early as March and as late as December to take advantage of the spring and fall migratory runs of striped bass, bluefish, and fluke.
At Riverside Drive, right on the Inlet, there are two places to eat, Riverside Cafe and Carlson's Corner. The latter has outdoor seating on picnic tables and is a typical seaside burger and fries establishment. The Riverside Cafe is slightly higher in quality with indoor seating, larger menu selection, bathroom, as well as outdoor seating. They are also priced slightly higher.
Public restrooms are available just as you walk on to the beach. These are generally open for the summer season, kept relatively clean, and open until around dusk. Again, if you are looking for a cleaner bathroom, you can go to the Riverside Cafe or into town which is just a few minutes' drive.
In the peak of summer, parking right at the Inlet wall can be extremely challenging. There is a two hour limit on prime spots, but no parking meters like those found across the river in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Street parking is also available all around the Inlet area and does not have any time limits. Be sure to check all parking signs and regulations as local police will regularly check vehicles.
A boardwalk spans the Inlet all the way to the northern most part of Manasquan. While it has some attractions and restaurants, it is more modest than those found in Point Pleasant and Seaside Heights.
Family Fishing at the Inlet
It's best to remain near the fence area, not the rocks that make up the Inlet. If you are fishing with small children and other family members, who are not familiar with walking on jetty rocks and structure, stay on the flat, paved, river walkway near the fence. It can be extremely dangerous trying to fish on the jetty rocks if you are not experienced in doing so. Be warned and use extreme caution when fishing.
Bluefish invade the Inlet in May and will stay around throughout the season. The larger bluefish, those in the ten-pound-plus range, come in early, stay for a few weeks, then leave for deeper water. They do come back later in the season, especially around October and November. The best way to catch them from the inlet wall is with medium sized metal lures in the 1 ounce to 1 1/2 ounce sizes. Some of the best ones are Deadly Dicks, Hopkins No Equal, and Kastmaster. Small bluefish, those under five pounds, are consistently in and out. Look for dropping tides to get into this action.
Fluke make their appearance in May but the action really heats up in July and August when the amount of bait has exploded in the Inlet. At that time, the fluke are feeding on spearing, killies, bay anchovies, mullet, small snappers, spots and anything else they can fit in their mouths. A typical fluke rig will work, but be sure to match it up with a sinker that will get you to the bottom. Be prepared to lose a lot of rigs as there are many snags in the Inlet. For those that do not want to use traditional bait, a good choice is to put a three inch Gulp Swimming Mullet on a 1/2 ounce jig head and cast it out. Let the jig head bounce on the bottom and occasionally raise the rod tip as you reel it in. One summer day, I caught over thirty fluke in about an hour using this method.
Weakfish and striped bass fishing at Manasquan Inlet is strictly night fishing. You may see a fisherman take a bass or weakfish during the day, but this is rare, especially, with the amount of boat traffic in the Inlet. You can basically use the same method for both species. If you want to use bait, purchase a fishfinder rig and bait up with clams or worms. Use a round or bank sinker to get you near the bottom without anchoring and drift the bait with the current. Again, this is best done at night. If you want to use lures, I highly recommend white or pearly Sassy Shads in the four inch version loaded on to a 1/2 ounce jig head. Cast it out and retrieve very, very slowly. No need to bounce this on the bottom, unless you are targeting big fluke.
Manasquan Inlet will provide you with great family fishing throughout the summer. There are plenty of other species to catch as well, such as hickory shad, snapper blues, blackfish, winter flounder, and (in late summer) tropical fish such as jacks, false albacore, and Spanish mackerel.
Please follow all New Jersey fishing regulations and clean up after yourself when you are done. The Inlet is a great place for family fishing, let's keep it that way.