White Marlin. Photo by Jim Gatto
This article originally appeared in Cape May Magazine, August 2007.
August – the month when summer is at its peak. This is none the less true for fishing in Cape May. The month of August brings forth the largest variety of fish species caused by the large numbers of bait fish both inshore and off shore….and as they say “the big fish eats the little fish.” August is a great time for tournament fishing as well, boasting one of the largest and richest tournaments in the world – the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 (MA-500).
The ocean temperature inshore and offshore is at its warmest this time of the year. Offshore, warm bodies of water broken off by the Gulf Stream called “eddys” form a temperature break. Find a temperature break, there you’ll find a number of “pelagic” fish such as Tuna, Marlin, Wahoo and Mahi feeding on bait fish. It’s truly something, this circle of life out in the ocean. Most of the areas that are affected by these temperature breaks are from the 30-fathom line out to the canyons to the 1,000-fathom line.
Boats will fish these areas using a couple of different techniques. The two most popular are trolling and chunking. When trolling boats will fish five or more rods pulling lures and Ballyhoo, Spanish Mackeral and Mullet. The boat will be moving between five and eight knots. When trolling, you want to create what is called a “spread.” Your spread looks like a school of bait fish to the fish below, thus causing them to spark into feeding mode, and the next thing you know: “Fish on!” Expect to catch Longfin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Mahi, Blue and White Marlin.
Dolphin fish (Mahi). Photo by Jim Gatto
The second method is called chunking, which can be done day and night, as opposed to trolling which is done at night. Chunking using bait such as butterfish, peanut bunker and sardines are most popular in our area. Many anglers will also jig, using a technique of jerking the pole up and dropping it down at a certain depth with a lure.
Another great idea when chunking is to fish live bait such as bluefish or spotfish. Most boats will fish four to five fishing rods with baits at different depths and drift or anchor over structures such as lumps, canyons and depressions. On the chunk, you’ll catch yellowfin tuna, longfin tuna, mahi, and, at night, swordfish. Both chunking and trolling involve running out 35 to over 75 miles offshore, and most trips run by charter boats are from 12 to 30 hours.
Fishing inshore is also a great way to spend some time on the water. It’s a great month for Flounder, Sea Bass, Bluefish and Bonita. Flounder can be caught in the back bays, Delaware Bay and in the ocean. In the back bays Grassy Sound and in front of the Coast Guard base are always great spots for Flounder. You’re fishing the bottom using Flounder rigs, live minnows or stripped squid as bait. This holds true for fishing the Delaware Bay as well. Areas such as Brown Shoal, and the light houses such as Brandywine, Fourteen Foot Bank Light, Abandon Lighthouse, aka the Oldhouse or Blockhouse, and Miah Maull Shoal are great spots.
Wahoo. Photo by Stephen Spagnuola
When fishing for Flounder in the ocean, areas like the Cape May Reef and the Old Grounds are two of my favorites, except to catch larger flounder, but make sure you make your baits a bit longer. Do not be surprised to catch a mixed bag of sea bass and bluefish when fishing in the ocean, as well. The last couple of years have been banner years for inshore trolling for bonitas and bluefish at East Lump. FA buoy and Five Fathom Shoal are a few of the more popular spots. Both party boats and charter boats run inshore and offshore trips. Most trips are from four to eight hours long.
If fishing off a boat is not your game, try fishing under the Ocean Drive bridge and the back bay sod banks during the incoming tide. You’ll catch Bluefish and Striper using lures such as “bucktails,” plugs and jig head with artificial worms or sassy shads. On the ocean side fishing Poverty Beach and all the jetties down past The Point will produce just as well, both day and night.
Well, the month comes to the end with the MA-500 August 16th through the 21st. Boats from around the world come to compete in, boat for boat, the richest fishing tournament in the world! This is also one of the biggest White Marlin tournaments. In 2006 over 250 boats competed in the MA-500 with total prize money close to $2 million. Weigh-ins start at around 4 p.m. and are open to the public free of charge. It’s a standing room-only crowd with hundreds of people on the dock during weigh-in hoping to catch a glance at some of the biggest fish in the ocean.
So, if you’re ready to get in on some of the hottest fishing on the east coast the month of August in Cape May is where it’s at. Fishing not only makes great stories, it brings family and friends together for more than just the average everyday at the beach.
Stephen Spagnuola, a graduate of Visual Arts, New York City, worked as art director for many ad agencies in New York before leaving advertising to pursue fashion photography, and worked on such magazines as Stuff, Flatiron, and Zink. Stephen is a freelance photographer and marketing director for Sea Tow Cape May.. Visit Steve online