Easy Access, Clean Water Has Made for Big Fishing Season in Belmar
BELMAR, NJ – Talk to fishing enthusiasts in Belmar and they’ll not only tell you that no place in New Jersey has better access to both fresh and salt water fishing – multiple marinas at the Shark River Inlet are just a half-mile from the ocean – but that unusually clean waters have made this year one of the best on record.
“This year in particular the water is especially clean,” said Erika Gerzsenyi, co-owner of the Seaport Inlet Marina. “The water is warmer thanks to the mild winter and the ocean is full of fish. Because there are so many fish in the ocean, they are eating everything – plankton, other fish, and bait.”
Seaport Inlet Marina, a 100-slip, full-serve facility formerly known as A.P.’s Inlet Marina, has been in a good spot to see the Belmar fishing scene surge. As the closest marina to the ocean on Shark River, they see all the action. Whether it’s river fishing or boats heading out to the Atlantic, it’s in their view.
And many boats access the Atlantic from Belmar. In fact, the easy access has helped make Belmar a major draw for fishing enthusiasts from throughout the tri-state area.
Unlike other major Jersey Shore access points, the Shark River is not a long waterway. It offers just a few miles of good-yet-compact river fishing. By contrast, the Navesink, Manasquan, and Raritan Bay are long waterways that aren’t always convenient for ocean access.
“Boaters here don’t have to spend time cruising at all,” Gerzsenyi pointed out. “Being just minutes from the inlet, you can be in the ocean catching fish in five minutes, and we have access to some of the most robust wrecks and reefs on the Jersey Shore.”
Another big draw is Belmar’s central location in the tri-state area. Belmar is less than an hour from Pennsylvania by way of 195, and only about an hour from both New York City and Philadelphia, making it a destination for fisherman throughout the region.
Over the years Belmar has built up an impressive infrastructure to support this fishing community. (No surprise there. The Belmar Fishing Club has existed since 1909 and currently boasts a three-year waiting list for membership.) In addition to private marinas like Seaport Inlet, there is also the Belmar Marina, a public marina operated by the township featuring 70 slips, comfort stations, state-of-the-art concrete floating docks, security, and a bait & tackle shop. As part of Belmar’s efforts to serve the fishing community, the marina has enjoyed significant upgrades over the last several years, including the addition of a waterfront tiki bar/restaurant, soon-to-be-opened mini golf, and more – all of this just a half-mile from the Atlantic Ocean. From there, charter boats, party boats, and private vessels hit the Atlantic for some of the best fishing on the East Coast.
Just blocks from the Seaport Inlet Marina and Belmar Marina is Belmar Plaza, home to West Marine, which boasts a large tackle department to outfit almost anyone. The Plaza itself is home to a slew of shops, too, including restaurants like 10th Avenue Burrito, which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
None of this would matter if Belmar did not have great fishing. And it does. Belmar offers both surf fishing and offshore fishing. Situated right on the ocean, enthusiasts can fish in the Shark River, on the Shark River Inlet, and in the Atlantic. It also boasts being one of the closest communities to the rich bounty of the Hudson Canyon, where sports fishermen go for big catches.
The key to success, Captain Bob Quinn of the Ocean Explorer says, is to trust the folks who know Belmar’s waters best – the local guys.
“We always give friendly advice to the transient boaters in the area,” Quinn says. “To succeed, it’s basically getting local knowledge, and getting with some of the local captains.”
According to Captain Greg Rybak of the Gemini, a private boat that calls Belmar home, clean waters and aggressive conservation programs have resulted in some of the best fishing within hundreds of miles.
“I’ve never seen the water this clean. I’ve never seen so much life in the water,” Rybak said. “I’ve heard people saying the fishing hasn’t been this good since the Pilgrims were here.”
You don’t need to own a boat to take advantage of what Belmar’s fishing scene has to offer, either. There are many charter boats available, and the town marina hosts head boats, better known to the layman as party boats. As the summer crowds thin out, August through October becomes prime time for the charter boat scene.
“That’s a big scene here in Belmar. They hold dozens of guys and go out twice a day,” Gerzsenyi said. “It even goes as small scale as renting an aluminum power boat to fish Shark River.”
So what are fishing enthusiasts leaving from Belmar catching? The real question is, what aren’t they catching.
Striped Bass are one of the Jersey Shore’s biggest draws, with the season beginning at the end of April and extending into December. Thanks to aggressive conservation efforts, catches of above 50 pounds are no longer unusual. You’ll see reports of several such catches each season.
Because they’re so delicious, the most popular fish at the Jersey Shore may be Fluke. During daylight hours through the summer, charter boats by the dozen flood the coast and haul in hundreds of fluke, which can range from 2 to 10 pounds. Many of the most popular boats leaving from Belmar make Fluke fishing their specialty.
Bluefish are also a popular catch along the Jersey Shore. Plentiful and available almost anywhere, many charter boats fish for them exclusively.
In early spring and late fall, Blackfish spike in population and popularity. These smart, cold water-loving fish prove to be a challenge for amateurs and pros alike, living around wrecks and reefs, and notorious for stealing bait.
A variety of Tuna, including Yellowfin, Bluefin and Longfin, are also ripe for the catching off the shores of Belmar, with the Hudson Canyon offering good fishing from July to October. Marlin, Mahi and others can be caught in the same location.
Conditions are doing nothing but improve, and the robust fall fishing season is just weeks away, making now a great time to take advantage of what the Belmar fishing scene has to offer.
For the Belmar Tourism Commission, visit www.visitbelmarnj.com or call 732-681-3700, ext. 214.