The 127 miles of the New Jersey coastline are home to a vast array of rock jetties and groins that have been constructed to shelter and protect the sandy shore. These structures—there are approximately 392 of them—were built beginning in the 1930s and can be found at the mouths of inlets, tidal rivers, harbors, and along oceanfront beaches.
These man-made features are the foundations of diverse ecosystems of marine life that wouldn’t otherwise exist along a sandy beach.
Large predators such as trophy striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, and false albacore are attracted to these jetties, and often stick there like fish magnets.
For fly fishers with a little knowledge, these structures are in essence motionless casting platforms that transport you into the middle of saltwater action that is ordinarily strictly the realm of boat anglers.
Technically, jetties are any long artificial structures built perpendicular to the coast to protect the openings of inlets, harbors, and river mouths. A groin is a similar but shorter artificial structure built perpendicular to the shoreline in an effort to control beach erosion by trapping sediments carried by longshore or littoral currents.
Along much of New Jersey, the shore runs north-south, and the jetties run east-west.
Decades ago, the Army Corps of Engineers attempted to stabilize the New Jersey shoreline and inlets with an aggressive project of jetty and groin construction. One of the best locations in New Jersey to see the results of this work is in Monmouth County, which, in a stretch of 15 miles from Monmouth Beach south to the Manasquan Inlet, has more than 100 jetties. This stretch of shore and has been dubbed “Jetty Country” by the many jetty jocks who frequent the area.
Fly fishing a jetty is like fishing an unfamiliar trout stream for the first time. First you read the water to locate where the best fish-holding structures are, and then you choose the appropriate tactics and tackle to effectively take advantage of these features.
There are three general areas around most jetties that consistently hold striped bass. These three areas—the jetty tip, the beach end, and the middle—serve as ambush points where predators lie in wait as bait gets disoriented from crashing waves or currents. Each zone has its own peculiarities and associated tactics.
Working the Tip
The tip of a jetty is often the most productive location, and most experienced anglers upon arrival often make a beeline for the end of the jetty, particularly at first light. I get up early enough to arrive at my selected rockpile 10 or 15 minutes before false dawn.
The tip of a jetty is often surrounded by the deepest water and has more than 300 degrees of casting opportunity, and the most subsurface structure, making it the most productive spot.
Jetty tips rarely drop straight down into the depths. The foundations of the jetty extend below the surface much like an iceberg, and storms and hurricanes have often dislodged the jetty tip rocks, spreading them out into the water. In some instances an additional 50 to 75 feet of subsurface rocks are hidden below the surface, with stripers and blues prowling above.
When fishing the tip, fan your casts out 180 degrees. Begin by casting straight east, right at the heart of the tip and the deepest water. This area is most favorable at high tide when the water is relatively calm. In rough water, the heart of the tip can become unfishable due to large waves breaking on top of it.
If no fish are holding in that direction, begin to fan your casts to the northeast. This area is also an ideal location for predators, as tides and wave action often create a deep hole for gamefish to lie in wait. The reason for this is that the littoral current, which transports sand from south to north along the beach in this part of New Jersey, deposits sand on the south side of a jetty as the jetty acts as a barrier. The downcurrent side of the jetty (the north) receives much less sand, resulting in a deeper hole.
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