A Surprise New Jersey Redfish Catch

A Surprise New Jersey Redfish Catch
New jersey redfish caught on a Yo-Zuri
Keep those spots secret. Matthew Tomshaw landed a 37-inch redfish on May 19 off a beach in the northern half of the state.
Courtesy Matthew Tomshaw

Ask a New Jersey angler what they fish for along Garden State beaches in May and they’ll probably cite summer flounder, bluefish, and striped bass. Matthew Tomshaw would add a species to the list: trophy redfish. Tomshaw and friend John Latorre, both 20, landed a 37-inch redfish May 19 on an ocean beach in the northern half of the state, where reds are not very common and big ones are rare.

“Every big redfish that’s caught in New Jersey is caught in Great Bay in south Jersey,” the 20-year-old junior at Rutgers recalled. “I caught this fish in Monmouth County, which is unheard of. It completely surprised me.”

Tomshaw also owns a boat, but a predicted swell in the ocean led him and LaTorre to opt for the beach that Monday morning. They were after fluke, but bluefish disrupted their plans by biting off their rigs. Tomshaw attached a 5-inch Yo-Zuri Mag Darter to the remaining fluorocarbon leader and began casting in the surf.

Red Drum in the Jersey Surf

New jersey redfish
Angler Matthew Tomshaw was surprised by the red drum, at first suspecting it was a bluefish or striped bass. He fought and released the fish quickly, after taking a couple photos.
Courtesy Matthew Tomshaw

When the fish struck, it pulled against the drag for 10 seconds. “I figured a 12-pound bluefish,” Tomshaw said. When it got within 15 yards, LaTorre said the fish appeared to have a dark back, so Tomshaw thought, “I probably have a 30-pound bass,” and loosened the drag. But when the fish got within 10 yards, it became clear what was going on.

“I see the blue tail and the black spot. I think, ‘oh crap, that’s a giant redfish for Jersey,’” Tomshaw said.

When the fight neared its conclusion, things got a little dicey. LaTorre bear-hugged the redfish but it flopped out of his grip, and the anglers saw that the plug’s belly trebles had come loose, leaving the redfish hooked by a single tail treble — which ended up with a bend when all was said and done. Some luck, some skill, and cooperative waves finally gave the Jersey duo control of the fish.

red drum bent Y-Zuri treble hook
The tail treble of the lure bent, but the oversize red drum stayed hooked up.
Courtesy Matthew Tomshaw

As the two anglers learned when looking up the record after releasing the fish, red drum do get pretty big in the Garden State. The record is a 55-pounder caught by Daniel Yanino in 1985 in Great Bay.  Tomshaw didn’t weigh his redfish. “I had a [gripper] but didn’t want to hang the fish from it, because I knew the fish was so rare,” he said. Photos were taken, along with video of the release.

“The fish was actually very resilient. It swam off really well, for how long we fought it for,” he said.

The rig that landed the red was a Van Staal VR50 spooled with 20-pound PowerPro blue braid and the aforementioned Seaguar green-label fluoro. The rod was a Jigging World Onyx 8-foot surf rod.

Where Are Redfish Often Caught?

Illustration of a redfish.
Redfish are a common catch from Chesapeake Bay to Texas.
Diane Rome Peebles

Redfish may be thought of as a southern species, but in 2022, 44 percent of landings occurred between North Carolina and New Jersey, according to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Most were recreational, and most of those were released. Commercial redfish harvest is prohibited in South Carolina, George and Florida, and two-thirds of fish caught in those states were released.

A century ago, reds were far more prevalent than today in New Jersey. Locals called them channel bass, and loved them so much they all but disappeared for most of the century. Their limited return in recent decades probably has to do with warming waters and tighter regulation.

The traditional northeastern species still rule the Jersey coast. After the redfish, Tomshaw and LaTorre caught four keeper fluke and an assortment of blues, and they fished every day for the rest of the week. “Fluke’s gotten slower, there’s been a ton of bluefish,” Tomshaw said. “Went last night, there were some bass, decent sizes. My buddy lost an absolute monster that we didn’t even get a look at.”

The post A Surprise New Jersey Redfish Catch appeared first on Salt Water Sportsman.

Source: https://www.saltwatersportsman.com/travel/new-jersey-redfish-catch/

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