Fishing with Bait from Shore
When fishing from shore, the use of bloodworms, sandworms, night crawlers, squid and clams is very popular due to the wide variety of fish that can be targeted. There are a number of hook sizes, rigs and baiting methods to choose from, and many of the species can be caught the same way, from the same spot at different times of the year.
"Clam Balls" for Striped Bass
The most popular fishing in NJ is surf fishing for Striped Bass using fresh or salted clams. Bait stores vary in supplies, so it is a good idea to inquire about the way that clams are sold and what the cost will be. Live Whole Clams are the most popular, followed by fresh shucked clams, then salted clams. Frozen Clams also work well when fish are on the bite, so it's a good idea to pick up a package, just in case you are in the middle of a blitz, when you run out of bait.
With live clams, the clam needs to be shucked. With a dull clam knife, insert the blade between the closed shell of the live clam, while holding it in the palm of your hand. Press the blade down and run the knife along the inside of the bottom shell. Water may leak out during this first cut, so keep the clam away from your clothes and gear. When finished, turn the clam over and run the knife along the other half of the shell. Now with both sides cut, twist the knife and open the clam. The fresh piece of clam will lift right out. Many fisherman opt to tie the clam to the hook using an elastic thread. Most bait stores that sell fresh clams also sell this "clam thread". Using a 4/0 to 6/0 hook and a hatteras or pyramid sinker, hook the clam through the foot and fold the loose pieces over the point of the hook.
Wrap a 16 inch piece of thread 3 or 4 times around the shank of the hook, then wrap the clam 5 or six times in different places. Finally, wrap the remaining thread back around the shank. This makes a "clam ball" on the hook, and keeps the bait there until a fish bites it off. Cast your rig as far into the surf as you can, and either hold the rod tight, or place the tightened line in a sandspike, and wait for the action to start. During the fall and winter, striped bass will engulf the bait and make a short run. Hook the fish 2 or 3 times before attempting a landing. The surf and sinker puts alot of stress on the line, so you want to make sure it's hooked. You may find you will catch many stripers using this method, and many of them are short fish, however keep fishing, many keepers and lunkers have also been caught using clam balls.
Fishing clams for Other Species
There are other fish that will also take the clam balls, Blackfish, Black Drum & Northern Kingfish and are among them.
Blackfish are usually more abundant near a jetty, in the deeper water. Clams, green crabs and fiddlers work the best. Use a black hook 1/0 with a 40 pound leader and a bank sinker. Hook the clams onto the hook, thread is optional. If you use the fiddlers, hook the crab though the section of the back leg, and out through the front leg, removing the large claw. Sandfleas, which can be dug at any beach are also a good bait. Blackfish nibble at the bait for just a second, so keep your drag tight and your attention on the action. When you feel the nibble, hook into the fish and hold the rod tip up as high as you can. Blackfish will run for the rocks if you give them a chance. Pull the fish away from the rocks and you will probably land the fish.
For Black Drum, bait up using a 4/0 hook, and just use the foot of the clam, without the thread. Cast your line just into the curl of the second wave. This may seem to be a very short distance to cast, however, Black Drum stalk the bottom in the wash looking for clams, crabs and small fish that have succumbed to the waves. Black Drum are great fighters, making a terrific run for deeper water once hooked. Since these fish get over 100 pounds, it is a good idea to let them run before setting the hook. Keep your drag on a medium to light setting while fishing.
Atlantic Croaker, Blowfish, Northern Kingfish and Spotted Hake will also take the clams, but you can also use squid, spearing, killies and worms. Small hooks for these species is the best option. Many times these fish are found in estuaries, rivers and bays, so the sinker can be 1 or 2 ounces. White perch and Winter Flounder will also take clams, but the worms are the better bait for this species. Squid can also be used for all of the aforementioned fish. These species are more prominent in the late summer and fall, and you will have more of a variety to fish for, the further south you go in New Jersey. Talk to the Tackle store owners in the areas you wish to fish for local info.