Flynn’s Knoll Striper Fishing
By Nick Honachefsky
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, N.J. — It’s not there, but this is the sign that should be posted thick in the middle of Raritan Bay in late April: DANGER — HIGH VOLTAGE ACTIVITY.
The waters are heating up, the electricity in the water is sparking and anglers all over are busily setting up on the red-hot piece of real estate in the reaches of the bay named Flynn’s Knoll.
Put on your orange rubber suit and step back, because with a flick of the switch, it’s on!
Get wired this spring as stripers cruise through Flynn’s Knoll.
Inside the box: Flynn’s Knoll — 27005.13 and 43726.32 on Loran and 40.29.00 by 74.01.50 on GPS — is a prime section of fishing turf, settled within an imaginary box bordered by the Sandy Hook Channel on its south side, the Chapel Hill Channel on the west side and the Swash Channel on the north side.
It’s a virtual plateau of shallow humps and bumps surrounded by deep water on all sides.
The bottom structure of the area consists of myriad clam and mussel beds, providing a smorgasbord for fish to dine on.
Capt. Lou Grazioso of the Stripermania out of Atlantic Highlands, N.J., banks on this location in the early season to put linesiders on the deck.
“Flynn’s Knoll is my main squeeze for stripers in early spring,” Grazioso expounds.
“The knoll is sandwiched in between all sorts of deep water on all sides, and any of the edges of the channels around the knoll can be worked with nice results, depending on the tides and currents.”
“This is a bass-friendly atmosphere.”
On the northwest side, the Chapel Hill Channel averages a depth of 20 feet throughout and rises to a height of 11 feet in some areas.
“In springtime, I’ll anchor on the high points and start my clam slick on a pinnacle,” Grazioso said.
“The clam slick will start to work its magic and will bring the bass feeding along the down side of the drop.”
“The outgoing tide seems to be the most productive early in the season, with the bass following the warmer back bay water spilling out.”
Rigging up right
Capt. Phil Sciortino of The Tackle Box (732-264-7711) in Hazleton, N.J., has plied the reaches of the knoll for generations and has reaped the rewards of year-round fun.
He banks on a special rig for springtime stripers. Sciortino’s money rig is a three-way swivel with a 1-foot dropper for a bank sinker, and a 3 or 4-foot fluorocarbon leader with a 3/0 baitholder on the business end.
He threads one sandworm onto the hook and then lances on one or two more through the head to drop back to the bass.
“This sandworm rig does a number on the linesiders at the knoll,” Sciortina advises.
“Hit up the middle grounds of the knoll near the fish pots just north of the 16 buoy on the south side of the knoll by the Sandy Hook Channel.
Load up your hooks with as many worms as you can fit on there and drift over an edge.
Let the worms undulate in the current — the bass simply cannot resist the sandworms flitting in the current off one of Flynn’s edges.”
What: Flynn’s Knoll springtime mix.
Where: Jersey side of Raritan Bay.
27005.13 and 43726.32
40.29.00 by 74.01.50
Species: Striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, porgies.
How: Thread a sandworm on a three-way rig and you’re good to go.
Playing the tides
The Sandy Hook Channel is an ideal place to drift clam baits and worms on an outgoing tide because the bay really empties out swiftly along this channel, and a massive amount of water funnels and pulls along between the knoll and Sandy Hook.
Some points can reach a depth of 50 feet in this channel, and bass wait in the pockets and on the edges, sucking down the outflow from the bay, including your worms and clams with hooks secretly placed in them.
The knoll extends out past Sandy Hook; on the eastern edge — in line with buoy 14 — is a sweet little pinnacle (which has been hypothesized as being a shipwreck with the stern sitting up) where the water abruptly rises from 40 to 22 feet and then drops back to 40 or so feet on the other side.
Grazioso said that the appeal of the knoll is that the area contains endless sections of “ups and downs,” like this noted peak, where bass hide and ambush prey on either side of the tides.
“Don’t be afraid to motor around and check out the bottom structure,” Grazioso suggests.
“There are plenty of opportunities to find the humps and bumps on the knoll, they shift with the tides, and if one spot isn’t producing, pick up and move to another piece. The bass move with every tide and find new spots to hide in.”
The early season is brimming with linesiders, but that’s not all.
Be mindful that a massive invasion of bluefish from 2 to 20 pounds comes ripping through the waters in the springtime, and can either be a blessing or a nuisance to the Flynn’s Knoll angler.
These voracious blue dogs are foaming at the mouth, and many times, once they hone in on your slick and baits, will stick around until you are cleaned out of rigs and baits.
And hey, by all means, if you’re having fun with the choppers, make a day out of it, but if you find they won’t leave, you’ll need to pick up and move to another spot on the knoll to be able to get your baits down to the bass.
Another big-time bonus is the weakfish armada that makes a presence when it wants to.
Weakfish are cyclical, but if you hit it right, many a behemoth tiderunner will be taken at Flynn’s.
Porgies and a few errant sea bass and dogfish round out the springtime fare.
Flynn’s Knoll will generate a current of linesider electricity through early June, then turn over to fluke for the summertime.
When fall rolls in, it reforms into a bass and bluefish haven.
Chalk it up.
If you’re not on Flynn’s Knoll in the springtime, you might as well take up golf.