WILDWOOD, N.J. - Miles of free white sand beaches stretch across the Wildwoods area of New Jersey. Some vacationers choose to kick back in a beach chair and soak up the sun, while others would rather cast a line out into the rolling waves and see what's biting.
Believe it or not, there is some great fishing action from the sands of the beaches and the open waters of the Atlantic here.
Only a four-hour trip to the most southern end of New Jersey separates you from scoring a ton of different species of fish from the ocean - as well as from a ton of family-fun activities.
Several types of fish can be caught in the 5-mile island area of the Wildwoods, including bluefish, flounder, sharks, tog, striped bass, black drum, kingfish, weakfish and sea bass.
A variety of fishing is available for seasoned anglers or beginners alike. Try your hand at inshore and deep sea fishing or offshore, surf, charter, back bay and fly fishing.
Surf fishing is easily done by picking a place on one of the free beaches. Bring your own equipment or rent it.
Bait shops sell not only bait and tackle, but often rent equipment needed for angling.
New to the game? Anglers or beginners shouldn't be afraid to ask for tips at tackle or bait shops and even other anglers. Guide services also offer easy lessons.
The marina is full of charter services; it just depends on what you are looking to fish for. There are various durations of day-trips, locations and boat sizes. Services are outfitted with equipment, rigs, guidance and bait.
Boat rentals also are available - everything from kayaks to 60-foot fishing vessels.
Throughout the year, more than eight major fishing tournaments are held in the area.
For instance, the Wildwoods Beach N Boat Fishing Challenge was held June 13-15. It was free to register and anglers could fish anywhere in Wildwood. The grand prize was $1,000 for the biggest fish at weigh-in on the last day of the tournament.
Locals say fishing can be successful here during most of the year. What's "hot" depends on what time of year it is. Successful anglers are those who check the fishing reports or ask around at one of the many bait or tackle shops in the area.
Crabbing is another popular angling activity. Blue crab is the most common species and they are not only delicious to eat but fun and cheap to catch. Crabbing does not require very much, or very expensive, bait or equipment and can be a fun family activity.
Whether using a crab trap or dangling bait on a line, crabbers should head to the marshy areas of the back bay, area fishing piers or off a boat, according to locals.
Free family fun
One of the reasons so many families have opted for Wildwoods as a summer vacation destination is because the island's expansive, pristine beaches - voted Best Beaches in New Jersey - are free to all and thus avoid the expense and hassle of having to purchase beach tags, said Ben Rose, Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority (GWTIDA), Director of Marketing and Public Relations.
"The Wildwoods offer fun for the entire family - the boardwalk, shopping, free fireworks, restaurants, miles of free beaches and an array of exciting free events," Rose said. "People feel emotionally connected to the Wildwoods - some visited when they were young and now visit with their kids. It becomes a tradition."
Most recently, the Wildwoods were named No. 1 Boardwalk in the nation in 2014 by FamilyVacationCritic.com - an accolade they actually have held since 2012.
In additional, the Wildwoods' Morey's Piers was voted Top 10 Piers in America by the magazine Coastal Living in early 2014.
"The Wildwoods' clean and free beaches offer plenty of room for a variety of summertime activities - everything from surfing to boogie-boarding to body surfing to tossing a Frisbee to reading in the shade. The award-winning beaches - a 5-mile stretch of powdery-white sand - are the largest in New Jersey," he added.
Boardwalks are popular places to take a break from the waves and sand. The one at Wildwoods is 2 1/2 miles long and is filled with amusements, eateries, attractions and shops.
"There are restaurants and menus for every appetite, every budget and virtually every taste. From fresh seafood and Mexican fajitas to Chinese egg rolls and Italian cuisine, the Wildwoods have something for everyone," Rose said.
Described as a sensory overload, the boardwalk has more than 100 rides and attractions that range from world-class roller coasters and wet-and-wild waterparks to carnival-style midway games and flashing arcades.
"One of the Wildwoods Boardwalk's most popular attractions is the Sightseer Tram Cars, the source of one of the most familiar quotes to any visitor to the Jersey Shore and the Wildwoods Boardwalk - 'Watch the Tram Car, Please,' - transporting visitors from one end of the famous wooden way to the other," Rose said.
The Wildwoods Boardwalk hosts a number of events throughout the year including the Wildwoods Baby Parade, classic car shows, craft shows, Family Entertainment Nights, Morey's FEARS and spectacular weekly fireworks displays.
If you drive through the area of Wildwoods near the boardwalks and beaches, you'll notice the architecture of many buildings sports a doo-wop theme. It is the largest collection of mid-20th century architecture in the country.
"Visitors are encouraged to stop in at the Doo-Wop Preservation League's Doo-Wop Experience Museum on Ocean and Montgomery avenues to learn more about doo-wop and what made the Wildwoods famous in the '50s," Rose said. "Afterwards, take a stroll or drive around the island to see the bright neon signs, vibrant architecture and colorful motel names, up close and personal, which make up the doo-wop ambiance the Wildwoods is famous for."
Rose said a day trip to the area is possible, but visitors will have to pick and choose what they really want to do in a day. He said there is just so much, that a weekend, or longer, spent here will give visitors a chance to do so much more.
"Four amusement piers, three water parks, endless dining and shopping options on a 2-1/2 mile boardwalk, expansive pristine beaches, more than 180 events throughout the year, biking, fishing and watersports abound," he said. "We strongly recommend that if you want to experience all that the Wildwoods offers, reserve a room at one of dozens of hotel, motel and bed-and-breakfast options and take the time to experience it all."
The area features more than 8,000 hotel, motel and bed-and-breakfast rooms, a variety of weekly vacation rentals including condos, apartments, town homes, duplexes, homes and cottages - plenty of accommodations to fit every taste and budget.