Seems like for years that every December I quit like 5 times. Something happens or doesn't happen one of those times, boat breaks down, truck goes swimming, I break a rod, too damn cold, micro fish have invaded, or its just the Fat Lady has sung and I'm done.
Anyone who knows this striped bass knows they really know nothing. We think we do, and in truth we do, but its usually we think we think we do, and then the bass tell us something else. Well, I'm being "told", by myself, that its over, for me. Usually this time of year the boats are reporting sand eels, and those that fish illegally over the three mile line have big bass still on sand eels. Now that's not to say that 100 sand eels won't pop up somewhere along the beach, its just the timing of the bass exodus and the arrival of sand eels have missed the mark this year.
"The waters still warm", "The bait is still in the bay". Yes, true. And those fish will either exit stage right and travel out into The Bight and head south, perfect for your favorite boat angler when they pop in at IBSP like they have been doing this week, see below.
So wanting to get in on the Thanksgiving weekend action I decided to give it a go. A drop off at a dumpster and returning my daughters coat to her in Red Bank put me close enough to the beach to justify blowing off the day. And that's what it takes this time of year to catch fish, luck and or time.
When I got to the beach the boats were stacked up off the beach about a mile in a scene that looked like it came from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. The birds moved around with the bait, and I assume bass, and the boats followed. They came in close to me once and I was able to take some pictures with my real camera with the long lens. Saw more picking from above than splashing from below, so my thinking is that the bass and birds are more on say rain fish or some other white bait that peanuts, which you see spray or at least one or two leave the water when pursued from top or bottom.
I watched two guys motor into the birds in what looked like a Boston Whaler and start to throw as soon as they got close. Soon one guy was hooked up with a schoolie bass. I reached out to Leif and
he came when I said ".......looks like its about to go off". And it did. Boats all over out front, guys lined up to the south, and the beach I was on pretty much desolate except for a guy or two that came and went. The boats stayed tight with the birds until the wind went north and kind of changed things up a bit. I think whatever was happening out there fizzled and it never went off at the stretch we were on, when we were on it. This time of year it changes 1/2 hour to 1/2 hour.
So with the minutes of this outing running out and desperation setting in I hit spots going south looking for any signs with my naked eye to the binoculars. A bird here or there, boats returning to the marina, a small armada way out either just inside or over the line. I did fish hoping one may be either lost or dumb but I was the dumb one. The bass are on bait and if there's no bait then there's no bass.
And now for the funny part of the day. So I hit Pier Village, Deal, Allenhurst and then McDonald's on Main Street in Asbury Park. Now I wanted to hit Coen Zone in Neptune and I had to get gas at WaWa so I had to coordinate where I could possibly fish, get gas, and end it with my favorite ice cream sandwich. I decided to go to Ocean Grove. I turn onto Main Street and admire all the nice happy people walking the stores or loading up from a Thanksgiving weekend down the shore. It was a Norman Rockwell scene. Then I looked up. Birds. Everywhere. Tons of them. Tight. Loose. Close. Far.
Drum roll, snare, cymbal.......are you kidding me.
Some guy decided to crawl out of his mother's basement and get a few loafs of day old bread and park himself on the boardwalk and feed the gulls. Birds were everywhere. Every person that passed by, "You shouldn't do that", "It's not healthy for the birds", "There's bird shit everywhere". One guy who was on the next bench just laughed as each stuck up person stopped and commented, "He's been here for hours". And the bread thrower gave it right back to them, "Did you ever here of rain? Rain washes away the shit". So obviously with that many birds, and the picture doesn't set the entire stage, in one place some were looking along the beach so I gave that a shot for an hour on the 3/4 ebb tide. Nothing. And that's when I decided the 2021 year of striped bass fishing is over for me, at least to justify quit #1.
Before I left for the beach I tackled yet another home project that I don't care if you care about or not. Chimney caps! Chimney caps on a chimney that I repaired the crown on. Looks pretty f'in good if I say so myself. Now this chimney matches the one at the far end of the house. Five fireplaces in this house and with the price of home heating oil this winter I will be using all of them at one time or another.