Tuesday, October 31, 2023

10.31.23 Happy Halloween....

     Leave it to the spin fishermen to poke some fun at the true sportsmen out there. Anyway, pretty funny. They'll be no Halloween bass for me this year but I heard things sat down a bit yesterday afternoon for a good bite to start up in a spot I've been keeping my eye on and visiting pretty regularly the last two weeks. The winds all over the place over the next five days so we'll see what that brings. 


Monday, October 30, 2023

10.30.23 Where was everyone?....

     With all of the recent participation on the beach and in the boats I thought surely by 5 am there would be people fishing at least on the beach. I mean fishermen fish, right? I know people can only fish when they can or when they make time but we're not talking about people just showing up for a bite during the fall run are we? Well anyway. 

     Left the house at 325 am looking to beat the big water on the incoming tide. Some may say I don't want to read in these posts about every move you make when you go fishing. Some just want to hear about a bite, see some pictures, and possibly get some intel on where the fish may be. It's more than that, it's a process, it's putting time in, a lot of time, with more failures, if you call it that, than successes.

     The wind was finishing up it's NE blow and there was still that nasty swell going on as it has for the past few days. Even when it was bluebird skies with 1,000 boats out front you know there's a swell when surfers dot the waters out front of each groin tip. Well this morning there were three swells. 

     I was in a few hours of the flood tide and even with the full moon and the swells it was hard to find fishy water. I started with a Hollow in black trailed by a sand eel with a Pulse Disc. Pulse Discs and incoming tides and swells don't go well together. You need to really catch up to the current to make it pulsate. When I did I could feel it but by then I was almost dragging it on the sand. 

     I tried it on the beach before moving to the rocks and had better success in the action pulling it from the beach against the incoming water, didn't matter though no one was home. They say if something isn't working then change it so I went to a popper/ dropper set up to see if something on the top of the 

waves may get some attention. It took a while for light to arrive but before it did the first party boat lit up the horizon and headed straight towards me. I was hoping he had good numbers or left them biting yesterday and I was at least in the right neighborhood. He was on the move slowly, rocking back and 

forth in the bigger slop. I figured I'd try one more two-fly setup for first light. One fly I liked the other I didn't but I thought the long hackles may have got some attention. If I lost it I was fine with that or I 

might just cut them off and retie something else. The rocks became dicey as it was hard to judge the sets and the direction of the waves. For three sets you were good and then on the last you could feel the water rushing between your feet and the rock you were standing on, so I gave up on that. 

      The water would rush in from the north and then, with some force, work it's way around the beach end of the groin before emptying out on the south side. I was hoping the pocket there would be fishable 


but it wasn't. As the hours went on it got bigger and nastier and more off color. There was some debris bobbing up and down in the pocket which is always cause for concern. Now if you look below it looks good, well okay, if you are a spin fisherman or bait soaker this is fishable. Bucktail or bunker chunk 

I think could give you better odds. You can see that lone party boat lit up in the pea soup fog that was out there today. By midday it had burned off and the winds by then had gone to light west, before going back to a NNE. I stopped by the L jetty and found a lone angler working the water in front of him. 

     And so it was time to call it a day. I was off but there were things Theresa and I had to do. Yesterday was closing up Cape May until May 1st. It was a good day that ended a good year down there. Before I hit 195 I stopped at the Belmar Marina to take a peek. The water was up, there was bait, there was think 

fog. I saw the line of boats in a holding pattern at the ramp and then I heard one motor away. I just wondered if he knew what he might be going out into. I don't know if I wouldn't have chose the Raritan Bay today and settled for those fun schoolies near the Navy Pier rather than get beat up out front. 

     In sad news the missing fisherman/kayaker body was recovered yesterday in Keyport where he went missing one week ago. Zhenjiang Ding, 74, was out fishing when something happened. He died doing what he loved to do. And with that in two days, November 1st, the new law go into effect regarding life jackets. Everyone on a boat 26 feet in length must have a PFD on at all times. Period. It goes from November 1st to May 1st. That's every type of watercraft, including drift boats. 

    And speaking of PFD's. After Theresa and I took care of some business, well old business, we hit a great place for lunch in Newtown, Pa. If you ever have the chance to hit a place called Iron Hill Brewery make the stop. It's a chain but each has it's own brewery? inside. Great beer. Great food. Nice afternoon. But then I wanted to fish and not take the ride east again. 

     I have wanted to have one final outing for some late fall holdover striped bass in the Delaware. So I dug the life jacket out of my truck and geared up for some fun in the current of the big river. My plan was to walk across one section to fish another. I have done this in the spring and this would be my 

first time doing it in the fall. The water was 58 degrees and low. This stretch of the river is where fire departments hold their swift water training. I thought of that as I made my way across. And then I thought about being that guy. With my stripping basket held shoulder high and my sling pack floating behind me I decided it wasn't worth it. I'll have to wait until spring, which is five months away. 

     Who knows where we're going here. There were big fish on adult bunker off the beach before the wind and weather went bipolar. If I had a boat that worked I'd forgo the chance of big fish and get away from the flotilla and hit the bays and rivers up north. We'll see what happens next. More bait emptying out with fish that stick around a bit? A long pause for a few weeks before the next class down sized fish make and appearance. Or will it be sporadic bights before the sand eels settle in for that cold season fishing? Who knows. Hopefully by December I'll have caught some fish. 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

10.29.23 October's full moon...

      I took the above picture from my yard out in Titusville. October 28th was the full Hunter's Moon and today we begin the waning gibbous moon phase. It's kind of like Mr. Miaggi in the Karate Kid movie. "Wax on, wax off". Only with the moon phases it's "Waxing in waning off". With the moons 

we expect to see higher high tides and lower lows. There's more water so there's more current in currently areas. Also the bait and fish tend to be a little more active on the big moons. We used to say in the psychiatric units, "It must be a full moon", when patients would be off the rails. 

     So it has been THE week of the fall run. It started with big fish both off and on the beach. Early word last Saturday and by Monday the word and the crowds were out. During the week the fish still hit the sand mostly in Monmouth County and a little in Ocean, usually it's the other way around. Well, actually they did have a showing two weeks ago before we did up here. 

     We had adult bunker early and then the peanuts showed up the week leading to this full moon as they emptied from the bays and rivers. There is still bait in the bay, and fish too, and I heard the boat hatch in the bay yesterday was just as bad as it was out front. 

      This week we'll see the wind swing around bringing in more normal fall temperatures. NE to NW to N and then W is predicted. The air temps will be in 30's at night and low 50's during the day. Dominic may have to throw on at least a shirt during his bunker soak. 

      As far as fishing, well what do I know. I have heard of sand eels up and down the Shore, from mediums to jumbo 6-8 inchers. Usually you can tell when there are sand eels around. The birds can usually tell as well. We'll see if the peanut bunker continue to move south and out and what sized class fish are on them. There was a mix of slot fish that were in with the jumbos throughout the week and just when I thought the big fish were down and out they were obviously all over the place in those adult bunker pods off the beach yesterday. 

     If you watched the boats yesterday not too many were doing anything but livening. That tight flotilla kinda kills a topwater bite and the bass are under the bunker pods waiting for a meal and trying to avoid getting shredded by all of the propellers. Snag and drop, or for the legal anglers out there, live lining bunker on a three way rig with a circle hook, has been the way to consistently catch. Those using big rubber shads have done well also. 

     The other day I posted about the "new" way to snag and drop without using a 10/0 treble hook. Above you can see how it works in action. I guess it works the same way. Drop it into a pod and reel it in fast to snag a bunker and let it go. This set up must be great to swim a livie around, but I don't know if it gets below the pod as it is lighter than the treble hook weight. I'm not sure that's what the regulations intended but they never said a "single" circle hook must be used. I have searched and searched and can't find anything to the contrary to the above. 

Saturday, October 28, 2023

10.28.23 Well, it was what it was.....

     I'll circle back around to the start of a my day in a bit. But today was a very, very, very beautiful day to be on the beach, and I guess a boat as well. 80 degrees for late October. A Saturday. West wind. A swell for the surfers. Water temps warm enough for the swimmers, kiddies, and dogs. 

     Now, how was it for the fly rodder looking for some striped bass.....it sucked. I had a plan and worked it. I was at the gate before 530 and knew exactly where I was going and why. One, to be away from the crowds, and two, maybe thinking there would be a ton of bait up closer to the bay. 

     While driving I stopped and checked out the bay with the off-by-a-day Hunter's Moon working towards it's first light set. I was confident in my plan and I was sticking to it at least for a few hours. I didn't want to get into the drive to find fish quagmire I usually find myself in. I took Dominic's advice the other day and brought along my folding chair and some coffee to enjoy the day. 

      I was sitting down alone as first light came up but soon there were some anglers to my left and right. When I say I don't like fishing with people I don't mean anyone just the larger crowds. But it was 

nice to just sit and watch the boats start to make their way south coming around the Hook and other's heading into the bay coming from the Shark River and Manasquan Inlets. There was a good swell

with the incoming tide and a south to north sweep. The wind was west and I thought the table may be set for a good day. The swell might make it a bit tough but if the birds were up, and the bait in, the bass would find them. The stretch of beach where clothing is optional isn't the easiest to fish. There's a point 

a bit south and one to the north and the rollers come into the beach off the southern point and kind of die when they hit the northern point. In between is when you get those waves that roll right along where the trough meets the beach scarp. I threw some casts but wasn't feeling it. So I decided to sit down and enjoy my coffee and just sit and wait for something to show. And boy did it.

     And in the c'mon man category. So I'm sitting their in my half-busted chair sipping a coffee with binoculars and a camera around my neck, and dressed up in waders that were starting to raise my body temperature. I would raise my binoculars from time to time and look to see if there were any birds. Well, on one pass I noticed a chap doing his morning stretches facing a person that was by herself. What I found strange was that there is no protocol or etiquette for loosening up a bit with some morning wood working. Like wouldn't you face away from the stranger that you set up next to? 

I don't know it's not my scene. But I know that a guy on a nude beach with binoculars and a long lens camera may be frowned upon so it was time for me to jet. 

     I knew my day was over when I left the park. I had passed each parking lot that was loaded with cars. I knew it's wasn't just fishermen but I just didn't want to worry about every backcast hitting and old woman, child, or dog as they walked past. I stopped in the usual spots and some I didn't because there 

were anglers bunched up at the parking lots, beach access points, and boardwalks. If there were 300 fishermen out there this morning 22 of them were fishing. I pulled into a nice overlook. It's perfect for 

the lazy fishermen who wants to see what's going on. There's a few choice spots like this where you can just nose in and take a peek. That one north of here was lined with vehicles so there was no easy peek. 

     It was getting near 9 am and the tide had ebbed for a few hours. There was something going on in the waters off of Long Branch down to Belmar. While writing this I see that the big fish are still here and on 

the adult bunker. The above pic was taken by Capt. Chris Buchta and he was in front of me while I fished from the boardwalk with my binoculars. I thought at that point there was a lot of boats out there but little did I know. Throughout the day I was on, near, or looking at the water and I saw no peanuts in tight, well at all, and no point at which the adult bunker were pushed in. I saw basically a shitshow out there. More than a ton of boats that my pictures don't do it justice as far as quantifying the shear number. Just look at the guy below in the center console motoring  

through the fleet on the inside near the beach. It it wasn't the boat traffic it was the surfers enjoying the swell. There were at every rip from Sandy Hook down to Belmar, in big numbers. Fishing along a groin today? Forget it? That's the path surfers take to get back out to the waves. So after seeing that and I wasn't going to really fish I knew I was done. But then I got excited because I knew where I was and 

I wasn't too far from Neptune and Bagel Talk. That's right, another pic from my new favorite bagel place. But I didn't want to be done fishing even though I had taken all my stuff off to cool down

and put my gear away. But then I thought. What about that one spot. If no one is there I know I have caught fish there before. I parked, looked over the dunes, and it was angler free. I quickly dressed and made my way down. I was going to catch, even just one, which would be good for my morale. I passed the grandparents, the parents, the kids, the dogs, the surfers, the priests, the cyclists, ones on crutches and in a wheelchair. "Excuse me", I said out loud as I passed closely to someone, but in my head I was saying,  "Excuse me professional fly fisherman getting ready to catch a striped bass". 

     So I turn the dune and it's just perfect. There's a guy soaking something on the south side, which is where I wanted to be, but that's okay I'll go to the end. On the north side there were two young children playing with their father. I walked out the end and started to strip off line and I saw something out of the corner of my 

corner of my eye that got me nervous and real quick. It was a building swell and the first wave in a set of four that pounded the front of the outflow/groin. Well the wave hit and the force of the water rushing across the top nearly cut my feet out from underneath me. And then I stepped back on the green covered

metal plate that had me go into a partial split. The blow holes cut into this contraption, used to relieve the pressure from the waves underneath, let loose and it was water like a geyser into my face. I turned the other way and another spout hit me. And then the second wave hit. It was the same thing all over again, only this time my fly line was out of my basket and down into the water on the north side. A few more spouts in the front and the back and I was saturated and my hat slightly askew on my head. 

     Calmly I gathered myself and the waves had stopped. It was flat again. I looked like a drowned cat and as I left with little dignity I looked to that pocket on the north side where the kids and their dad were playing in the shallows. 

"Daddy that man almost fell in", the kid said his dad. 

The dad chuckled, "No he's okay". 

I walked off the rocks, tipped the brow of my cap and smiled at the kid. 

And to myself I said, "Excuse me professional fly fisherman getting ready to catch a striped bass".

Friday, October 27, 2023

10.27.23 That'll teach you....

     It was only a matter of time. Snag and drop fishing for striped bass, which has been illegal now for over a year, still happens on SOME boats and on SOME beaches. I have seen it with my own eyes so I am not talking out of school.  The usual move of casting out a 10/0 weighted treble hook into a bunker 

pod and snagging a bunker and letting it drop down below the swimming pod has come to an end. It can be an almost guarantee to catch big striped bass. Imagine a large acre pod of menhaden with a school of lurking large striped bass below them ready to pick out the sick, lame, and lazy. Well when your bunker, now maimed and weighted down, falls below the school..... it's game on. 

         The ASMFC's Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board took action to have states adopt the circle hook only fishing when using bait for striped bass, live or dead. The way it is supposed to work is any bait used must be on a inline circle hook. So if you are using live eels or bunker then they must be on 

that hook. If you are going to swim live menhaden to bait, that you snagged with a weighted treble hook, then it must be reeled in, transferred to the circle hook rod, and placed back out where it might hopefully swim back out and under the bunker pod it came out of. You can see the idea below. 

    Today I saw on Facebook the wizards at work. Pushing the boundaries of good idea and legality to prove a point. If snag and drop fishing with a weighted treble hook isn't allowed, well hell, how about snag and drop fishing with a weighted double circle hook rig. These have been designed and are being sold by tackle shop (s) and will surely be a hot topic of all of the striped bass social media sites.

    It defeats the purpose of the transfer of a live bait to a circle hook. Where one hook is supposed to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth which would allow for a quicker release and reduce mortality, this may actually add to a harder and longer release which could add to striped bass mortality. 

      Now, I'm not even sure how well this rig will work. I would hate to comment on why it might not or how it can be improved. It could just be a ploy to see what kind of reaction they would get out of the tree-hugger fishing community. It could also just be a message to the ASMFC saying F' you, we are following the rules that YOU have made into law. 

They never said it had to be a single inline circle hook.