Every method has its time and place in the surf
(This article originally appeared in the New Haven Register on 8/1/2008)
By Kierran Broatch

Surfcasters have a dizzying array of choices when deciding on which method of fishing to employ each time on the water. Spinning rods, conventional bait-casting rods, and fly rods are the main tools of the trade, but even within these applications, there are countless combinations of natural baits and artificials an angler can present to hungry fish. Knowing when and when not to use each tool is just one of the many keys to successful surf fishing.

One of the best things to have in the surf is an open mind. Surfcasters can sometimes be stubborn and get too caught up in the method rather than the results. Strange as it may seem, there are anglers out there who will ignore, and even look down upon, a certain method, even if it is out producing another. Whether it is fly, spin or conventional, artificial or bait, an angler must choose the best application and presentation for the particular situation at hand.

For example, during summer full and new moon phases on Long Island Sound, a highly sought-after phenomenon known as the cinder worm hatch can sometimes occur. These worms hatch out of muddy flats, which can create a feeding frenzy among striped bass. The best method to duplicate this forage is with a fly rod, a floating fly line and small worm patterns. I have been in these situations without the right tools for the job and it is very frustrating to say the least. You would be wasting your time fishing during this hatch with anything but small worm imitations.

Another example can occur while fishing near a large school of adult menhaden, also known in our area as bunker. Striped bass and bluefish are at times so keyed in on the real thing, that presenting life-like artificials, even on the outskirts of the school of baitfish, often turns up fruitless. Snagging a bunker with a weighted treble hook, and live-lining the now-injured baitfish, can be much more productive, as your struggling bait should stand out in the crowd. If that doesn’t get their attention, using fresh cut bunker chunks under the school may entice the target species. Large striped bass are known to be lazy at times, not wanting to waste their precious energy. Scooping up an easy offering on the bottom expends much less energy than tracking down a fleeing baitfish.

We all have our preferences when it comes to fishing, but try to keep an open mind before and throughout each outing. Leave all options on the table and keep your ears and eyes peeled. Ultimately, it’s not what you want; it’s what the fish want.

 

Photo Caption:
The author caught and released this 40-inch striped bass using fresh-cut bunker on May 21, 2008, shortly after the baitfish invaded the western Sound.

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