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Riverlines Blog IV

Hello again anglers. It’s been a while since the last blog. The weather has been crazy hot and the fishing has slowed a little. We experience these dog days every year at this time and there are a few things that will help you still keep a tight line through late July and early August.

One of the main reasons the fishing slows down inside the river at this time of year is obviously water temperature. With the general warming of the water, coupled with the above average temps we’re experiencing, fish become increasingly lethargic and feed more infrequently. The large schools of various bait fish we see in the spring have cleared out and selective feeding for all species is the norm.  There are a few things that we can do to be more productive during the “Dog Days of Summer”.

So far this blog has concentrated on Bass, but during this time of year, expanding our species list will give us more opportunity to be successful.  Blues start to move in large schools off shore during July and August and they will make their way into the river feeding on schools of sand eel and pogies. Blues in the river are more common than most think and can provide hours of action if you hit it right.

The majority of blue fishing should be done from Damon’s point to the mouth. The first key is to locate the fish. This should be done from 2 hours before high tide till 2 hours after.  I like to troll that stretch with large (8”) plus mid-running Rapalas. Color is important to blues, and it is based more on reaction then matching what they are eating. My go to colors are silver, fluorescent orange, and red/white.  If you hook up you’ve found them. You can keep trolling the spot, or start drifting and casting. Scaling down your gear and throwing smaller Rapalas or various silver spoons. I really like Kastmaster silver and blue spoons.

Silver…….just like our tequila…

The second way to locate blues is by eye. Feeding blues will cause a commotion on the surface and that will attract birds. Watching for bait slicks is also a sure fire way to find the schools. Bait slicks are the aftermath of the blues feeding frenzy. Pieces of half eaten sand eel, and pogies will float right by your boat, keep your eyes open. This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Watch your fingers people. Needle nose pliers are mandatory. Blues have sharp teeth, strong jaws and they like fingers. Don’t lose a digit.

Another species that is always around and is perfect for cigar and beer fishing is your Summer flounder. They are easily caught and great to eat. Flounder rigs are fairly standard and Belsan’s can hook you up in a jiffy. Triangle weights, a spreader rig and flounder hooks baited with sea worms is all you need. One side note regarding the triangle weights. The spots I like (which I’ll give you in a minute) have lots current, so heavier is better, 1 oz and up. Tide is also important. Same as with the blues, 2 hours prior to high tide and 2 hours after. Remember this is when bait is washing either into or out of the river and flounder will peak at these tides. My favorite area inside the river for flounder is directly across from the spit, running all the way to the mouth. There are several holes along that stretch hugging the south riverside shore line that hold lots of fish. Set a good anchor over the holes and employ this trick (provided by my good friend Paul Carroll). You’ll need a mesh gear bag, a couple large rocks and a frozen mackerel. Put the mack and the rocks in the bag and lower it to the bottom. Flounder will instinctively be attracted to the bait source and move closer to the boat, that’s important because success often means being right on top of the flounder. With that in mind be prepared to move frequently from hole to hole until you hook up.  Another added bonus with the mess gear bag set-up, if you’re lucky, is that it’s frequently covered with Jonah crab (I’ll leave checking regulations to you).  Last time I tried this, the result was baked flounder with Jonah crab stuffing.

Now quickly back to the bass during these “Dog Days”. The trick is to be at your spot during the reduced feeding pattern the fish are in. For me this means 1 hour after the high tide till 4 hours after high. It also means hitting those tides either early morning or from dusk on. The window during those times will be small, maybe as short as ½ hour, so be patient. Stay in a small area and fish it thoroughly staying confident that tide and time of day will produce results. The bottom line is that these fish are still feeding everyday, you just need to be there when they do. Good luck…stay cool.

Fish Guy, Spit Guy

Riverlines Blog III

Grab your knife, cut some bait, and land some big ones!!

Hello again fellow fisherman. As promised today we’ll discuss the “Great Bait Debate”.  In our last blog we went over some essential techniques for fishing artificial baits, but to maximize your fishing experience in the river you’ll also need to master some basic bait techniques.

What do stripers like to eat? This is where the debate begins. The simple answer is anything that falls in front of their nose. Big stripers are gluttons, and when feeding they’ll gobble up most anything. But we want to increase our chances during certain times, tides and weather. Some guys swear by mackerel, others herring. Then you have the eel guys and the clam guys. Let’s go over the baits then I’ll follow with some simply rigs to fish all of them.

Herring:

First off I’m a herring guy. That’s because I generally fish up river and the major food source up river especially in the spring is herring. Rules and regulations restrict the taking of live herring, but bait store herring is fine. Belsan’s Bait & Tackle sells a 6 pack of frozen herring for about $6.00. The trick is to keep them partially frozen. Herring are delicate fish and will turn to mush if thawed too much. Chunk herring will out fish chunk mackerel two to one from May to the end of June.

Mackerel:

mackerel…

Mack is a great all around bait. You can buy it anywhere, it stays on your hook and it gives off a lot of scent. Early in the year you can grab Tinker Macks (small macks) right outside the river and if your fishing the mouth it’s hard to beat one live lined. I like fishing macks when I’m out closer to the spit and mouths of the North and South rivers. Again because this is the predominant bait source as you get closer to the ocean. As the season slows down, when we get into July then macks become my bait for up river as well because the herring become scarce.

Clams:

clams…

An under used bait. In recent years this has become one of my favorite all around baits. Clams work all year long and can be the key when other baits fail. They are purchased in frozen pints or quarts and it is a good idea to always have at least a pint with you if your bait fishing. If your macks or herring fail put on a clam you may be surprised.

Eels:

eels…

An overused bait. I’m not an eel guy. The main reason is the huge decline in the population of eels in the river. Over the past ten years eels have become scarce, and thus they are not a major food source for stripers in the river. Don’t get me wrong they will certainly catch fish, more often in the fall when the population has increased, but the availability coupled with difficulty in fishing them (they’ll wrap, twist, burrow) make them my least favorite choice.

Sea worms:

sea worm…

Always have them on the boat. If you have your kids with you, these babies will catch rats (little stripers) all day long to keep them entertained. You’ll get a flounder or two for supper and they are the best thing to tip your bucktail jigs. Don’t leave home without them.

There are two basic rigs to fish all of the above. You’ll need a variety of egg sinkers from 3/8 – 1 oz. You will need size 2/0 thru 4/0 circle hooks depending on the size of the fish hitting. Go smaller if you’re getting picked (bait stolen), simple swivels and good fluorocarbon leader material.

Use 25lb test fluorocarbon (Belsan’s has 25-50 yard spools). Cut a two foot section of leader material; tie the hook on one end, the swivel on the other. Before tying the swivel to your line slide the egg sinker up your line so it slides freely to the swivel.  I usually rig two rods with different weight egg sinkers so I can fish varying depths. Cut a small chunk of herring, mack, or clam, big is not better, about 2 ½” inch pieces, sea worms go on whole, and cast down current allowing the weight of the sinker to determine depth.  Put the rods in your rod holders, grab a sandwich (I prefer anything from Lambert’s, awesome sandwiches) and a beer and wait. Your drag should be set so you can strip it with a slight pull of your hand and with circle hooks you’ll need to resist the urge to hook set early. The rod may bounce over a few times before the fish is on, when the rod goes into a full bend, pick it up and reel. This is the proper way to set a circle.

The second rig is simple. Simply remove the weight and rig becomes a cast and move rig. This is the best rig for eels or live tinker macks, but is great for all of the above. Without weight you’ll need to cast into slower moving water, eddies, and up into the slue ways. Let the bait settle then slowly move it back towards you pausing frequently allowing it to settle again. This technique covers lots of water and I use it frequently to locate fish while drifting with the current.

See Ya Next Week

Spit Guy, Fish Guy

Riverlines Blog II

Bringing ’em in…..

Hello again anglers. I hope you’re floating, and have had time to enjoy a little fishing this week. I was out a couple of times and boated a couple keepers upriver. During the right tides and weather conditions, bass were visible and hitting bait fish all over the place. Last week we talked about some essentials for getting started. This week let’s talk about what these stripers are hitting.

What color to use, and when?

There are three basic techniques to master that will help you get the “skunk” out of the boat every time. These are my favorites and how to fish them.

  • Neutral Bouyancy Rapalas: Otherwise known as Husky Jerks. These Rapalas don’t sink or float. They remain at whatever depth you bring them to, and that’s essential for remaining in the strike zone.  I fish several sizes from  4” to 8” and several colors. The most productive colors are Herring (silver/black), Solid White, Mackerel and Red/White.  The action is the important thing here. You’ll need to focus on the entrance to the slue-ways (the many tributaries entering the main body of the River) at the out flowing tide. Cast in front of the slue-way fishing slightly against and across the current. The Rapala needs to be ripped with a sweeping rod motion across your body, while constantly using a steady retrieve, only pausing for a second after ripping. Keep your eyes on the water as the Rapala approaches the boat, if the bass are there you’ll see them follow. If you see several follows without a hit, change things up. I usually change color, size and add a more erratic retrieve.
  • Bucktail Jigs ½ -3/4 oz.:  Only one color here, white with red/white tail and a 4” white twister tail grub.  The jig can be fished in all the same spots as the Rapala, but they allow you to fish slightly deeper with a more vertical ripping motion. There are two modifications I use here. Tipping the jig is a must, and as I mentioned , the  4” white Mister Twister Grub is my favorite, but if fish are a little spooky try tipping the jig with Uncle Bucks Striper Rind. Pick up a jar of both red and white rinds in 4” size. The other effective tip for the jig is a seaworm.  Run the jig hook right up the worms mouth let it dangle.
  • Salt Water Jug Bug: The best popper on the market period. I like all the same colors as the Rapalas, and they can be fished in any 4-8” sizes. These babies cast a mile and have a great popping action. You should always have one tied on one of your rods so it’s at the ready when the stripers start causing a commotion on the surface.  Cast as far up the slue-way as possible or to the eddys in front of the banks. Keep your rod tip high, and with a sharp motion back, pop the plug. If you are doing it correctly you’ll get a nice plume of water exploding in front of the popper. Pop and reel, pop and reel then watch for the M-80 to go off and hold on.

Next week we’ll have the great bait debate and the rigs you’ll need to “meat fish” as Donny used to call it. Tightlines

Spit Guy, Fish Guy