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While quality fish may be harder to come by in the Jersey and Delaware surf this time of year, it’s hard to turn your back on the quantity available when you're willing to scale down along the striper coast.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
“One of Allan Sternberg’s hand-tied teasers and the striper that walloped it during the late fall run when feeding upon the varied 2- to 4-inch forage species during the north to south striper migration,” writes Milt Rosko in the December edition of The Fisherman for NJ/DE Bay.

The latest reports from along the Jersey Coast show that bunker schools and pods of herring are popping up from 1 to 2 miles off the beach, with a few 20-pound and up stripers still crashing on the baits.

Those trolling Maja spoons, mojos, and deep-diving plugs continue to score inside the three-mile line, and there’s no telling what kind of action could be had on the other side of that federal fence were it legal to target stripers in federal waters.

But while boaters continue to score stripers along the entire inshore stretch from the Shrewsbury Rocks south below Delaware Bay, surfcasters would do well to scale down in the wash for the rest of this season.

“From now into the New Year, the dominant baitfish along the beach are small, ranging in size from 2 to 4 or 5 inches,” writes Milt Rosko in the December issue of The Fisherman Magazine’s New Jersey, Delaware Bay edition. “The key is using lures in this size range that closely replicate the sand eels, spearing, rainfish and others, all of which are generally packed in tight schools.”

Small stripers have been numerous in the surf zone since December 1, with quantity over quality the name of the game as fish range anywhere from just over a foot length in size to sublegal 2-footers. While a keeper or two in the 28- to 32-inch range is possible, surfcasters looking to score (and we’re talking double-digit session catches to start the month of December) would do well to lighten their load in the late fall, early winter surf.

Those who prefer longer rods can go 9- to 10-foot if preferred, but lighter, Medium action rods are the most you’d really care to use. For the most part, your favorite 7- to 8-foot spinning rod will get the job done, with the lightest braid (think 20-pound braid max) you feel comfortable with.

Optimal lure selection is small and skinny, with swim shads, smaller Hopkins, AOK metals, Deadly Dicks, S&S Slim Fish, Jetty Ghost tins and AVA jigs leading the way. The Al Gag’s Whip Its are great, as are heavier Daiwa SP Minnows. But to really maximize effort in the late season surf, surfcasters who are scoring double digit school fish right now are thinking of their “primary” lures as more the delivery method, with teasers actually attracting most of the hookup attention.

“Most of the primary lures I use have treble hooks or 6/0 or 7/0 O’Shaughnessy style single hooks,” Milt writes in "4th Quarter Surf: Seasonal Stripers’ Final Drive" in the latest 2017 edition on newsstands. “The teasers are for the most part tied on size 3/0 or 4/0 hooks, which enables a striper to inhale them with ease and promptly results in a hookup.”

“Most local tackle shops located along the coast will usually have a good variety of teasers available, each of which in size and color resembles the respective forage, such as sand eels, spearing, rainfish and anchovies,” he adds.

Look for old salty flies in your collection; you’re usually apt to find pre-packaged Andrus teasers throughout the New Jersey, Delaware region given their Millville, NJ location. By using a simple dropper loop about a foot above the primary lure connection on your leader material (30- to 40-pound is suitable this time of year for smaller fish when you’re also apt to possibly get something beefier) you can attach a salty fly to your presentation.

Here's how:

Form a loop by bringing two lines together.

Use thumb, index and middle finger to twist two lines together.

Pass loop through center of twists.

Place loop in teeth and pull standing lines away from loop.

If your loop ends up being too small to slide through the eye and around your favorite teaser or fly, you can also attach a Tactical Angler clip to the loop eye to connect with your teaser. Keep an assortment of colors hand; sometimes it’s chartreuse, other times it might be black, while whites and reds in tandem are always good choices to be had.

One important consideration when looking to take advantage of this late fall and early winter surf action with micro bass; reel until your lure is to your feet. Many times these scrawny little fighters will be right there at the lip in front of you, and they’ll often come blasting from the white water in just a few inches of water to whack that lure or teaser in plain view as you crank the lure to the sand.

Tease 'em up!

Learn how to tie more of the most popular fishing knots with The Fisherman Magazine in our Resources section.

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