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Changes in environmental factors can help turn on the striper bite!
By Dave Anderson
Tags: surf

Timing is everything, or so they say and that very general statement is something that applies strongly to fishing. And while nailing the timing on a triple lutz might be something that every person reading this knows damn well that they’d die trying to master, hitting the timing in the salt does not require the ability to withstand a short jaunt into the washing machine on spin. It does, however, require skill and determination.

There are many things that we have to learn to time, whether it’s hitting the perfect hour of tide at the breachway or pulling the back door shut in time with the air conditioner’s thermostat going off (so as not to wake the wife) it takes some practice to get this stuff down! In fishing the most important skills are those that make the most of the time you can spend on the water.

Changes in environmental conditions are key moments during any day or night in the surf, they are the little triggers that can turn the bite on or cause a big slug of fish to move in closer to shore. Whatever the case may be, the first step in decoding this puzzle is to latch onto all of the predictable changes that you can.

The easy ones are tide and moon. With the exception of when strong winds augment tide timings or when thick storm clouds obscure the moon, these changes are as easy as searching Google to find out when they are expected to occur. The moon rise and set times are major moments during nighttime surf trips. I think everyone who fishes knows that first light is a magical time; this is because it represents a change in light. Bass of all sizes and especially those of the larger variety tend to vacate the shallows when the sun comes up and therefore will up their feeding efforts when the sun starts to light the sky. Consider moon rise and set as secondary versions of the sunrise. I think these changes in light conditions present something of a conundrum to the bass, they can see better and therefore hunt more efficiently, but it also leaves them with nothing to hide them from the eyes of danger.

I can remember quite a few nights when the moon made the difference. And while it may seem obvious to most that the setting of the moon would have the most positive effect, and yes I have had many great nights that turned on right after the red moon dipped below the horizon, don’t count the rise of the moon out either.

It was quite a few years ago now when I was into a consistent hit of bass in the mouth of a small inlet and I had them to myself, along with a friend or two. The hit started on a night when the moon rose above the trees around 10 p.m. and the tide was dropping. As the nights went on I would notice a lot of short “bump” strikes in the beginning of the tide while it was still full dark. When the moon came up we would begin to catch like crazy. To take it a step further, whoever was using a plug with silverish sides would get even more hits. We surmised that the flash created by the silver and the moon was the ticket. And yes, we all started using silver plugs. That was one of those magical weeks that we will always remember, but that little bit of moonlight made all of the difference.

The tide changes have been beaten to death by many other writers so I’m not going to go into deep detail on this. But I will say that if you’ve been catching and the bite dies with the tide, give it an hour or more to come back up to speed, I can remember more than a few nights when we continued to catch on the “wrong tide.” The point here is that if the fish are thick in an area, they are probably on bait and the current change may just reposition them a little, so give it time and move around a bit.

I know, I know; meteorologists and baseball players have the best jobs in the world; they get paid well and they only have to perform 30 percent of the time to be considered a top employee. What gives? As unreliable as the weathermen can be, they do a heck of lot better job than I can at predicting line-storm arrivals and wind changes. Those are the only things that I’m really concerned with when I’m fishing anyway. I don’t care about rain, well maybe thunderstorms and tornados, but the fish are already wet—who cares if I’m miserable?

Pressure changes are some of the most heavily-disputed changes that an angler can choose to follow or ignore. In my experience, minor fronts have almost no affect on the fishing. But if there is a major storm approaching or even a day of unstable atmosphere predicted (think severe thunderstorms) I have noticed changes for the better. They say if you see deer feeding during daylight than you can expect changes for the worse in the weather in the next 48 hours. I’m not suggesting you go out into the surf before a thunderstorm, but I am suggesting you anticipate this change and fish hard in the hours before the front slides through the area.

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