Editor’s Log: Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

As this January edition of The Fisherman was due to be wrapped up and sent to our production department, I was having serious trouble negotiating work deadlines and another amazing fall striper run.  Sometime in mid-November, a morning sand eel bite began to materialize along some of my favorite stretches of beach as bunker were still being harassed the rest of the day throughout the Ocean and Monmouth County surf.

I know, anglers in Atlantic and Cape May counties all the way down into Delaware could probably do without my whining.  I’m still of the belief that warmer waters and the sheer volume of bait flowing out of the Raritan Bay on every fall tide is what’s keeping those bass virtually penned up above LBI; the old adage, “don’t leave fish to find fish” applies to fish and fisherman alike. Twenty years ago big stripers hugged the South Jersey coast and rooted around Delaware Bay in search of food, but now I think the acres of bunker out near the 3-mile-line have kept those bass well-fed as they begin migrating due south and around New Jersey’s inward “bend” in coastal geography that starts below Barnegat Inlet.

A couple of friends from the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) were in town for a tackle dealer show in Atlantic City the week after Thanksgiving, Glenn Hughes, the national tackle association’s president, along with Mike Waine, ASA’s Atlantic Fisheries Director. A group of us hijacked Mike and Glenn for a few hours on Tuesday before the event, running the beaches from Brick to Island Beach to offer up a taste of the epic conditions experienced during the height of our fishery (find the full video on our YouTube channel or at TheFisherman.com).

After wrapping up midweek meetings Mike and I sneaked out again that Friday morning before his flight out of Newark, walking up on a favorite little stretch of mine, where it just so happened that peanut bunker littered the surf line at dawn on a dropping tide.  We had clearly just missed a blitz, and after taking a couple of casts we got called in on another bite to our south.  Regrettably, we were a day late and a dollar short for that one as well, and before long it was time for Mike to get to the airport.  That Saturday forecast called for rain, fog and westerly winds, ideal striper conditions, so I hit the rack early on Friday night in hopes of being at the crime scene again before dawn.

In the gray, foggy light, I could see another fresh line of dead peanuts in the sand, and my second cast – a white Tsunami swim shad – stuck its mark in the corner of a slot striper’s mouth.  So too did the fourth cast, and then every single cast I made thereafter for a solid 20 minutes.  I could see a line of truck lights down the beach across the invisible line from my buggy forbidden zone, and knew full well that the race would be on wherever 4WD vehicles were permitted.  But there I stood, virtually all alone.

As it grew lighter, the mini-mayhem subsided, and I put on a Nick Luna metal-lip and continued picking away at fish for another hour.  A humpback breached in front of me just beyond the break, as a red fox trotted along the beach 20 feet behind me, picking at bait that was chased ashore by stripers rolling in the early morning surf. Strangely, or miraculously, there was no one within 50 yards of me, and I’d only wished Mike had stayed around one more day to witness this spectacle.

Of all those “should’ve been here yesterday” moments in a fishing life, I had to laugh at the thought; “If I could’ve only told Mike yesterday, you shoulda been here tomorrow.”

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