Editor’s Log: The Silence Of The Gulls - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: The Silence Of The Gulls

The wind lays down just as the sun kisses the horizon, and the cackle of laughing gulls fills the neighborhood with a symphony of squawk.  At 7 p.m. sharp I head to the local dock with the other local wharf rats and find red cinderworms flitting and darting near the surface in the orange glow of the sunset.  Within a half-hour, the telltale “slurps” and surface rolls begin – sometimes perch, mostly stripers – as predators push into the shallows to pile on these spawning critters.

Over the years I’ve been frustrated by this bite so many times, throwing everything in my bag without a take.  It’s maddening when fish are rolling at your feet, or when you hear those boulder splashes in the dark, and yet every cast goes untouched.  A few years ago my neighbor Bob showed me his trick using a standard red/white bobber, a short length of leader with baitholder hook and a small, cut piece of worm by Creme Lures.  The bobber allows short casts and keeps the half- to 1-inch piece of rubber worm high in the water column; I’ve since taken to through-wiring a standard wine cork with a barrel at each end.

With tens of thousands of worms undulating near the surface, having my bait stand out against the rest is a challenge; but getting a taker amidst the loud chortle of the birds in the orange sky may be the best adrenaline rush in striper fishing, despite their often diminutive size.  While my local creek turns on mostly around the April full moon, other estuaries may see different cinderworm events like this throughout the spring and summer moons.  Should you stumble into one I highly recommend the “popping cork” presentation (or the fly rod and floating line); vary your retrieve, from slow and steady to a slight pop; or let the wind carry your floated offering and impart the occasional twitch.

This season marks 34 years since I caught my first targeted striper at the Jersey Shore on a live eel, having been taught how by Pat Hoagland from Bruce & Pat’s in Surf City (now Surf City Bait & Tackle).  That was the fish that launched an obsession, as I soon to turned to clams, then plugs, dragging spoons behind boats, bouncing bucktails along jetties, and drifting all matter of baits and lures in hopes of a score.  The one constant in all of these years of chasing stripers is that I’ve never gotten bored; every striper, of every size, is still a blessing to this day.  I guess because I grew up in the 70s and 80s during the lean years, I giggle and squawk like a laughing gull with every striped bass I catch now because it wasn’t the same back then, when I was a kid.

There’s so much we don’t know about striped bass, and like learning a new hack or getting a strike on a new lure, there’s an excitement in the striper education.  This Thursday, several hundred registered anglers will fish the Raritan Bay for StriperQuest ’24, a collaboration with the folks from Gray Fishtag Research through our Northeast Striped Bass Study.  Several boats will deploy high-tech satellite tags to monitor the travels of striped bass over several months, though most participants – roughly 30 boats at last check – will compete in the largest single day of striped bass tagging anywhere.  Our goal is to generate more striper data in hopes that perhaps it can be utilized by folks (biologists, researchers and fisheries managers) who are always looking to learn more about this amazing fishery.

Our next full moon comes May 23; if you see me at StriperQuest and I’ve got a glazed, lunatic stare, I’m probably just listening for the cackle of the gulls heading into the next moon.

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