Never tie yourself down to one location as the coast is dotted with hot spots.
If they are familiar with a lot of spots, surfcasting sharpies get around and catch more stripers and blues. However, you have to know a lot of places to keep your options open and have intimacy with the issues in each spot you plan to visit. Angling locations are all different so that “Funny Hallow”, in spite of being close to the “Guzzles”, usually, but not necessarily, has different timing which provides various opportunities.
Places have timing secrets that relate to tide, beach traffic, available light, even angler interest. Who wants to spend Friday night with a mob shuffling through a rotation when a wise angler could easily anticipate such crowded conditions? For example, what the tide is doing can be a major factor in a hot spot’s timing. Years ago we used to fish a bridge at night when there was zero chance of catching a fish there in the day, but if it was night and the tide was dropping we cleaned up. Moonlight also ruined our chance of seeing a fish in the bridge shadows. Good as it was, the place was conditions-dependent.
Most of our crowd wanted to fish all night, every night they could, so they all had other options. After a while spot choice was routine for all of us, necessarily the same for each caster.
Our New England coast is replete with estuarine marshes, outflows, bays and beaches which all provide great fishing for those who know the timing. Admittedly, some striper hot spots are not totally conditions-dependent which makes them kind of hit or miss. Nevertheless, most choices have a secret timing that is closely related to conditions. You have to get around to try these spots because normally the place where you last cleaned up changes because of some silly little detail that either you didn’t know about in the first place or failed to remember in your planning.
Not only do sharpies know enough to move when fishing stinks, but they have a list of choices in their memory. Keep in mind that the more experience a surfcaster has the more likely he/she is likely to find feeding gamefish. What we have always done is fish the most likely locations for which we have the most information; experience gives you that and if you have a lousy memory like I sometimes do, keep a log and write down the secrets you would kill your pal for divulging. Over time you won’t have to refer to the log because important stuff, commonly born out of a few good nights of fishing, sticks to you.
Surfcasters who know the ropes usually unconsciously run the list of options through their mind once they begin to sense the skunk. You leave the place where you started and go to Plan B. With the passage of time, heading for the new spot and working it, the tide has changed and with that the stinky spot you earlier had faith in can transition. We never usually know why a place gets good after having been bad, but conditions—especially in saltwater fishing because of tide—evolutions transpire.
For instance, in outflows, which tend to draw gamefish anyway, fish will gather way the heck out beyond the current you and the gang are fishing. That said, as the tide slows, these same fish that you could not reach earlier have moved up in the outflow so that they are now in range. Usually, we think the stripers have just arrived but the repositioning places them where the gang is fishing and that touches off good fishing, Lousy spots suddenly get good.
Such changes in conditions which happen four times per day, twice per night, are as predictable as the tide itself. The regulars in the rotation, if they have had a few beers, will miss that. We coffee drinkers were expecting it.
Another shift in the musical chairs of surfcasting comes off at slack tide. Gamefish shift positions in response to their lost opportunities the current formally provided. Now, instead of holding in the current that they have been tending for four hours or more, they are moving. Such movements provide anglers with a new situation.
Years ago at Chatham Inlet on the Cape, there was a mob of surfcasters who were not catching anything. As a result, they had fallen to nodding and smoking in their buggies. Fishing really stunk. Because of our intimacy with this inlet, I knew a slack tide was impending that would shift whatever—and it was not much—was out there possibly raising our chances. Sitting in our buggy, I reminded my wife, Joyce, that with water slowing bass would move. It was really all we had. She did a ho-hum stroll out to the surf-line, walking slowly and cautious not to arouse any interest from others who might have been watching her. Remember, watching is something they all did. With fifty guys not catching a thing and no longer fishing, doesn’t she hook up on that one cast that hammered her rigged eel. Both of us would have been happy with a 15-pounder but this monster was the second biggest striper she had ever caught. It weighed in at 49 pounds. It had shifted positions with the change of tide.
Some time back I wrote a book called Striper Hot Spots which was not very literary but turned out to be widely popular because the text taught readers where they could surf cast. Guys who fish the beach are not always students of literature; they just want the meat and potatoes of surfcasting: locations.
Subsequently, and I hope I’m not taking too long with this, while getting around the Northeast show circuit I got to talk with a lot of readers, some telling me how they felt about my kind-of-true books. I also had a lot of responses over the hot spots book. Repeatedly, I was told that when they saw the book in the library they looked up their favorite place to see if it was listed. Two things showed up repeatedly: the page treatments of popular local spots were torn out and missing to prevent them from being widely known; secondly, some said they wanted to remove their spot from the book and others wanted to own a new spot without buying the book. Guess there is a compliment in there somewhere.