The fall migration is when anglers line shorelines for the year’s blitz fishing
Great schools of migrating gamefish will be coming down our shores for their annual change in location. Usually the one thing that slows them down is enhanced feeding opportunity – bait. When that happens word of impending blitz travels through the surfcasters like mad. Tackle shops hardly keep it a secret; so word of good fishing is on line, in fishing reports, and spread from friend to friend. Generally worth it, it is the kind of fishing for which most of us have waited all year.
There can be this kind of blitz fishing from mid-September on. That said, the rule of thumb is the later the better as fall temperatures dive. We have seen this kind of no-holds-barred fishing last sporadically until December albeit punctuated by line storms, hurricanes, and cold snaps that can make the fishing tough on those out there. Even worse, with night fishing providing the best opportunity, it can get mighty cold. Ordinarily, the rank order for species is different tunoid species first followed by blues then stripers. I recall one Thanksgiving weekend when we had stripers, blues, weakfish, and cod taken from one wild blitz. The end is not defined by nature; rather the finish is when anglers can’t take the cold any more.
Many fishermen also happen to be hunters who switch to the woods from about mid-October until well into winter when the migration is over. As a result, this does reduce the size of the crowds that gather on the beaches. How the word gets out seems to depend upon who knows about good fishing, how much they are willing to impart to others, as well as the reliability of gamefish storming the beaches. Some blitzes are not widely known while others draw so many anglers that parking becomes a bigger issue than catching the fish. Still other blitzes are simply fabrications.
Having been a fall blitz surfcaster for over 50 years, I have seen a lot of different transgressions that occur when many fish and fishermen come together in the striper surf. With that many blitz situations, I have witnessed a lot of adversity develop in the elbow to elbow crowds. When too many surfcasters are all crowded in tight some of them are bound to offend each other. It is only occasional, and not a regular happening, but it can and does happen. A guy leaves his place to put a fish away or change plugs from his bag and when he turns around another person has moved into his spot. If the crowd is intense enough the crowding causes loss of spots from which to fish. Big trouble. Never cast over someone’s head or from behind. It is not common, but there have been fist fights.
Another thing that sets people off is doing too well. In every blitz there are bound to be anglers – usually those who have read my books (just kidding) – who catch more than those around them. It is possible for a person to being doing badly when others are stacking or releasing a lot of fish. That can strain fragile egos; you get everything when dealing with a lot of people. The best solution is to take a moment to help out new guys who are fishing wrong. You might make a friend which is harder to catch and keep than a fish.
Use of a buggy on an open beach should be applied cautiously. Don’t drive too close, nor pass too fast. At night be conscious of headlights shining on the water where the fish are. Headlights will put a school of fish down. I know because I have done it and also been a victim of it when some SOB wanted to check out our results while passing. They are looking for drag marks on the sand or for fish under your buggy. The Cape Cod beaches are famous for that. Headlight indiscretions can lead to trouble.
The most cooperative blitz fishing I have ever experienced is working a rotation on some jetty where casters line up waiting their turn. Anglers in those rotations where each caster stays in line until his or her turn comes up should absolutely exercise cooperation, because transgressors are either killed or tortured. They can and will gang up on you if you don’t play nice. Some of us love rotations while others do it once and never come back. It is slow, very social, and the beer is cold but the actual fishing time is greatly reduced to 20 minutes in line and three minutes of actual fishing. One curse is lead-footing where you move through your cast and drift too slowly while the others are waiting. They don’t like that and will conspire against you! My friend John Ruggieri caught a 50-pounder during a rotation so it works.
Boats Kill Surfcasters
A lot of old guard surfcasters despise boat fishermen for a reason. If you fish long enough and get around enough, you are bound to someday have a boat full of anglers put down a school of gamefish storming the beach. With that boat they can go anywhere but no, they want the fish that you, having waited days or hours for reachable gamefish, finally have a shot at. They want to put the school down while they are trolling through the school because they either don’t know how to cast or the skipper has failed to provide casting gear. Not all that common, thank God, but I have seen it happen. Having started fishing at age seven, I have been exposed to a lot of stuff while fishing for almost 80 years. Still, many of my warnings spring from way more negative exposure than is average.
Night fishing for a shore fisherman is better and why it is better is another story. Nevertheless, a spin off which springs from night fishing is that there are way less people seeing what you are doing. Many believe that fish can’t see in the dark so they stay home until sunrise. The real crowd fishing we are talking here is around in the daytime. Rare as day blitzes can be, they are fun; and we have made a lot of friends giving a fish, handing over a plug, or offering advice when the other person envies your success. Even today I see surfcasters that I shared blitzes with 40 years ago. Blitzes make friends for life.