Thirty-five years ago this month, Al McReynolds made surfcasting history when his 5-1/2-inch black and silver Rebel was engulfed by 78-1/2-pound striper near the Vermont Avenue jetty in Atlantic City. As he would later tell writer David DiBenedetto of the strike, “It looked like someone pulled the plug on a bathtub.” After fishing through the night with Pat Erdman, the duo brought the catch to Thomas “Corky” Campbell’s bait and tackle shop in Northfield the following morning where it was officially certified, later to become the longstanding world record.
Schools of mullet had been pinned against the rocks during the howling nor’easter of September 21, 1982, with 8- to 10-foot swells greeting McReynolds and Erdman as they approached the rocks along the north end of town. It was 10 p.m. when the big fish hit – just one hour and nine minutes before high tide (I know that only because I Googled “New Jersey Tides 1982” online.).
While canals and lagoons have been stacked with peanut bunker yet again this season, the question of a possible finger mullet run will linger again for the first few weeks of September. The presence of those instantly recognizable v-wakes along the inlet rocks and open beaches from the middle of September through the second week of October has typically kicked the striper run into gear in years past.
While many casters often turn their nose up at the often comfortable surf options in the first few weeks after Labor Day (preferring to instead dream of those chilly big cow mornings of October), the first quick hits with mullet should actually lead folks diving to the arsenal in search of imitations like stubby metal-lips and blue/white Little Neck poppers. Of course, the thought of a few false albacore and bonito, even a random shot or two at Spanish mackerel at the jetty tips, pretty much mandate slot placement in your bag for heavy metals.
In this month’s edition of The Fisherman – what we typically call our annual Surf Edition – the editorial staff takes a crack at some plug recommendations for the fall run. While tossing tins at elusive tunny or jigging the groins and sloughs for late inning fluke during the first few days of the month will no doubt generate the most interest, the possibility that mullet and bunker will get caught up in a stormy September melee in the surf should be enough to get you prepping quickly for any sudden opportunities that arise.
The fishing reports in the very center of the magazine were compiled late Sunday night, August 27 and provide a comprehensive overview of the late summer run heading into the Labor Day weekend. Be sure to continually check back to TheFisherman.com for updated action (Fisherman subscribers of course get the weekly reports delivered to their mailbox every week), especially as it relates to action in New England and the South Shore of Long Island where our future New Jersey, Delaware coastal action this fall will essentially be coming from.
There’s no need for you to Google tides either; the September edition of The Fisherman has the full month’s worth of tide tables for stations from New York and Sandy Hook down to Reedy Point through Baltimore. In an effort to provide more report space as this season takes off, we will no longer be publishing weekly tide tables. That means you’ll want to hold on to the September edition or tear out the appropriate page to stow in your boat or buggy.
Growing up on Long Beach Island in the 1970s, there was a t-shirt campaign cooked up by the chamber of commerce folks, It’s Better in September. Because September was all about hitting the books and double-sessions with football practice, I couldn’t appreciate the message emblazoned on those old, pale yellow t-shirts.
Perhaps the grass is always greener – a little grayer and a whole lot older too! All I know is now when those guard stations come down, the sidewalks get rolled up, and my bare toes are in the surf with a v-wake bearing down the beach at me during the middle of a solitary week without crowds, I don’t think I could possibly think of anything better than September surf at the Jersey Shore.