Surf: Times Of Transition - The Fisherman

Surf: Times Of Transition

Those first few rainy, blustery cold fronts will often send backwater baitfish running for the ocean.

Allow natural cues to guide you when deciding when and where your fall run fishing should begin.

It’s mid-August and most surfcasters aren’t thinking about transition.  Late-summer feels like midsummer most of the time and it’s easy to assume that the fishing will be more or less the same now as it was a month ago. But this is just not true, things are already changing; long before you close the pool or take the kids to the water park for the last time.

For starters, the days have been getting shorter since June 22, losing about 2 minutes per day, so we’re looking at almost 2 fewer hours of daylight now compared to the longest day of the year in June. That’s a significant change; it means longer nights and less solar heating. Many experts believe that photo period (length of day) is a trigger for fish migrations, and if that’s true, a sense of urgency may fall over the fish as the days grow shorter.

We often see those first northwest and northeast weather patterns emerging during the latter half of August as well; I believe these are more of a signal to the angler than the fish, although, I have seen some evidence to suggest that those first chilly nights with those ‘fall like’ winds tend to get baitfish stirring in the backwaters and the first movements of peanut bunker often follow these weather changes. And I would say the same thing about mullet, I’d just say it happens a little later in the fall, but a rainy northeasterly front, followed by a clearing northwest often puts the mullet on the move.

Another pattern you can hang your hat on at this time of year is the exodus of herring fry. Anywhere you have a good run of river herring, those fry are going to start coming out in the late-summer, in some cases they may begin pouring seaward in late-July. The trigger for this migration is often heavy rain and it’s even more likely if this rain coincides with a moon tide. As the runoff collects in the pond, the overflow will exit through the run as a raging torrent. The moon tide only serves to exacerbate this fact, almost sucking those little herring fry out to the ocean. It typically takes more than a month, sometimes more than two months for the herring to empty out and gamefish of all types, from scup to stripers, from bluefish to bonito, will congregate here to take advantage.

It’s at this same time that we begin to see more exotic species showing up in our local waters, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, bonito, frigate mackerel, chub mackerel, triggerfish and occasionally jacks and cobia. With so much movement taking place at this time, it’s impossible to refute the fact that summer doesn’t mean the same thing to the fish as it does to us. The migration begins when those first young of the year baitfish exit their natal waters.

Yes, it’s true that I live up in New England and the intensity that I see in August is not going to contend with what you might see at Sandy Hook in New Jersey. I say that’s irrelevant. There are two reasons why this is the case. First, and most importantly, the migration begins earlier everywhere than most anglers realize. We’ve been trained to go by the calendar but I’m urging you to go by natural cues instead. Pay attention to bait movements, pay attention to water temps and keep your local waters honest when you see a dip in the water temp.

For more on taking advantage of the first wave of the peanut bunker run in New England, check out Dave Pickering’s story in our August edition: “Runnin’ Rhody: The Peanut Bunker Invasion.

The other reason it’s irrelevant, is if you follow our reports and supplement with social media, you can get a very round and complete picture of what’s in that migrational pipeline. This will arm you with the knowledge and information to go hard when things line up, instead of when your grandfather said the fall run usually begins. Trust me on this one, I’ve been watching this for more than 20 years and I’m giving it to you straight. Starting early will ensure that you squeeze every possible drop of enjoyment out of your fall run fishing.



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