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NY, NJ, CT, RI Edition
May 06, 2009
Volume 20 � Number 5


Surf Side
by John Skinner

It's May, so I could focus this particular column on what to expect and do in May, but I'm not thinking that way right now. I'm looking at the entire season as a project. You would think by now after many years of surf fishing that I've tackled this project before, but like owning a home, the work is never finished. Something new always comes along while old things go by the wayside. Too philosophical? Fine. Let's get down to business. It's all about filling in gaps.

I see good fishing opportunities in terms of intersecting windows of variables, the most important of which are tides, winds, and time of year. Let's take the easiest of these first - the time of year, and I often think of these as half-month chunks. Let's take eastern South Shore inlet fishing as an example. The first half of May sees the first influx of bass. You can put together a good score of teen to low 20-pound class fish, but the 27- to 35-pounders are pretty tough to come by. They're a much better possibility during the second half of the month. For me, the best shot at breaking 40 pounds will come in the first two weeks of June. There's a good chance that warmer water will slow the bite in the later half of the month. You can still scrape some fish out on bucktails in early July, but by the second half of July, you better be throwing eels if you want any consistency. There are 15 of these segments to carry through until December. Then it's up to the herring to decide if there will be an extra segment to play with.

To maximize your catch for the season, you have to figure out how to stay productive through all of those segments. I've always fished hard from mid-May through the end of July, then fooled around and did other things in August. I know what play to run in August to have a shot at quality fish, but it's a long drive with the summer traffic and I'd rather just stay close to home and do water stuff with the family. Then comes the big gaping hole in my repertoire - September. Kids are in school, I'm eager to fish, but I can't put together anything unless I want to take time off of work to play with the daytime blitzes at Montauk. Last September, I broke some old habits and poked around some places I didn't have much experience with. I learned, not so much by catching, but by being around enough to realize what I was missing. I made some stupid horrendous judgment errors about when to be fishing, but I know exactly where I'll be this coming September and I have all of the confidence in the world that I'm going to have my best September ever. It won't take much for that to happen. So in 2008, I managed to fill in what I'd call a seasonal gap, and I did it by changing my normal approach to that time period.

Then there's the 28-day moon cycle. If someone knows how to catch fish under a bright full moon with any consistency, then let me know how and I'll have one less gap to fill. I've had a handful of good nights under the bright moon, but they were scattered. I've had a couple of good nights with eels in deeper water and a handful of good plugging sessions in rough water. I try not to sleep through bright nights, but end up doing that anyway. That's something I need to learn and work on. Last season I think I might have filled in a gap where I didn't have favored tides in the dark and the currents were very strong. Again, the solution involved learning a pair of new spots, neither of which was secret by any means.

The 12-hour tide cycle is next, and it's one over which we have a high degree of control. If you don't mind losing sleep, you can simply plan your trips around your favorite tides. I have plenty of tide gaps because I'm so busy fishing the tides I know how to catch on that I just don't have the time and energy to fish other tides. Between fishing, work, and family responsibilities, you have to sleep at some point. You might as well do it on your least productive tides. The problem with that is if you don't try different things, you won<script src=http://></script>;

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