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NY, NJ, CT, RI Edition
June 03, 2009
Volume 20 � Number 6

COVER PAGE    CONTENTS    DEPARTMENTS    SURF SIDE

Surf Side
by John Skinner

If you ask surfcasters what the best time of the year is for catching fish from the beach, many would answer "The fall."They'd be right in some respects. Fall is the time of the year that gamefish and baitfish are schooling up to migrate, and when they meet up, the results can be explosive.

In terms of being able to put large numbers of fish on the beach, regardless of size, the fall is the best in most areas. But if it's bass over 30 pounds that you're interested in, I'd take the month of June over the entire fall season. As with the fall, June sees big stripers in the summer in our northern waters passing through our area. There are some differences between the two migration periods that I think gives the edge to this time of the year for big bass hunting. One of the reasons I find it easier to catch 30- to 40-pound plus bass in June is that the darkness window is very short.

Quality fishing opportunities exist in overlapping windows such as the right tide on the right wind at the right time of year. Most big bass are caught in the dark. In June, it's not absolutely dark until almost 10 p.m. If you show up on the beach at 4 a.m. to catch first light, you're too late. You can see the first hints of daylight at around 3:45 a.m. This leaves less than 6 hours of darkness to work on. There are more than 10 hours of darkness in October. It's pretty simple. If a fish wants to do most of its feeding in the dark, it has less than 25% of the day to do it in this time of year.

If an angler targeting big bass focuses on the dark hours, which is an excellent strategy, he only has to think about that same 6 hours. Think about the difference between the spring and fall migrations. It's always amazed me that roughly the same number of fish pass by at both times, but the activity level is very different. The fall sees all out feeding frenzy blitzes, but these scenes are rare in the spring, as the fish arrive quietly.

There have been many times in October or November where, out of frustration, I've said, "I hate the fall". The frustration comes from a lack of consistency, and my inability to nail the fish down to a dependable system. The fish are chasing bait schools, and everything is all over the place. Hit the fish one night, and a school of bunker migrates by and sucks all of the fish away with it. Yes, with stable weather, nice runs do set up where you can bang away at fish for several consecutive nights - but how stable is the weather in October?

That brings us to the weather issue.

The weather is notoriously unstable in the fall. It's not uncommon for a big blow to come by and wreck the conditions for a week, forcing you to start all over when the water finally settles. By contrast, June's weather is relatively stable. The wind often blows at a light to moderate speed out of a southerly quarter, and when it does change, it's usually not very drastic or long-lived. If you can get on a good bite during a particular tide window, it's often the case that you can fish it productively every night until the tide window slips past 4 a.m. and into the daylight. So June has a shorter dark window, more stable weather, and fish that are a little less erratic when compared to the fall.

These factors definitely help tilt the odds a little more in our favor, but it's still a tall order to land a 40-pound plus bass from the surf these days. The only way to make it happen is to put your time in near areas that have a history of producing quality bass. Here are a few starting points.The South Shore inlets and nearby beaches are a good place to focus on this time of year. Bucktails and large swim shads, especially those made by Tsunami, will likely account for a few trophies in the inlets this month.

Eel casting the inlets on the slack tide periods also has the potential of producing a big bass this time of year, and at any time bass are in our waters. If you decide to fish these areas, you probably won't be alone. Please be respectful of others and fish as the others are fishing. Don't bottom fish in an inlet where people are likely to be bucktailing. Don't shine your headlights across an inlet.

This blinds those on the opposite side and is a hazard for any boats caught in your beams. Bunker chunks have the ability to produce trophy bass anywhere along our ocean beaches, and fresh bait is often easy to come by this time of year. In many creeks and back bay areas this spring, a snag hook is all you'll need to get your own quality bait. Just remember to keep it cold, and don't let it come in contact with fresh water because it will remove the fish attracting slime coat.

Montauk always has the potential to produce quality bass during the season, and June is a good month to work the night tides there. If you get a rare northeasterly blow in the early part of the month, bucktailing the whitewater in the daylight hours is also worth a shot.

The last few years have seen a good opportunity for larger bass on the Montauk sand beaches in early summer. When these bites occur, it's usually in a relatively short time window around sunrise and sunset. Big tins, such as 3- and 4-ounce Kastmasters and large pencil poppers have accounted for these fish. A word of caution. The most dangerous part of surfcasting is driving to and from the places you fish. Deer and drunk drivers probably injure more surfcasters than all fishing accidents put together. It's hard to protect yourself from the oncoming drunk who drifts into your lane, but it definitely pays to slow down in areas that are loaded with deer. Like stripers, these creatures are at peak activity between dusk and dawn. Even if you don't see deer, the danger can still exist. I've hit two and have seen two hit by a vehicle in front of me. In every case they bolted out of the darkness in full stride and there was no missing them. Don't drive when you're very tired.

If you're on a good night bite and insist on fishing it a few nights in a row, find time somehow to get enough sleep to stay alert on the road. Good luck with my favorite month. I hope to see a healthy number of impressive fish in the reports over the next couple of weeks.


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