Vol 37 | Num 10 | Jul 4, 2012
Article by Sue Foster
“I’m not catching anything in the surf!”
It’s summertime and it’s time to scale down. Put away the 12-foot heaver and the 10/0 hooks. Unless you want to catch big sharks, it’s time to use Kingfish Rigs made with size #6 or #8 hooks and bait up with little strips of cut bait and worms.
“What can we expect to catch?”
Kingfish, Norfolk spot, sea trout, snapper blues and croaker are the fare in the summer surf! Occasionally, surf anglers will also pick up a flounder along with the usual dog shark, skate or ray. What I do this time of year is start with a Kingfish Rig baited with a piece of real bloodworm or Artificial FishBite Bloodworm. Then I add a tiny strip of box squid or any kind of fresh or frozen cut bait such as bunker, spot or mullet on the same hook. This may seem like a lot of trouble to bait a small size #6 or #8 hook with two kinds of bait, but if the fish are there, it will work! Adding the strip of cut bait to the worm bait will give you a larger size pan fish and also give you the chance to catch bluefish, flounder or trout if they are there. Just bloodworm bait will most likely catch you spot or kingfish. More variety will be available for you if you add the cut bait. (Cut bait alone may reduce your chances of catching the spot or kingfish!). Remember, two baits on a hook are better than one!
Once you catch a spot or small legal bluefish you have some good fresh bait that you can strip up for cut bait. If you start catching larger fish like snapper blues and flounder, you can scale up and go to a small bluefish rig (size #4 hooks), flounder rig or whole finger mullet rig and fish for blues and flounder. But remember, just because you catch a couple of 11-inch bluefish doesn’t mean you have to switch to a 5/0 hook and wire leaders. In the summertime, these blues might not get much bigger and small snapper blues are easily caught on a kingfish rig!
This being said, one of the most important things you can take to the beach is a sharp knife to cut small strips of fresh bait. Even one of those inexpensive bait knives will work fine as long as it is sharp. I keep one of those five dollar ceramic knife sharpeners in my tackle bucket and give it a couple swipes to sharpen the edge up before filleting up some strip baits. If you are using frozen bait like finger mullet or bunker, it actually strips up easier when it is partially frozen! (Carry a little cutting board or block of wood.)
“Do Fishbite Bloodworm baits work as well as the real thing?”
I like a real worm, but I also like the Fishbites. Fishbite bloodworms actually last on the hook longer and aren’t bad as long as you change the bait once they start to fade out on the hook. The secret red material will actually melt off the white mesh after a while and won’t secrete the scent as well once it’s been on the hook for a while. I always carry a small pair of sharp scissors to cut the old stuff away and put on a new strip. Add a strip of cut bait to the Fishbites and you have an excellent bait. If you use squid with your Fishbites or bloodworm, use box squid over the cut and marinated stuff. It’s real California squid and has a better flavor in my opinion. Save the cut and marinated squid for flounder or shark fishing.
“Should I cast out as far as I can?”
Spot, croaker, and kingfish are usually just beyond the crest of the waves. You can actually overcast for these pan fish. What I do is cast out as far as I can and THEN, very slowly bump my rig back in towards the shore. That way, I can find out where they are biting. I also think pan fish like a slightly moving target. Also, when your rig is slightly moving, your bait is less likely to be stripped off by crabs in the surf.
Even though you are slowly retrieving your bait, you still want to use a pyramid or hurricane type sinker so it doesn’t roll in too fast. A round sinker in the surf may go up or down the beach and wash in too fast. The only time you can get away with a bank sinker is if the current is very still and the surf is very calm and that doesn’t happen very often!!!!
Look for a beach with a little definition. A little rip current or trough close to shore attracts kingfish and spot. Rock jetties also attract fish. If you see sand crabs digging into the wet sand that’s usually a good place to fish. Remember, white crashing water is shallow. Dark rolling water is deeper. You want to cast into the dark rolling water, but if there is an outer bar, cast on the bar and let your rig fall off the bar and drop into the deeper water. A good way to read a beach is to get up on a second or higher floor and look down on the beach, or you can drive to the end of streets and look at the beach at low tide. Anglers are allowed to fish in Ocean City before 10 A.M. and after 5:30 P.M. These are good times of the day to fish because fish tend to feed when the sun is not high overhead. Sun hurts their eyes some old timers say! And don’t be afraid to fish after dark. If you do, don’t worry so much about using worms and go with some fresh or frozen cut bait. Croaker especially like to bite after dark. Spot generally don’t bite at night. And whether you want them or not, you’ll probably see Mr. Shark.
Sue Foster is an outdoor writer and owner of Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City, MD and Fenwick Tackle in Fenwick, DE.