ntil a few years ago, for me, fishing was always an adventure that didn't happen often enough, or I used the trip as an escape into solitude. Fortunately, I am now aggressively pursuing it as a sport, and learning, or relearning things that were not important to me before. I want to know if I'm as good at this as I think I can be.
I've been fishing since I was 6 years old, often interrupted by the starts and stops in life. The one thing that has never changed is, I just love to fish! It's just getting out on or near the water that does it for me. If I had gear, any gear, I would try to fish. Now I seek knowledge to improve my success rate and increase my enjoyment. As I am now in middle age, have a great understanding wife, and the time, I am wetting more lines than I thought would ever be possible. Oh, and a definite bonus - my wife Patty likes to fish too!
I grew up summering on Barnegat Bay in Seaside Park, NJ fishing first off the public pier in the bay, and then as I became older, I started surf fishing. Back then, all my gear was hand me down saltwater tackle. About age 12, I bought my own lightweight Daiwa combo. It basically was the cheapest rod and reel I could find. It also was totally wrong for the type of fishing I did! It didn't matter, I was off and running. For years I would replace the broken or lost parts and I owned that rig into my twenties. After that, as the kids started coming, I owned just one pole at any given time. As my sons were born, I started handing down my used rigs to them. The family sold the shore house and I switched to fresh water closer to home (at least I now had the right gear!), the problem was I didn't have the time.
Between marriages 10 years ago, I started to return to the water and fishing. I lived near a trout stream. I bought another rig, a light action Shakespeare/Daiwa spinner. I started revisiting some of the fishing holes from my past. I bought some more gear as I gave more time to something I truly enjoyed. The equipment worked for the majority of the situations I was fishing. And then I met Patty! WOW! Our romance took off, and what did we start doing together? Camping, the beach, the Bahamas! We were married over a waterfall on a 60-acre lake and drank our champagne in a canoe, fishing that night! Holy carp! Now, over 6 years later, we own about a dozen different combos, from light and medium action Shakespeare/Daiwa or Shimano combos to 13' Abu Garcia/Penn surf gear.
The only tackle I don't own are boat poles. However, like I said before, if I can find a way to fish, I jump right on it. We visit my sister-in-law Diane, who lives on the Chesapeake Bay, as often as possible. Through her, I've befriended and occasionally mate for Captain Jack Jester, of The Silver Dolphin, Rock Hall, MD. So, now the dilemma becomes, from the surf or from the boat. Boy, I hate hard decisions!
I get out fishing pretty often now, in all seasons and in many different locations. I fish for a number of different species, but my preference is striped bass. This superb predator takes many years to grow to great proportions. And like all bass, they are difficult to catch. Hooking and landing a trophy size lunker, from the boat or from the shore, is never an absolute. The bonus here is that there are always a number of other types of fish running from or with the bass, so a day out will usually reward you with something. I am now trying new techniques and narrowing down where I go to fish.
One thing to always remember is, you don't catch fish if you don't put in the time. My boys, and to a certain extent my wife, don't understand this simple rule. My largest trophy sized striped bass (44" x 26 lbs.) was just landed in May 2003. Patty said that I was now done chasing the big ones, right? After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I explained to her that there was a 45"er waiting out there for me. Needless to say, she just rolled her eyes and wished me luck.
To me the surf is my favorite environment and the ultimate fishing challenge. Getting out on the beach at any time of year always requires planning. Anything you might need should be taken on each trip, so a 4X4, if the beach allows it, is the way to go. Don't get me wrong, walking on is OK too, it just might mean a couple of trips from the truck to the water. When I go to the beach, I plan on spending the whole day fishing. I could, and usually do, see multiple tide changes and it could be light or dark at any time throughout the trip. The big difference here is, walk ons have to wait for the fish to come to them while 4X4 anglers get to try many locations and can chase a blitz down the beach, if they're lucky enough to see one. I have witnessed blitzes, and been lucky enough to fish a few of them. This type of fishing has been the most exhilarating fishing experience I have ever had from landside.
Rules and rates for beach passes, for people and vehicles, vary by town. Also, each state has different size and creel limits, so it is very important you have this information. You also must have certain gear so as not to bog down in the sand. At the very minimum, you need a shovel, towrope or chains, a couple of 6"x 2" x 36" pieces of lumber and either a small compressor or access to air for your tires at the point of beach access. My truck holds a few 40-gallon waterproof, locking containers. They carry all my tackle and buckets (except poles), and other supplies like coolers, lanterns, folding chairs and sundries. I also carry a first aid kit and small fire extinguisher. I don't take these containers to the tide line, but I do keep them stocked and they are easy to load and unload.
I am primarily a bait fisherman, however I do carry an arsenal of artificials as well. My constant fishing partner, Tom Lamont, typically uses more lures than I do, so between us we usually have a wide selection of temptations with us on a trip. Again, being prepared is crucial. The first thing we do when we arrive on the beach is cast out the big 13' poles with whatever bait seems to be the current favorite at the time, on the appropriate tackle.
We always have an assortment of purchased and hand made high/low rigs with us. Prior to the trip, we have talked with the bait shops and been online to try to zero in on what we will be using on this particular trip.
We will have already pre-rigged the 7' medium Shakespeare BWS700 poles, and if we are taking light Daiwa tackle, which pretty much accompanies us everywhere, that has been pre-rigged as well. Our preference is to use test line just below the recommended maximums for the individual combos.
I will usually have some combination, and possibly all of the following baits in one cooler for the big sticks; herring, bunker, mullet, soft or peeler crab and fresh or salted clams. I always have clams in my cooler on the beach as they always produce. Both Tommy and I also like to catch minnows locally, if we arrive early enough, and we both carry battery operated aerators. If the live or cut bait doesn't produce, we will skin or fillet some of the baitfish for the jigs and spoons if we need to try something different.
Since I have been getting back into the surf, more poppers and plugs have been added to my saltwater tackle bag. I've been using Yo-Zuri's Crystal Minnows and Mag Darters. Tommy has been partial to Spro's Prime Minnows and Bomber's Long-A lures. Both of us have been stocking the darker colors like blue, purple and black. We have a number of different belly colors but silver and white seem to be prevalent. The holographic finishes on the sides are really the way to go. We have also been using peanut bunker imitations such as the Clatter Shad and Gag's Grabber's Mr. Bunker. The finishes on these lures are very realistic and the Rat L Trap type of design attracts a lot of attention.
From talking to and observing other anglers on the beach, it appears that we are on the right track. The one constant among anglers, Tommy and I included, is the spoons and jigs everyone seems to have in their bags. The sizes of the spoons and the color combinations of the jigs are too numerous to list here, however both of these types of rigs are tried and true linesider producers. If nothing else, we are prepared, and confident that we will be nailing fish.
Tommy and I entered the 12th Annual NJ Governor's Cup Surf Fishing Tournament on October 5th, 2003. While neither of us made the board, it was still worthwhile. About a thousand anglers were in Island Beach State Park in central New Jersey that morning. Hurricane Isabel had just blown through the previous day and fishing was difficult at best. The surf was calmer than you might expect and cleaning up quickly. The wind however was still up, but was at our backs. Nobody caught a bigger striper than Travis Laureigh, an 11-year-old boy who pulled the 35 ½" winner out on a Black Bomber plug, ten minutes after the 6:30 AM start. During most of the day, live and cut bait were the preferred techniques up and down the beach due to the conditions. A number of anglers continued trying plugs, teasers, spinners and spoons throughout the day, but with little success. Blackfish, fluke, bluefish, weakfish, kingfish, albacore and red drum rounded out the divisions.
The nice thing about family tournaments like the Governor's Cup is the people you meet like Ken Harrison and Camille Seefelt. Ken was a volunteer beach judge who stopped by all day and kept us abreast of what was happening along the beach. Camille was in the tournament with her father Ken and her brother Harrison. It was her first tournament and she landed a 32" striper! By the look on her face I could tell she is now hooked like I had been 40 years ago. This friendly meet and greet is just one more reason to spend time in the surf.
Later in November, still waiting for the fall run to start, I find myself on the beach again in Seaside Heights and Lavallette, NJ. Bluefish are crashing the beach at all hours and keeping the stripers offshore. Every now and then a striper is hooked inshore cleaning up after the blues. It is enough to keep my buddy Don and I there from Saturday afternoon until late Sunday.
We are spiked on the beach or on the bar using high/low clam rigs with a bucktail teaser tipped with clam on top. The bite is difficult to figure out due to the constant bluefish blitzes, which of course we throw spoons at every time. The lone stripers cruising in are coming at both high and low tides, so we are moving out on the sandbars with the tide. We are using yellow Bombers on the Shakespeare BWS700/Shimano 400S combos. My adrenaline spiked when I'm unhooking a slot from the Bomber and my Daiwa 7000C drag starts screaming. I fought that monster for 10 minutes only to have the hook spit out as soon as he hit the sand on the back of the bar. We landed and released two dozen fish, and an untold number of drop offs during this two day trip.
As I am writing this article, the fall run has not yet started in earnest. The weather is still manageable and everyone is awaiting the southern migration of this spectacular species. My sons, Tommy, and I are planning some more trips and are getting restless. I hope to have some stories for you from these trips and will be sharing our catches from The Silver Dolphin with you soon. Until then, you won't catch fish if you're not here. I look forward to meeting you on the beach.
Copyright © 2003 - 2013 Monty Campuzano