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Interview with Joe Cermele
The Complete Guide to Surfcasting

by Bob D'Amico

Qualifications for writing a fishing book:

Family former owners of a Bait and Tackle shop.
Family always owned a fishing boat.
Grew up in central NJ less than five miles from the Delaware River.
Summer home at the New Jersey shore.
College internship and contributor to New Jersey Angler Magazine.
Senior year college internship with Saltwater Sportsman Magazine.
University degree in Journalism and Multimedia.
First job, join staff of Saltwater Sportsman Magazine.
Saltwater Sportsman Magazine editor challenges “newbie” to go to Florida and successfully fish the Keys without guides on a budget of $150 per day.
Field & Stream Magazine notes the Florida Keys adventure and sends you to Alaska to do the same thing; you can have $300 per day.
Join Field & Stream Magazine and launch your own web based fishing show, “Hook Shots.”
Appointed to the position of Fishing Editor of Field & Stream Magazine.
Travel all over the Americas fishing, writing, producing videos and making friends.

The Complete Guide to SurfcastingIf you’ve studied hard, worked hard, played hard, fished hard 12 months a year and meet or I should say accomplished all of the items listed above you must be Joe Cermele or his double from another dimension.

I had the pleasure of meeting Joe over lunch in the Tap Room of the historic Nassau Inn on Palmer Square in Princeton, NJ on a recent cold and very windy Saturday afternoon. I had been reading Joe’s articles and blog, “The Honest Angler” on Field & Stream’s website and was intrigued to finally meet him. My impression of his writing was that he was straight forward guy but wondered if working for the premier outdoor sports magazine, in the center of the publishing world, New York City, if he would be candid or perhaps a bit aloof. Dead wrong – Joe Cermele is the real deal, a Jersey guy who has worked hard, earned his stripes, loves to fish for anything that swims, totally down to earth and an open book.

Joe had been kind enough to send me the Table of Contents and a section of his new book before we met but I was pleased that he brought the entire manuscript with him. There has been a big gap in “surfcasting” book offerings for many years. The last “complete” book on surfcasting was written by C. Boyd Pfeiffer, back in 1989. Not only has quite a bit changed in surfcasting in the last 22 years but Joe Cermele’s The Complete Guide to Surfcasting is really complete, surpassing Pfeiffer’s tome.

John Brownlee, Editor in Chief, Salt Water Sportsman Magazine wrote:

“This book is the most up-to-date and thorough treatise on the subject of surf fishing to be found anywhere. Cermele's exhaustive examination of what goes into becoming a successful surf fisherman, and why it's so compelling, make fascinating reading.”

The Complete Guide to Surfcasting covers the entire saltwater coastline of the United States from the Northeast, to New York, Long Island Sound, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, the Outer Banks plus the southern section of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, across the Gulf Coast to Texas, up the Pacific coast of California to the Northwest. “Wait There’s More,” a chapter titled “Surf Meccas Made Easy.” Whew, wouldn’t you love to be forced to do that kind research?

Here’s just a sampling of what else is covered: “Getting Ready for the Beach” includes rods, reels, line, sand spikes, surf bags and storage, tool kits, waders, boots, dry tops, slickers, sun glasses, cast nets, beach driving, maintenance and even fishing licenses.

“Baiting Up” includes the top 15 baits, the key bait fishing rigs, terminal tackle, and even artificial bait. I didn’t get a chance to read all 300 pages over lunch but there is a chapter that covers the key aspects of weather as it relates to surfcasting.

Of course there is a big section on Artificial lures; colors, types - soft plastic, metal and tins, bucktails, topwater plugs, diving swimmers, leaders, and even rigging up teasers. The chapter on “Reading the Beach” should help everyone find fish, one the hardest challenges no matter how many years you’ve been surfcasting.

This is not a book about Striped Bass and Bluefish, the chapters, that’s plural as in two chapters, cover seventeen (17) different saltwater fish plus Pelagics, e.g. False Albacore, Bonito and Spanish “Macks.” I’m not going to list the entire contents here, of course Joe covers “fishing on the rocks,” and much more but I’m looking at the Table of Contents and wondering what he wrote in three pages on “Hooking – Unhooking – Yourself”? I’m from the old school of a pair of rusty wire cutters and “grin, swear and bear it.”

Since both Joe and I grew up in New Jersey, striped bass are our main target fish however as much as I love “bass” I don’t think they are “pound for pound” the hardest fighting fish - I asked him which saltwater surf fish species he considers the major brute on a line - without hesitation he said Redfish (Red Drum), the fish of the Outer Banks. Now I understand why one of StriperSurf’s best fishermen, Al Adams, is always traveling from PA down to “OBX.”

We also covered some more serious topics and issues that will impact the future of saltwater sport fishing. Like most fishermen he is very concerned about the proposed “Catch Share” program being touted by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and the heavily funded environmental groups that are boldly pushing for control of both commercial and sport fishing grounds. I’m glad that he is watching it as closely as many of us. If you are not you should sit up, pay attention and get involved.

Considering his high profile position in the publishing industry I thought some of my questions would be difficult for him to answer or we would have to go “off the record” but Joe never hesitated. Asked if there is a definite “catch and release” agenda in the magazine publishing industry he responded not at Field & Stream and he enjoys eating fish. He did agree that there are some publications that stress focus on “catch and release” but reminded me that Field & Stream is a Hunting and Fishing magazine – there is no “shoot and release” in hunting.

He turned the tables in the “touchy subject” question time and asked me, as the publisher of the first striped bass fishing website, if I had become disillusioned with Forums. Yes I am, but not with the forums on StriperSurf, we do make a conscious effort every single day to avoid any “trash talking” and especially abuse of new fishermen. Likewise Ron Redington’s BassBarn and TidalFish have been around for years and are run professionally first class. I asked Joe how they administer the Comments on the Honest Angler blog on Field & Stream. He laughed and said “very carefully,” but admitted that this was one of the most difficult issues and they always have a serious discussion in the Field & Stream offices when a comment is questionable. We try to do that as well at StriperSurf, believe me it is one part of the job that all of the moderators hate.

After we broke up and headed our separate ways I realized that Joe had accomplished one of those old axioms in choosing a career, “Do What You Love.”

I admit, I am jealous.

Burford BooksI don’t recommend books very often but this is one you should buy.
The Complete Guide to Surfcasting, 300 pages plus tons of pictures and diagrams. You can order it online directly from Burford Books.

Be sure to check out Joe’s articles and blog, the Honest Angler on Field & Stream and watch Joe’s video show “Hook Shots.” It will be time well spent, and entertaining as well.

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