Beach or Bait?
A Perspective on Surf Fishing and Beach Replenishment
by Capt. Jim Freda
Shore Catch Guide Service
the past year and half the beaches along the Jersey Shore have seen dynamic
changes in their profile. Mother Nature has wreaked her wrath on them delivering
nineteen Nor'easter last spring and sparing us so far this past fall and
early winter with only some relatively minor havoc. In response to her
fury the Army Corp of Engineers undertook a massive replenishment project
to protect and preserve our coastline from Mother Nature’s onslaught.
The beaches from Manasquan to Belmar, New Jersey are well known for their jetty construction.
With a groin in place about every two hundred yards of her five mile stretch
this area has provided surf fishermen with some excellent structure which
attracts stripers, blues, and weakfish of truly trophy proportions. But
since the replenishment project has been completed fishermen continually
ask what affect it has had on the surf fishing. Beach or bait? That
is the question. Has the present beach contour become the nemesis or is
it the absence of bait along the beach which has affected the fishing in
this area? Or are they both related?
in the surf had been virtually none existent in this area in the months
of November and December. With the exception of school bass the big cows
opted to stay off the beach once again. Even fish in the ten to fifteen
pound class, which would be a thirty to thirty four inch fish, were scarce.
Many anglers scratched their heads wondering why. Many anglers continued
to fish the beach day after day in hopes that this was going to be the
day. The day that a trophy bass was going to be landed in the surf. To
put things in perspective let’s look back to a year and a half ago when
the replenishment project was completed.
The first Fall
season following the completion of the project the coast was immediately
battered with one Nor'easter after another. By the end of last winter we
had totaled nineteen storms in all of varying severity. As a result the
beach contour from Belmar to Manasquan, New Jersey, had changed drastically.
A giant sandbar was in place just off the beach to the outside of our jetties.
This created a good spring fishery with bass having both jetties and sandbars
to attract and hold fish and bait. Extensive cuts in these bars provided
avenues for both to migrate in and out.
time relatively calm weather and no major Nor'easters at all have changed
the beach once again. The bar with its deeper water in front, and rips
and cuts, are gone. The predominate wave type which we have seen since
the spring has been spilling breakers, those with wave heights of one to
three feet, which gently crest and break. This wave type has leveled the
bar out and is pushing this sand back towards the beach. This is a very
naturally process and we can watch our beaches grow in width over time.
Our deep drop-offs
as you enter the water are also gone. In essence our water is very shallow
and at a spring low tide which occurs during the new and full moons you
can easily walk around the jetty tips in waist deep water. Many anglers
believe this shallowness is responsible for the poor fishing that we have
seen. I would agree that while it isn’t the most conducive profile to attract
fish and bait it isn’t the total answer. If we look to our north or to
our south in New Jersey where no replenishment projects were undertaken
the fishery wasn’t any better there either. You could not go south towards
Island Beach State Park and hook into big stripers along the beach whenever
you wanted or for that matter go up towards Sandy Hook and do the same.
In fact the Hook was a virtual graveyard for fish for several weeks after
Thanksgiving this season.
months of October and early November a completely different scenario was
set up. The peanut bunker were so thick along the beach you could walk
on them. Blues and bass were plentiful with some really large blues up
to eighteen pounds and lots of good size bass. The bigger bass in the twenty
to thirty pound range weren’t on these fish at that time but I believe
this was due to the fact that the main concentration of these fish were
well to our north still in our New England waters. This can be attributed
to the Fall’s warmer than normal surf temperature which ultimately dictates
when the migration exodus will begin.
The big bass
finally did arrive in our area approximately two weeks before Christmas.
But they remained on the outside off the beach. Large concentrations of
bait, sandeels and herring, were present along with them. As a result
the bass were content to stay right where they were. They really had no
reason to come inside. If we had a good Nor'easter during those several
weeks that wind could have pushed everything right to our feet, but that
didn’t happen either. The large stripers and enormous schools of sandeels
and herring migrated right on by in twenty five to seventy five feet of
water. Needless to say, the boat fishing this season was absolutely phenomenal.
So what’s the
answer. Beach or bait? Has the beach replenishment project along New Jersey
beaches been detrimental to the surf fishery? In this writers mind it’s
seems that the answer is no. If the bait is present the fish will be to.
But that isn’t any new astounding revelation or insight. Fishermen have
known this since fishing began. Now all we need to do is to get a way for
the bait to read this article and help us out.
Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Jim Freda, All Rights Reserved
Articles by Captain Jim Freda
- A Quick Lesson for a Little Night Flying
- A Word to the Wise...Wader
- August, More than Meets the Eye
- Bang'em Up
- Beach or Bait? Perspective on Surf Fishing & Beach Replenishment
- Bunker and Trophy Bass
- Bunker, Bunker, and More Bunker and Big Bass Too!
- Busting the Blues
- Clams, Bunker, or Herring for Springtime Trophy Stripers
- Coldwater Stripers, Dredging with the Fly
- CPR for the Fly Fisher - Color, Profile and Retrieve
- December’s End, Watching or Catching?
- December's Grand Finale
- Fall's Surf Smorgasbord
- Fly Fishers-Pick Your Tools Wisely When Getting Started
- Four Baits to Know For Your September’s Surf Success
- Get'em with Sand Eel Imitations
- Getting Started in the Salt
- Know Your Baits and Flies
- Jump to the Back for Early Spring Stripers
- Longest Yard, The
- More Lines Less Flies
- My March Madness
- New Jersey’s “Striper Bounty”
- November Trophies
- October' Harvest in the Surf
- Peanut Bunker Blitzes-Jersey Style
- Running and Gunning, Proper Boating Etiquette
- Saltwater Fly Fishing Perspective
- Saltwater Fly Fishing in the Surf
- September Surf
- Shooting the Suds, Albies on the Fly
- Simplifying Fly Lines
- Slack Water Explained
- Springtime Big Bass
- Spring Baits and Flies
- Stretching into Spring
- Striped Bass Game Plan of Summer
- Striped Bass Game Plan of Summer (Part II)
- Stripping for Success
- Surf Scanning
- Tackling Big December Bass on the Fly!
- Take Me to Your Leader
- Ten Degrees of Blitzes
- Tips and Tidbits
- Trophy Tactics
- Trophy Weakfish on the Fly
- Try for that Trophy Bass on the Fly!
- Wind Direction and its Localized Effect on the Striper Bite
Jim Freda is a highly respected charter captain, author, outdoor writer, seminar speaker, and photographer. His first book Fishing the New Jersey Coast,
has been a best seller and received the “New Jersey Center for the Book Award” as one of the most notable NJ books. He co-authored a second book Saltwater Fishing a Tactical Approach, A Guide for Northeast Beach and Boat Fishermen,
with his Shore Catch associates Capt Gene Quigley and Shell E. Caris.
Jim has weekly fishing columns that appear in the Bergen Record, NJ's second largest newspaper and the Coast Star and Ocean Star newspapers of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Nationally, Jim is a contributing editor for Fly Fishing in Saltwaters magazine and also writes for Fly Fisherman magazine, Saltwater Sportsman, Eastern Fly Fishing, Big Game Journal, and StriperSurf.com. Regionally he writes for On the Water magazine where he has is own monthly column, The Fisherman magazine and the NJ Federation of Sportsman Clubs newspaper.
As a seminar speaker Jim is featured as one of the celebrities on the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series, as one of the “Stars of the Show” at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ, the Northeast’s largest fly fishing show and is on the National Pro Seminar slate at the Toyota Saltwater Expo also in Somerset. He is also regularly featured each year at many of the local fishing clubs in the surrounding area including the State’s two largest clubs the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and the Saltwater Anglers of Bergen County. Capt Jim has also been a guest speaker at all the Trout Unlimited Clubs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jim has also been a special guest speaker at the Bloomberg Network in New York City.
He is a member of the National Factory Pro Team for St. Croix Rods and pro staff for Fins Fishing Line, AVET Reels, Spro, Gamakatsu, Hogy, Korkers, Costa Del Mar, Columbia Sportswear and Aquaskinz.
For more information, please go to Shore Catch Guide Service www.shorecatch.com