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Sea Girt, NJ

Fall's Surf Smorgasbord
by Capt. Jim Freda
Shore Catch Guide Service

ake your pick as a smorgasbord of fish are now available in the surf. There are striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, fluke, false albacore, croakers, cow nosed rays, and skates. These species are all there and when your rod bends what is on the other end may or may not be what you are after. Typically the striped bass tops the list of invitees but their presence, next to the false albacore, can be the one that eludes us the most.

This should change however in the next several weeks as more and more mullet pour out of our backbays, rivers, and outflows that open up to the ocean. Typically we see the downside of the new or full moon that occurs towards the end of this month as being when the main concentration of mullet are present along our beaches. The new moon is cycled to occur on September 22nd so it is time to get a little more serious now than before.

Mullet movements are predictable and regulated by lunar phases. Many anglers will say that dropping water temperatures will trigger the mullet run but such is not the case. The mullet will come out of the back regardless of how warm the water is. They always do.

Right now surf temperatures are 69 degrees, they are warm, and will remain warm as northeast winds persist. Being it is hurricane season we see warm water being pushed in our direction particularly when the winds do come around from the northeast. These warm surf temperatures do not trigger bass to feed.

Bass will feed most voraciously when surf temperatures are between 48-52 degrees. These are usually the 100 fish days that we have in early December, from our boats of course. But all day blitzes can occur on the beach too if the bait is there. Dropping water temperatures will drive baits too but are not the only impetus to get them to migrate. Dropping water temperatures are more of a stimulus to trigger fish to feed.

I have seen years when the mullet run is so strong that spotting them in the surf is very easy. All you have to do is turn your head toward the water and there they are. Thousands upon thousands of these tasty morsels, to the striped bass of course, milling around right in front of you. Even the untrained eye will notice their presence. Their presence will put bass on the feed despite of the warm water temperatures.

Mullet will methodically move along etching a perfect sketch of our coastline. If harassed however they will push forward much more quickly while blowing up and spraying water and themselves into the air.

North Jetty at Island Beach State Park, NJ. Copyright 2006 - 2013 Capt. Jim Freda Many times I have seen striped bass corral them against the north side of jetty preventing them from moving forward to the south. The mullet are now pinned in and will just move up and down the north side of the rocks trying to escape forward. It is funny how they never turn around and run back north again along the beach to get away.

Cast netting mullet and fishing them live is an excellent way to hook into some of the largest stripers that will be in the surf at this time. When you have your baits fish them by tying them direct to your main line with a 2/0 or 3/0 Octopus style Gamakatsu live bait hook. Hook ¼ inch ahead of the mullet's dorsal, cast out, and allow the bait to free swim.

When a bass takes the bait it will inhale the mullet in one swipe so you can be assured that the mullet is in its mouth when the initial run takes place. Set the hook hard as to drive the hook point home into the bony palate of the bass.

You can also fish 4-6 inch swimming plugs such as Bombers, Yozuris, and Megabaits, surface poppers such as the Spro Popper50, Stillwater Smack-Its, Polaris, or Creek Chub poppers. Soft shads such as the DuraShad and Flex Lure by Spro or Storm Wildeyes will also work well. Best colors for all these artificials will be pearl, silver, blue, or green over white or all white. Don’t rule out all yellow either.

Cast out and retrieve back slowly keeping the artificial near the surface. Since mullet always appear to be on the move you will want your artificial to do the same. I don’t dead drift much with my artificial when mullet are around. I reserve this tactic more for when I am fishing in pods of peanut bunker.

One thing about the mullet run is that any big swell from ensuing hurricanes can kill the run. Big swells and heavy surf will push the mullet off of the beach and they will go by pretty much unnoticed. Let’s hope this does not happen now as the run is just starting to get underway.

An exclusive Insider tip is to head to the southern Monmouth County beaches in and around Sea Girt at this time. The Wreck Pond outflow pipe that is located between the border of Sea Girt and Spring Lake is one of the first locations where mullet can be found in large concentrations. This past Sunday I watched as thousands of mullet could be seen in the face of each breaking wave as they transparently shown through it. It was an awesome site. If you go, fish the beaches directly south of the pipe.  End

Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Jim Freda, All Rights Reserved

Articles by Captain Jim Freda

Capt. Jim FREDAEmail Captain Jim Freda

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 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.

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Saltwater Fishing A Tactical Approach Fishing the NJ Coast