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Copyright © 1998 - 2007 Captain Jim Freda

Four Baits to Know For Your September’s Surf Success
by Capt. Jim Freda
Shore Catch Guide Service

s we now move into September it is time for the surfcaster to open up his or her eyes and to take a look at what baits are present in the area that you will be fishing. In September we will see four concentrations of baitfish that will build along our Central New Jersey beaches that one can emulate with your artificials. These are the striped mullet, bay anchovies, spearing, and snappers. There will also be peanut bunker present in the surf but the greatest concentration of these baits will show in October into November. Other baits such as adult bunker, sandeels, hickory shad, small porgies, and round herring can also be found in the September surf but these are usually not the main attraction. .

Striped mullet, bay anchovies, spearing, and snappers can be present on any given day so options will present themselves as to what artificials you choose to fish. On other days maybe only one or two of these baits may be present in your area. What baits you will see in the water can change daily and the location of these baits can change from day to day.

The striped mullet is also known as finger mullet or mushers. This is so because when viewed from the front they are cylindrical and blunt like your fingertips with a similar length. Their bellies are also soft and they can be easily mushed when squeezed between your fingers. They also have a rounded snout and a much wider body girth than the bay anchovy or spearing.

These baits will etch a perfect sketch of our coastline as they pour out of our backbays in response to the new and full moon lunar phases in September. It is well known that lunar phases act as an innate calendar that has a significant impact on both the migration and spawning patterns of fish and baits. When the mullet are present in good numbers along the beach, striped bass and bluefish will key in on them and explosive blitzes can take place, particularly in the pre-dawn and dusk hours.

There are a number of artificials that will be effective if mullet are congregating in the area that you are fishing. Surface poppers are my number one choice especially when the water is oil slick calm. This is so because mullet have a tendency to swim in the upper 1/3 of the water column making them vulnerable from an attack from below.

For the most fun try using small to one-ounce poppers on light tackle. Try any of the time proven favorites such as Polaris, Gibbs, Atoms, or Yozuris. Or try the Stillwater Smack'it Jr. in white or yellow.

Copyright © 1998 - 2007 Captain Jim Freda

I like to cast these poppers on my 7 foot St. Croix Premier series surf rod with a 240 XL or SX Supercaster reel and 30 lb braid. I tie on a 4 foot leader of fluorocarbon using a double uni-knot to make the connection between my braid and leader and put a duo-lock snap……….on the other end to attach my artificials. What I like about this set-up is that it is light weight and short allowing me to cast for hours without any arm fatigue but don’t be fooled as it is a powerful stick. That is the beauty of it. I have used this set-up to catch 30+ pound bass in June during the bunker run and had no problems subduing any bass that took my bait.

The other thing I like about this set-up is that I can cast any artificial with some weight behind it a long, long ways. This distance that I can get is a function of boththe Supercaster reel design and the Sufix braid. These reels are specially design for distance casting and for spooling up with braid. The two together make for a great combination and will put your artificial further out in the water than those casting nest to you.

Even though long casts are not necessary when mullet are on the scene since they will be right in the wash I still like to be able to get distance if I want it. This will be especially true if the fall baits are swimming just outside the bar as they are moving along the beach.

Also use …….shads….small swimming plugs….. 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. Hook ¼ inch ahead of the mullet's dorsal, cast out, and allow the bait to free swim.

For this reason select flies that are more three-dimensional in appearance. Match the mullet’s natural color with flies that are predominantly gray or silver on the dorsal aspect of the fly with white dominating the belly of the fly. However, don't overlook using an all yellow or chartreuse fly as they always produce well for us each season.

Copyright © 1998 - 2007 Captain Jim Freda

For mullet fly imitations try Popovics’ siliclones, bucktail deceivers, bangers, and Popovics modified siliclone known as the "Pop Lips". Other flies to carry are deer hair sliders, snake flies, bulky deceivers, and sar-mul-macks. Fly sizes should range from 4-6 inches for finger mullet.

Bay anchovies and spearing will also be present in large concentrations in September. Bay anchovies are commonly referred to as rainfish and will be one to three inches long while their larger cousins the striped anchovies will range from four to five inches. Spearing can be present in different sizes ranging from three to six inches long.

Both anchovies and spearing have a prominent iridescent stripe running along the lateral aspect of their body. Their colors will range from hues of tan to green, to silver or pearl.

Therefore optimum fly colors are all white, blonde, root beer, rust, blue, olive, or green over white. Including a strip of tinsel into your epoxy patterns is a plus as is adding a small amount of flash tied into your other flies. Flies tied sparsely are often very effective as they nicely embody the translucency of these smaller baits.

For bay anchovy and spearing fly imitations use one to four inch Popovics’ surf candies, deep candies, simple-clones, or jiggies. Also use Skok’s white bait mushy, Farrar’s softex patterns, clousers, bunny flies, and Geno’s Baby Angel.

In you are spin fishing any small thin profile metal will imitate the small baits at this time. Deadly dicks are my number one choice. The key is to tie direct to the metal without any terminal tackle. To do this tie a small barrel swivel to your main line and attach a four foot 12 lb test fluorocarbon leader. If you are not hooking up drop down to 10 or 8 lb test.

Snappers - Now take a 2/0 to 4/0 Gamakatsu live bait hook and place it just above the dorsal. You do not need any terminal tackle or weight. Cast the bait into the school and let it go.

This hardware will be will be on the small side and have a wide profile. Swimming plugs such as small Lefty's, Wade's, Skippy's, Big Dons, or Danny's are always effective, as are 1/2 to 3/4 ounce Rattletraps because of their wide body. For all these artificials white or pearl is the preferred color to use.

Copyright © 1998 - 2007 Captain Jim Freda

For poppers the one-ounce Gibbs® Polaris© popper in white is my number one choice. The Atom® Proppa popper or Striper Swiper in 3/8 to 7/8 oz. is also the right size, as are the Smack-It's. In the soft plastics four-inch shad bodies are favored over Fin-S Fish but both will produce. The Storm® Wildeyes in their three to five inch bunker design is also a must have. The pearl and chartreuse colors are also very effective.

If you are tossing metal the shorty Hopkins, one ounce Kastmasters, 3/4 to 1 ounce Krocodiles, 1-½ ounce Luhr-Jensen® Cast Champ, and the two ounce Crippled Herring® are the ones to use. Allow them to fall through the school and flutter when retrieving rather than moving along the same line. This will imitate an injured bait. Don't overlook the old standby white bucktail jig either. Jigging them near the bottom is usually deadly.  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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