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Copyright  © 1998 - 2013 Jim Freda
October’s Harvest in the Surf
by Capt. Jim Freda
Shore Catch Guide Service

ctober should be a good month to hit the surf because a variety of baits will be present along the beach. There will be mullet that are rounding out their annual run with the greatest concentrations occurring at the beginning of this mouth. These baits will be joined by peanut bunker which have already made a strong showing along the beaches in both Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Peanut Bunker - Copyright  © 1998 - 2013 Jim FredaIn the last two weeks of September we have seen millions upon millions of peanut bunker already exiting from both Raritan and Barnegat bays, and the Shark and Manasquan river systems. This mass exodus of peanut bunker is a couple of weeks earlier than we normally see but let’s hope that this is a good thing and not a bad one. In other words that there are so many peanut bunker in the backbays and rivers waiting to move that that had no choice but to start to come out early.

We can also see in October large concentrations of bay anchovies and striped anchovies along the beach. Both of these are called aka “rainfish”. The striped anchovies are larger than the bay anchovy but when mixed together in the suds you won’t be able to tell the difference. Only by a close inspection in the hand will you be able to tell the difference.

Mullet on the Move - Copyright  © 1998 - 2013 Jim Freda

Rainfish are not as predictable as mullet or peanut bunker in terms of their appearance. In other words they may or may not come into the surf. They can and will migrate past offshore and become strictly a boat game and fishery. If they do come into the surf they will surely bring in the bass and the bluefish.

We will also see spearing migrate out from the backbays along the beach. The spearing usually mix in with the rainfish and will be hard to tell apart but that doesn’t matter as they will equally bring in the fish.

Dropping air temperatures will be a real plus this month as this will chill down our back bay waters more quickly than the oceanfront and this cooler water will push out along the beach on the outgoing tides. As water temperatures drop striped bass, bluefish, and false albacore will be stimulated to feed. Therefore look for increased activity around the time of any of these approaching cold fronts this month.

Copyright  © 1998 - 2013 Jim Freda Isolated blitzes of bass will be common along all of our beachfronts. The duration of these blitzes will vary, as sometimes the bass will be in and out quickly. If you are in the right place at the right time you will cash in on bass that will range in size from five pounds to twenty-five pounds. You can also expect bluefish to crash these baits at anytime and range in size from three to twelve pounds.

For stripers your best bet will be to fish the low light hours early in the morning or just before dark. For false albacore wait for the sun to rise in the sky with late morning being one of the most productive times. Blues can show up at anytime but usually move with the tides.

To imitate mullet try the four or six inch Storm Wildeye or the Tsunamis soft plastic bait in the pearl color. The one-ounce Polaris popper in white is also a proven producer. Since stripers attack pods of mullet from below this white color is what the bass will see and emulates the white underbelly of the bait. If smaller baits such as anchovies dominate then small bucktail teasers tied two to four feet ahead of a swimming plug will nicely imitate these smaller baits as draw strikes.

When you go down to work the surf also look for visible signs of peanut bunker in the water in front of you. Concentrate around jetty pockets, a hole or trough, or a cut between two bars than runs perpendicular to the beach. When these baits are subsurface they can be spotted by a water color that is darker in appearance when compared to lighter surrounding hues. When on top they are easy to spot, as they will make good amounts of surface commotion.

Snagging a peanut bunker will a small treble hook and allowing it to sit in the school will be the most productive method to catch striped bass when the peanut bunker are on the scene. To do this place a one-ounce egg sinker between two 75 lb barrel swivels that are eight to ten inches apart on your main running line. To the bottom barrel swivel come off of this with a 24-36 inch leader of 20 lb test and tie on a 1/0 bronze treble hook. Cast the snag rig into the school and gently pull the hook through the bait leaving it there after you hook one. Be ready for a quick pick up by a bass or blue.

When using artificials the pearl color Storm Wildeye shad in four or six inches is an excellent imitation to use to emulate peanut bunker. Cast it out and retrieve back slowly allowing it to move up and down in the water column. Small Danny plugs, Mr. Bunker rattletraps, and Kastmaster metals will also be effective as will 1-2 oz Crocodile metals. The Smack-It Jr. popper by Stillwater Lures in white or yellow is an excellent popper to cast into the pods of peanut bunker. As it smaller size nicely matches the profile of the bait.

You can also try fishing a 1/4-1/2 ounce white bucktail down deep below the school jigging it slowly. Bass will think it is an injured or stunned bait. Also if you are moving around looking for fish don’t hesitate to go back to an area later in the day that you tried earlier. The change in the tide has been producing different results.

If big bluefish enter the picture and crash these baits you will need to add a six to eight inch piece of wire to your offering to prevent a bite-off. There are a number of different kinds of tie able wire products available on the market today or you can use the old single strand wire or pre-rigged wire with inline swivels.

Raritan Bay will also come alive this month as plenty of bass and bluefish will be taken in these waters also. Peanut bunker will stage here until they move out and big bass and blues will be on them. Best times to fish the bay will be during the week when boat traffic is down.

Each October is the Governor’s Annual Surf Fishing Tournament at Island Beach State Park. This tournament takes center stage as one of the big surf competitions of the season with over 1,000 participants.  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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