Sunday, September 28, 2008:
Hurricane Kyle is right off the coast this a.m. but far enough out to offer no impact short of a moderate groundswell – that is actually smaller than the waves from the cold-core low pressure system that hit a couple days ago.
As mush as I hype Holgate, I have to admit the fishing there has sucked almost beyond belief, especially when compared to Barnegat Inlet (see segment below). I’m not simply talking guys getting skunked but the seeming lack of most anything fishy. Even the baiting sucks (see below segment on mullet). I have no doubt this will turn around on a dime but for now it’s hurry up (to get down there) to find zilch. (Secret note: The above is absolutely true but I say it knowing that such pissy reports somehow provoke a massive retaliation by nature, leading to fiercely hot fishing meant to prove me wrong. Bring it on.)
The fluke continue to impress and confound. They remain so thickly spread, even in the backbay still, that they are often bordering on being a nuisance. I had some boaters tell me the bottom is a solid mat of fluke not far offshore.
There seems to be a better-than-average showing of tog at prime indicator locales. I think they will be very thick along the beachfront jetties (groins) since all this stir makes for ideal feeding conditions as currents roll crustaceans into the rock crevices.
I had a few emails about bass along the beach and near Barnegat Inlet. It’s just a case of toughing it out – through a myriad of weather conditions. There are some nice-sized triggerfish near the bulkheads and west-end South Jetty. In fact, fishing is fascinating from the Lighthouse Marina entrance, along the new fishing walkway, past Andy’s, over to the state park and out to the end of concrete walkway. You have a shot at just about anything this time of year. Caught there over the past few weeks (per a science prof townhouse owner thereabouts) were blowfish, snappers, seabass, tog, bergalls, triggers, porgies, fluke, weakfish, eels, stripers, herring, spot, kingfish, sheepshead, stargazers, sundials and crabs. These are mainly sub- to very-sub-keeper sized fish (with a few bigger models). This piscatorial menagerie is a blast for the kids to hook – and learn to identify.
Small hooks and varied baits work best. Double-hook porgy rigs without floats work well, though kingfish and snapper rigs have a load of takers.
A long handled crab/fish net is a wise piece of gear, just in case something larger than pull-up size sucks in the smaller bait. There is a multi-tiered three-foot railing along much of this fishing area – a great relief for parents with exploration minded younguns in tow. However, it makes for a tough heave-over when a larger fish comes calling.
Note: There is this ill-advised logic among some Barnegat Inlet bank anglers that since this is small-time fishing – families and all – that anything can be kept. Far from the truth. Obviously, all state angling laws apply, despite a sometime overly prevalent attitude that “Surely those regulations don’t apply to these tiny fish we have floating (belly-up) in our buckets.” I can’t imagine Fish and Wildlife buying that line.
Aside: You should not be an enforcer when abuses are seen. I used to be one of those folks who tries to innocuously advise scofflaws that they really shouldn’t be keeping four-inch seabass and such. Doesn’t work. That’s same family concept that makes things so much fun turns sour real fast when parents (and the uncle who has more than just bait tucked in that brown paper bag) think you’re going after them. Cops will be the first to tell you the danger of so-called “domestic” tensions. I just focus on the majority of folks having a great time playing by the rules.
E-question: “How long before the kingfish move out?”
It’s all a question of how long they hang around.
No, that’s not a wise-ass answer. It really is up to the fish since kingfish are somewhat variable in their pull-out date.
I would say they might be good for a couple more weeks considering we have no really cold air moving in.
Kingfish are a comfort-level departer, far more than the likes of mullet, which are a strict calendar (astronomical) cruiser.
Kingfish obviously have a liking of our local menu and will stay until water temps dip to, roughly, the 50s.
One highly noticeable trait of kingfish is their gone-in-a-flash move-out. When they decide things aren’t feeling just right, they bus out overnight. I’ve seen super kingfish years go from torrid hooking to no-show status in a day or two – with nary a single hookup thereafter.
Sidebar: Unlike mullet, kingfish are returning customers so they have that been-there/done-that confidence in knowing the ropes of a migration. That adds option levels to their pull-out. As to how they all bolt in unison, that can easily be seen in birds, like barn swallows. Since kingfish gather very close to shore and are highly school-oriented, they can literally see when the school they’re within – and other related schools – make the big move to somewhere else.
Schooling fish are fully geared to act as a unit their entire lives. In fact, a schooling fish goes psychotic when on its own. A good example is a lone mullet separated from the pod during migration. When netting we frequently see just such lost souls. They display none of the regimented swimming traits of schooled mullet. They swim in jerky spurts, more left and right than forward, and enter much shallower water than the pods. In fact, it’s easy to see that the forlorn fish are fully freaked.
From my observations, the likes of mullet don’t begin to look as if they’re swimming naturally and comfortably until within a school of at least half a dozen brethren. Any fewer than that and the entire group displays erratic swimming patterns – that leaves them hugely vulnerable since that inconsistent behavior is exactly what gamefish target.