Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Sunday Oct. 07, 07 -- Grab bag and popper talk

Sunday, October 07, 2007: Waves: Down for the a.m. but picked up with that odd blast of honking north winds that came in midday – and caught a lot of boaters off guard in the ocean. Water clarity” off and on; patches of murky water moving around with clean water coming on in some beaches.

The grab bag hooking along the beachfront offers huge potential for anglers but is far from a sure-thing. Most everyone can nab a bluefish or two and junkfish are as sure as the tides but the heavy hooking or variety pack takes still fall on those who luck out – or have that added savvy needed to constantly catch. I say that because driving the beach there are always a slew of folks who just give a thumb’s down, a headshake or negative shrug of shoulders when asked what they’re catching. I’ve done enough of those nega-gestures to know the feeling. What’s more, 90 percent of the times those non-catchers will add that some guy next to them caught the crap out of fish earlier. Then I doubly relate.

Holgate Hooking: It was a tad odd at the south tip, as the bluefish at the Rip were near absent or very scant while just around the bend at Stew’s Corner you could catch them at a solid as-it’s-been clip, though it got quiet there after the tide rose a bit. That is likely the first bluefish slowdown since the end opened on Sept. 1. I doubt it’ll last long. There were some more large kingfish caught (at that new hole just east of the west point) and more croakers along the front beach.

A few more bass were popped from the LBI suds (see popper chat below). A 15-9 bass was caught on a small rig meant for croakers. A non-Classic fellow caught that fat bass.

Boats coming in from offshore had mixed tales – so what else is new? Most had something in the cooler with some folks cashing in on a top-notch chunk. I’ll take any tales the shop have when I call them tomorrow.

Mullet run has crawled to a near stop. It could be the end of the run or (I’m hoping) this totally bizarre weather has them pulling into inlets and even river, thinking they’ve made the entire migratory run. Boy are they in fro a rude awakening, especially those going as far as Florida. As for that oft-asked question: Do the mullet migrate back up in the spring? I can only say that despite my years of reading marine science books and papers, always looking for an adequate answer on the great mullet mystery, I’ve yet to get a convincing read on how they leave every fall, never return in the spring yet we see millions hatch in the backbay each summer. Those young-of-year “finger mullet” cannot be sexually mature enough to spawn – and there’s the not-slight question of how eggs would survive the winter freeze when only a few creatures manage to do so.

POPPER CHAT-ABOUT: Poppers are seen on just about every beach and ocean rod heading into action. That is in response to the constant blues and in hopes of finally making bass ends meet. I had an email asking about popper and steel leaders. A leader is sometimes indispensable with the teeth of blues and costly cost of poppers but the longer they are the worse their impact on the popping action. I don’t use leaders on any plug but that’s simply because I’m to the point where the huge majority of my many plugs have been beach finds. Being a treasure hunter just about my entire life I have an eye for finds. As I have written in here, I’ve had days in the fall where I’ve found half a dozen or more plugs in a single post-storm session. And, yes, there is a huge knack to tracking them down. Don’t even ask.

I had a decent critique by a fellow who took to task my suggestion that Gibb’s Polaris in cobalt is one of the best tossers going right now. Oh, he fully agreed with the through-the-ceiling effectiveness of the wooden poppers but he added, “The company must give to a kickback.” He did add a friendly “LOL.”

I have to acknowledge that I too have noticed his critical observation: Those frickin’ high-end plugs are merely ripped up wood after a major session of bluefish-besting. The supposed high-grade enamel finish goes belly-up after the first few teeth grinds while those tail hairs unravel in nothing flat.

Lost bucktail cuts a plug’s catchiness by as much as 50 percent – even with blues! It’s not overly tough to reattach some hairs but if you’re like me getting around to it is always assigned to “this winter” – or way beyond.

Note: I often have folks show me the “bite marks” on plugs but what they’re seeing are the semi-circular scars from the loose treble(s) being ground against the finish while the fish is being fought. Also (!), many folks ruin top plugs by driving along with the rods in their buggy rod holders, as the high speed wind force the trebles to constantly carve those semi-circles in the plug’s surface. And the damage is not just Surfaces like those on the Gibb’s plugs are one continuous enamel application so once the surface is compromised, small hairline fracture move outward and spread. After that first chip to the wood surface, things unravel quickly. We’ve all seen that.

I agree that prime plugs should be preserved for the sure-to-arrive bassing days. That is why many of us have “bluefish plugs.” Those aren’t specially shaped plugs or anything. They’re merely previously torn-up plugs that have been relegated to piranha fishing.

However, to handle this ongoing bluefish barrage there is also the Atom solution. And most anglers have already established the longevity connection to these amazing poppers.

Atom poppers were developed by Bob Pond after the angler saw prototype surface poppers being used with excessive success on Cape Cod in the 1930s and 40s. Back then, what has become known as the “Atom popper shape” was the exclusive domain of wooden roughly-worked handmade plugs being used by top striper casters in New England. Pond literally found an escaped popper lying on the beach and took it heart, so to speak. He began carving them, garage-style. He quickly went public -- and commercial -- with his adopted (semi-stolen) creation. Pond named the popper after the way the plug cast; its amazing altitude and splashdown. He referenced the newly tested (on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) atom bomb.

By the late 1940s, Bob went plastic and pissed off a load of followers -- while gaining a whole slew of bluefishermen and such. The plastic ruggedly resisted tooth punctures – not to mention rock knocks. They still do. This resilience is their current marked advantage over Gibb’s and other wooden or easily–chewed plugs.

Though the current composite-polyvinylchloride Atom Poppers are now damn near as costly as wooden plugs, they do take being bit better – though they can get seriously chipped if rocked by misguided casts onto jetty rocks. And, yes, there is still that chore of reattaching lost tail hairs but an Atoms can be as good as new when re-bucktailed, look-wise. Repaired wooden chew-ups never have that lean and clean look again.

Sidebar: As for repainting hacked up wooden plugs, it’s kinda tough to achieve a pretty retouched product.

For touch-ups, I use the brightly-colored enamels that come in those tiny touch-up bottles for car finishes. Wal-Mart has a good selection. A primer is often needed first for raw wood.

If a plug is mainly bare wood, I have used added touch-up enamel (for coloring) to a small batch of high-grade finishing resin. I exclusively use the seriously expensive West System two-part resins, famed as the finish on classic wooden boat hulls. Once that West System hardens, there are as many broken bluefish teeth as there are bite marks. That stuff is seriously impervious. Still, the final look of the repainted (resin-coated) plugs isn’t that factory new finish but, then, the blues aren’t top-shelf shoppers

(This is my one fundraiser of the year. I use it to take stock of what folks think of my website(s) and to cover the time and expense accrued by the site(s). I have enjoyed working my daily and weekly updates this past year. Switching to the blog format has allowed for a freer writing style. I get to put in a lot of fun (and opinionated) stuff. By the same token, I couldn’t stay up and running if it weren’t for your emails, letters and calls. I want to point out that there are some ads on my (site(s). These ARE NOT mine. I actually hope to buy them out via donations.
My sincere thanks and appreciation to all donators.
Jay Mann
222 18th Street
Ship Bottom, NJ

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