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222 18th Street
Ship Bottom, NJ
Sunday, November 02, 2008: Waves: Building rapidly from the north. Moderate north current possibly reaching hard, late-day. 3- to 5-ounce sinker, heavier late-day. Clarity: Very good; all of the turbidity from the recent blow is gone and today’s short-lived brisk NE winds shouldn’t muck things up at all. Winds: Brisk NE could see 20 mph gusts.
Yesterday was your typical day-after in Holgate. With tons of buggies zipping to the far south end -- loaded for bear, i.e. bluefish -- the look and feel of Friday’s semi-blitz conditions were gone. The bait was still around but not as thick and the overall hooking had dropped down to what would be considered a typical fall fishing day, scattered blues and bass with real slow spells. Boats were also working a lot harder in their search for fish. Radio chatter indicated a similar story to the surfcasting realm -- some decent fish but only after time and energy were expended fishing them, unlike Friday when the fish were all but inviting themselves onboard.
The only bite (if you could call it that) that stayed the same was that bizarre bunker catching going on at the first west point, Holgate tip. A few of us were casting multi-jighead rigs or Sibikis and nabbing huge bunker by foul hooking them. Though many of the ones we caught were hooked very near the mouths, they were not eating the jigs. Bunker are filter feeders, eating microscopic planktons. The reason for the near-mouth hooks is because balled bunker are so tightly packed they create a literal wall of forward-facing snouts, an approaching rig would foul them near the face if the entire bait ball happened to facing the direction of the approaching jig – a law of averages thing. Most of the foul hooking was along the back, almost as if the fish were hooked for immediate live-lining. This I believe was due to a natural reaction of a bunker to feeling the fishing line against its side. It atomically turns it’s dorsal fin toward the odd sensation, the jigs them hit that upper part of the back.
Yesterday, I got a ton more stories of super stripering toward dark on Friday. Some folks caught more bass in that short session than they had taken to this point in fall. Many folks finally bagged their two (or three with tag) take-home fish (closest to an edible 28 inches). Along with the 33-3 that won the day, numerous 25-pound-plus fish came to light -- and some went back in as releases, from non-tourney folks wanting edible meat not mass. That bite went on until after dark. In some cases, the bunker were pinned in only inches of water, at anglers’ feet.
Hearing that panicked bunker angle, I flash to the one great bass I caught during tourney time many years ago. I had hit Holgate just after dark and pulled to a spot I had been fishing daily for weeks on end. It was almost exactly this time of fall. I was immediately wading amid the same panicked baitfish scenario as took place Friday. I could heard the splashing as loud as the surf. In short order, I caught a 50-pounder on a yellow Bomber -- but surely could have used anything, from bait to metal, and a bass would have been on. Depressingly, there were those who quickly questioned my catch. Truly pathetic, considering there were witnesses there only seconds after I landed the fish – and a cop at the entrance to Holgate was stunned by the size of the bass when he checked it out with his flashlight – as the fish still flapped. It even hit the tackle shop scales still alive. I (somewhat) got over the numbnuts who doubted my catching the fish but I never got over the fact I could surely have kept the bass alive and released it – knowing what I do now. Gospel truth: I don’t care if I ever weigh another 50-pounder (or larger) into the tourney. That’s not to say I won’t if I happen to catch one but the bullshit after my one-and-only great bass weigh-in dimmed my tourney torch forever. I enjoy more than ever watching (and writing about) others besting big bass – and I’m the first to congratulate them.