By: Steve George / Nightstrikes Surfcasting Guide Svc LLC
Boat’s out of the Water? Go Fish The Beach!
It’s December and the weather outside is delightful here on Long Beach Island NJ. Even though you may have pulled the boat already there’s still plenty of striped bass to be caught.
In late fall we usually see abundant waves of striped bass as they make their way down the New Jersey coastline. When the time is right and the weather cooperates they cross over Barnegat Inlet and into the waters of Long Beach Island. If the conditions are right and bait is present, striped bass stage up on the beaches of LBI. Most years anglers have consistent light tackle fishing on just about any beach right into the New Year.
Well this year is no different. The fish are here right now! We are fortunate to have the sand-eels in the surf zone attracting the interest from striped bass in the 20”-30” range. Just about every morning (the hour or two round sunrise) has been productive for surfcasters.
Go Light For A Better Bite
This time of the year it’s best to bring out lighter surf fishing tackle to have even more fun. Catching late fall striped bass is a lot more fun on light tackle. For me personally I like throwing a 9’ surf rod that’s rated up to 2oz. The rod is matched up with a 4000/5000 spinning reel to balance it out. Filled with a 20-30# braid and the outfit is ready for lots of light tackle surf fishing fun.
Match the Hatch
Sand-eels are long, slender and usually run around 4”-5” in length. It’s important to use a lure presentations that mimics them in order to have the best success. Here’s a couple of my favorites sand eel lures, all of which are proven stand outs over the years.
The Super Strike “Super ‘N Fish” Needlefish has a slender profile, it casts great and catches fish of all sizes in both the day and night. So many anglers are intimidated by needlefish because they don’t know how to fish them. They are simple and effective… The hardest part is choosing the right size/weight for the conditions. [More On This At End] Cast out, catch up your slack and let the lure settle, sink. Slowly retrieve adding a twitch. Sometimes add a double twitch and/or a quick crank or two. As with most lures on the surf, fish them all the way to your feet. Needlefish are very effective in low light and at night with a simple cast and straight slow retrieve. Bumps, pickups, bites on needles are a no-doubt-about-it hits and ones you will remember!
Sand Eel Soft Baits
The rubber weighted Tsunami Sand Eel is a great lure to use when the fish are in tight to the beach. It’s especially productive during calm conditions. While rubber soft baits offer the absolute best realistic imitation look and action they are the least durable. But Tsunami Sand eels hold up good compared to other soft baits possibly due to their inner holographic foil.
No one can fish a sandeel bite without some sort of metal lures! If you do you are missing out. Metals/tins offer the ultimate casting distance to reach out where fish are running and feeding. They are my go to lures because they cast a mile and with either a fast or slow retrieve can be worked off the bottom or just off the sand to drawl strikes. It pays to mix up retrieval speed to dial in how the fish are reacting and feeding on that particular day.
Two of my favorite metals for surfcasting when sandeels are around are…
Deadly Dick Lures – These (nickel plated solid brass) slender metals have a slender thin profile with a unique tweak on the ends. This character gives the lures their action both on the retrieve, jig and fall. The added prism flash tape helps catch the eye of fish too.
AVA Diamond Jigs – These (chrome plated lead) jigs are thin and long just like a sandeels. Their distinctive two-piece construction is made up of a metal body section and a latex tube dressed limerick hook. Fished slow in the sand the body puffs and makes a disturbance while the tubed hook swims with an erratic spin. One of the only lures that resembles a sand eel’s natural borrowing action.
Slender Minnow Swimming Plug
You can never forget a Daiwa SP Minnow! SP’s are a must have in every surf bag. These slender minnow profile lures cast great and have a special knack for triggering strikes in just about any conditions. Especially when sand eels are around, SP’s outproduce most other plugs due to their cast-ability and action. I’ve yet to meet a striped bass who could resist taking a bite when crossing paths with an SP Minnow.
Tease ‘Em To Increase Strikes
Add a teaser/fly above your lure to add extra attraction. I feel you will catch only half as many fish unless you use one. A teaser rig is easy to tie… With some leader material (mono or fluoro) tie a dropper loop. Then loop on the teaser/fly of your choice. Next add a swivel on the top terminal end and a
Tactical Angler Clip on the bottom. Just clip on your lure and cast it out.
My favorite teasers are made by BuzFly Custom Flies. When you first see one you will know why. They beautiful and made right on quality hooks. Fish BuzFly teasers to up your success rate with life-like teasers.
So the fish are here! Get out early and watch for birds picking on the water. These birds are feeding on sand eels. Start casting because as the sun comes up the bass will be feeding shortly. Now is the time to get in some late season fishing before winter sets in.
Good Luck Out There!
[More On Needlefish Lures]
Needlefish come in many different sizes and weights made out of many different materials from plastic, wood and epoxy. Super Strike lures are plastic so they are durable and consistent. Currently Super Strike Needles come in three sizes (NF5 5″, NF6 6″, NF7 7″ ) and two weights (W Weighed “Black Eye”, HW Heavy Weighed “Red Eye”). There’s a size/weight combo for every situation. The most common option is the NF6W (6″ standard weighed 2.5oz). Choose the red eye heavy weight versions when fishing rough conditions or when there’s a stiff side wind or sweep.
247 Lures (in stock at Fish Heads but not listed online) offers a great wooden needlefish lure that shines in calm to moderate conditions.