Vol 37 | Num 7 | Jun 13, 2012
Article by Sue Foster
“Gee, I really wanted to catch a big striper in the surf, but couldn’t get down to Ocean City. What do I fish for now that the striper run is over in the surf?”
It’s still possible to catch a nice striper in the surf but the chances get slimmer as water temperatures rise. To target legal stripers once the water gets warmer means throwing lures or bait in either the Ocean City or Indian River Inlets or fishing the Route 50 Bridge at night.
In the surf, you can still try for stripers by fishing at dawn and dusk, and maybe you will get lucky and land a keeper, or you’ll catch some smaller stripers. If you fish with a big circle hook on a fish finder rig you will likely get into some good sized sharks or rays. The sharks that anglers are likely to catch during the summer months are dusky, sand bar and sand tiger. All of these are protected and need to be released. There are also some good sized smooth dogfish sharks, known locally as sand sharks. You are allowed to keep 2 of these, no matter what the size. Same is true for spiny dogfish, though you don’t see many of these in the summer.
Sharks you are allowed to keep must be 54-inches and you are only allowed to keep one. You can also keep one additional smooth dog fish. It’s really hard to tell the toothy critters apart, so if you’re not a shark whiz, it’s best to throw anything back that has teeth. Sand sharks have flat blunt teeth as opposed to most sharks that have rows of sharp pointed teeth that look like they could tear something or someone apart! Sharks that you are allowed to keep are: Blacktip, bull, hammerhead, lemon, nurse, spinner, tiger, blue, thresher, oceanic whitetip, porbeagle and shortfin mako. Keeper sharks we generally see around here are blacktip, spinner, thresher and short fin mako.
If you want to see a really good shark identification placard, log on to http://seagrant.gso.uri.edu/z_downloads/bookstore_sharkplacard1.pdf
“What’s the best bait to use to catch sharks?”
Anything oily and bloody attracts sharks. Bunker and mackerel cut into chunks are two of the best baits to buy at the tackle store. Anglers also find that a small fish head, like a whiting or a snapper blue, works well and lasts long. Any fresh cut bait will work well, such as spot and bluefish.
Squid is always good to use. Get the box of squid and use a whole one. Of course, you will also catch big rays and skates whether you want them or not. Be careful around all these species. Wear gloves, take pliers and keep your fingers away from the shark’s mouth.
“I don’t want to catch sharks!”
Then it’s time to downsize the tackle and catch some fish to eat! Leave the 8/0 circle hooks at home and pull out some pre-made kingfish (whiting) and spot rigs. These rigs are made with size #6 hooks. You can also use small, high/low bluefish rigs with size #4 hooks. Kingfish, gray trout, Norfolk spot, blowfish, sand perch, croaker and snapper blues will all hit these rigs. Plus, kids can still catch small sand sharks and everyone will be happy.
Bait up with either bloodworm or Artificial Fish Bite bloodworm and add a small strip of either box squid or fresh or frozen cut bait such as bunker, spot or mullet. These combination baits of worm and cut bait can be your everyday combination all summer. Then, if you start catching larger fish like flounder or chopper bluefish, skip the worm and fish strictly cut bait on the high/low bluefish rig.
“How far out do I cast?”
Anglers ask that all the time. In the summer, it’s not necessary to cast way out there, but it is important to find a good beach. Walk the beach at low tide and find some places on the beach where the water pools close to shore. Then go back to that place during the high tide and fish those holes. If you’re staying in a condo on the beach, look from high up and you can really see the holes. Watch the swimmers and surfers. Watch the waves and see where they break. As long as you can cast to the crest of the wave before it breaks you are good to go!
In the summertime, I like to keep my surf rod in my hands at all times but I still carry a sand spike so I can place the rod in the spike while baiting up and taking a fish off the hook. Cast out and hold the rod while waiting for a bite. If nothing happens in 5 minutes or so, gently start bumping the rig towards shore. A lot of time the fish will grab the bait as it is moving. This also helps you find out exactly where the fish are biting. Usually the fish come closer to shore at high tide and slightly further out as the tide goes out. Move up the beach a little with each cast if nothing is happening.
Time of day is very important when surf fishing. From dawn till when the sun gets overhead is my favorite time to go. From dusk to dark is another great time. Fishing after dark can be awesome at times, especially when the croakers start running. Some of the best shark fishing is after dark as well.
No need to overkill on the rod length in the summer time. An 8 to 10-foot, medium weight rod is all you need. When you are catching fish that weigh less than a pound it sure is fun catching them on a lighter weight rod. Unless you are into the shark thing, a 14 to 15 pound test line is all you need if you are fishing with monofilament. If you are using a Spectra line like Power Pro, 20 to 30 pound test is definitely all you need since it’s 6 to 8 pound test diameter which will allow you to cast further and increase your sensitivity!
Summertime surf fishing… We’ll miss you Mr. and Mrs. Striper and see you again in the fall!
Sue Foster is an outdoor writer and owner of Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City, MD and Fenwick Tackle in Fenwick, DE.