I'm kinda getting close to my wit's end because I just don't understand what I'm doing wrong.
I'm new to the inshore/midshore trolling game. I did a couple trips this year and 1-2 last year as well. Every time, so far, I've trolled the East Lump/Middle Lump area and have run by the pots in the area there. Yesterday, I tried the Sea Isle Ridge and in toward Shutes Shoal. Every single time, I have never seen a sign of life on the days that I'm out. No bait. Not marking anything. No birds. No marine mammals... nothing. It's an absolute ghost town.
Yesterday, I left CM inlet around 5:45 and got to the South side of Sea Isle Ridge around 7:00. Based on some recommendations, we set a 5 rod spread with a Clark spoon on the left side, a naked Ballyhoo mid-distance back on the mid-left, a cedar plug center just past the prop wash, a squid chain on the mid-right (which we alternated with another spoon as well), and a Clark bird far back on the right. Everything seemed to have the appropriate action. Our speed was good. I don't think we had anything set wrong.
The biggest problem that I have is that I simply can't find anything alive in the ocean. It's not like we're going out to dead spots where there aren't any other boats. I'm always trolling around other boats fishing, but I never see anything and hear on the radio from everyone else in the area how dead it is (which is both a consolation because it least it is not just us but also frustrating as well), and these are always spots that I hear were "on fire" a day or two prior.
I posted this in another thread as well, but it is getting really disheartening. It isn't really easy to get 1-2 other guys together to commit to heading out before sunrise and commit to a 20-30 mile run and hours-long trolling trip when there's nothing to show for it. I know that the guys that I take out are all doubting my ability, and I'm doubting it myself. I get that there are good days and bad days, but I can't figure out why every single time I do a trip like this corresponds with a bad day, and if I could get guys out for just one good day or even a good hour or-so on one day, then I know it would change everyone's outlook, but nobody (including myself) can believe at this point that it's just bad timing/bad luck and it isn't that I don't know what I'm doing or where to fish or some other failing on my part.
Going into Sunday, I really was trying to do the work to figure out where our best bet would be. I looked through all of the weather reports, I looked through SST reports, etc, and I made the call to head to the Sea Isle Ridge rather than the East Lump because it looked like the warmer water was moving further inshore to the North better than the South. When we started trolling on the South edge of the Ridge, the water temp was 73.4, and on the North edge, it was 77.5, so that seemed to track with my expectations, but nothing. The SST chart that I looked at also made it look like there would be a nice bit of warm water moving into the area around the Cigar, but I saw someone also post that was dead yesterday as well, and I didn't feel like I had an additional 20-or so miles in me to run even further out.
I feel like I come in here and see a lot of reports of guys at least getting into some action on the troll at these locations, but I just can't seem to break in to it. I'm always a day late. What do guys look for to figure out where they want to target or what makes for the 'right' day? It isn't just a matter of cruising the area between AC and Cape May and looking for any signs of life and then working that area, right? ...because I feel like doing something like and not having a plan of where we're going would make these kinds of trips a nightmare for me to know what our range would be, etc.
Yesterday, we covered 94.5 miles between the run to Sea Isle Ridge, trolling it end to end, trolling from there to Shutes, and then pulling lines and running down to McCrie's to get skunked on flounder as well. I only burned through exactly 1/3 of a tank at 33 gallons burned of a 109 gal tank.
Sorry for the rambling, but I'm just looking for any ideas or help or even commiseration. I hate disappointing the folks I take out with me, and my confidence is just shot for this kind of fishing at this point. I don't know what to do to change things up. Like any kind of fishing, I know that it takes time and experience to get better at this, but I can't do these kind of trips solo, and if I continue striking out, I think that's going to be it for getting a crew together to make the attempts with me.