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It?s all a line Catching stripers on LBI a purely theoretical science - except when it?s luck

By BERNARD VAUGHAN Staff Writer, (609) 978-2012
Press of Atlantic City

LONG BEACH ISLAND - Listening to fishermen talk about their hobby is a bit like listening to a gambler talk about his system for winning at blackjack.

Neither guarantees success, but they can, perhaps, increase your odds.

And with the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Tournament winding down - it concludes Nov. 21 - just about everyone fishing striped bass has his take on the best locations to cast a rod, the best time to fish and everything else it takes to get that elusive, once-in-a-lifetime 50-pound striped bass biting at the end of the line.

The only thing that seems for sure is that everyone has an opinion and that bait belongs at the end of the hook.

"This is a fishy place," said Kevin Harris, 55, fishing about 30 yards south of a jetty near Fifth Street in Ship Bottom. "You see how those rollers come into the beach and break there? You can see this dark water there because it's near a jetty. All kinds of muscles and baitfish are attracted to the jetty, and the big fish follow them. It's a fishing hole on the side of the sandbar."

Down in Brant Beach on Wednesday afternoon, Chiz Wolfe, 40, who drives from Virginia on weekends to fish on Long Beach Island, and his friend Bob Hammell of Roebling, Burlington County, agreed with Harris about the jetty, but disagreed on which side of it to fish on.

"You always want to be on the north side of the jetty, because sand will always accumulate on the south side of the jetty," and potentially inhibit the fish's passageway to the surf, Wolfe said. "That's a good fishing tip."

Still, neither Harris nor Wolfe and Hammell had had any luck at that point.

"I caught a crab," Wolfe said. "Where's my crab?"

"The seagull ate it," Hammell said.

The westerly wind spoiled the day's fishing, Harris heard someone say in Fisherman's Headquarters in Ship Bottom.

"When you get a west wind, it blows the warm water out to sea, and the cold water wells up and really chills the water," Harris said. "I like an east or southeast wind, but that's just my particular preference."

"I don't know if it makes any difference," he added.

"That's true, that's called 'upwelling,'" said Dr. Stewart Farrell, director of the Coastal Research Center at Richard Stockton College. "With a west wind, the water is taken seaward, and the water that replaces it is shelf water. The temperature can drop 20 degrees overnight.

"What affect that has on bass, I have no idea."

The south wind is the worst for fishing, said Jeff Jaekel of Manahawkin, fishing near Seventh Street in Surf City on Thursday afternoon.

Why? He couldn't say.

There are slogans like "they bite best when its blowing west," and "they bite least when its coming from the east." But James Sahlender of Fisherman's Headquarters said it all comes down to putting your time in.

"You start trying to think too much like a fish and you can get lost in it," Sahlender said.

Like most fisherman, Sahlender said the best time for fishing for stripers is at dawn or dusk.

"I look for where surfers would go, where the waves are stopping at a certain point," for a good fishing hole, Sahlender said.

Bass are nocturnal feeders, said Sahlender, who's helped tag striped bass for the American Litoral Society. They actually sense light changes and switch to a form of night vision that allows them a keener sense of sight, he said.

"But that doesn't mean you can't catch a 50-pounder at three in the afternoon," Sahlender said.

Further, striped bass like to sun themselves in shallow water in low tide, Sahlender said.

"I do know they're affected by the moon," Sahlender said. "They can detect the magnetic pull, and schools tend to show themselves on a full moon."

"I know they're pretty aggressive feeders when the tide changes, because that's when the bait moves," Farrell said. "I've seen these youngsters in the Delaware Bay just wait in deep water for the bait to come to them."

Be careful not to cast too far out when fishing for stripers, said Bob Hammell. Stripers feed on clams that wash in from the sandbar this time of the year. Hammell said it took him years to figure out that it's best to cast your line just over the breakers.

"How I found that out is I was fishing in a real nasty northeast wind, and I couldn't cast more than maybe 20 yards, and I thought, well, I'm not going to catch anything," Hammell said. "Well, I put it in the best I could and I got a striper right there."

Not necessarily, said Stanley Steinberg, 73, after reeling in a 33-inch bluefish in Ship Bottom on Thursday. Steinberg said he fishes daily during the tournament.

"You cast one rod long, and one short," Steinberg said. "In other words, lob one out there and really whip one out there."

Everyone agreed that "fishing" is much more than simply catching fish, and that you're chances not only count on the tide or wind or how you cast your line, but on luck.

"Many people ask me, 'How can you just stand there all day with nothing happening,' but every minute I'm out here I know the next minute I could get that bite," said Harris. "There's a whole joy in the knots and the rig and the lures and the casting and cutting of the bait, and knowing what you're doing is beyond just putting fish in a box."

And in this climate - in any climate, for that matter - a little superstition doesn't hurt.

"When it's really bad, and I'm trying to catch a fish, I look around - I did it already today - to see if there's anybody in ear shot and I'll yell 'Here fishy fishy fishy! Here fishy fishy fishy!'" Harris said. "Damn if doesn't work sometimes."

24,070 Posts
Originally posted by NIGHTSTRIKES:

And in this climate - in any climate, for that matter - a little superstition doesn't hurt.

"When it's really bad, and I'm trying to catch a fish, I look around - I did it already today - to see if there's anybody in ear shot and I'll yell 'Here fishy fishy fishy! Here fishy fishy fishy!'" Harris said. "Damn if doesn't work sometimes."
I was fishing the Delaware River one spring & I hadnt caught a thing in 4 hours when I said out loud as I was casting "Time to stop teasing & lets start pleasing." BAM! A 25" striper on that very cast. It was the only fish I caught all day.

It doesnt hurt to try.

1,463 Posts
Originally posted by Sterling Harbor:
Superstition??? If I'm not catchin' I check my lipstick, and reapply if necessary. Got this one before I could walk to the back of the boat, after putting my lipstick on.... (this goes over well with the guys on the boat. Especially Rut-Row)
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