Above: Surfcasters at Montauk wait for the blitz to move into range. Photo by John Budish
As the striper season wanes in November, surfcasters in New England do one of three things—they dig their heels into the sand and keep casting until the snowflakes fly, they switch to hunting or freshwater fishing, or they hit the road. The fishermen who grind it out in the New England surf may catch their biggest fish of the season, or they may just enjoy the pleasure of having the beaches and boulder fields to themselves. But, for the fishermen who aren’t quite ready to give up on the diving birds and blitzing fish excitement of the fall migration, packing the truck and hopping on I-95 South is more appealing. Here are some of the best spots to keep your fall run going through Christmas.
Long Island South Shore, New York
While Montauk’s action may be fizzling out by November, the sand beaches and inlets along Long Island’s South Shore can hold good fishing up to Thanksgiving. How you’ll be fishing will depend on the bait, though. Some years, sand eels dig into the South Shore’s sandbars and stay there for weeks, keeping the bass with them. On years with more peanut bunker than sand eels, bass and blues will harass the baitfish schools as they move west, and the hotspots will change from day to day.
Ocean and Monmouth counties, NJ
New Jersey surfcasters are still talking about the 2016 Thanksgiving-Day blitz. I was there, sort of, watching the picket lines of fishermen hook up while I dropped green crabs to a seemingly empty wreck—thus beginning and ending my Thanksgiving tog fishing tradition. Last year’s late-season mayhem was fueled by an abundance of peanut bunker—just like we’ve had this year. Fishing these sand beaches is all about finding the bait. The peanuts will be easy to spot as dark blobs just beyond the surf line. Minnow plugs and small metal lips fished outside the schools are the best bets.
Cape May County, NJ
Southern New Jersey doesn’t get its due as a surfcasting destination. While you won’t see the blitzes of northern New Jersey, fishing clams off the beaches or plugs in the inlets produces large bass every fall. Unique to South Jersey is the bridge fishing scene. Migratory bass enter the bays every fall and stack up along the bridges, intercepting outbound baitfish. Some bridges, like the Rush Chatin Bridge over Corson’s Inlet, have areas specifically for fishermen. Cast Fin-S Fish or Slug-Gos on ½- to 1 ½-ounce jigheads and bounce them back along the bottom toward the bridge. Also, be sure to scan the shadow lines for bass finning on the surface.
Indian River Inlet, Delaware
The top surf spot in Delaware is one of the best places to catch the last of the striper migration. It’s below the striper/rockfish demarcation line, so don’t be surprised if you hear the locals talking about catching “rock.” Bucktails fished on an outgoing tide are the best presentation, but don’t be afraid to do as the locals do and chunk some bunker on the surrounding beaches.