When On The Water editor Kevin Blinkoff called me wanting to know if I had forgotten to submit a column for the magazine, I had to tell him what many who know me would not believe. I had no idea what to write about. I guess this is what professionals call “writer’s block.”
His response was to inform me that the number-one question OTW staff hears from the readers is…wait for it… “Where should I go fishing?” I am not sure if I heard the angels singing, but the clouds over my laptop immediately dissipated. Simply put, my column that month was about surf fishing in September, at the very beginning of the fall run. Thus, I hereby present to you a partial answer to the question. This is a tour of four spots to fish during this fall run.
PLUM ISLAND, Newburyport
The first stop on your tour of my favorite fall run surf-fishing spots is a Massachusetts state park located at the southern end of Plum Island. Sandy Point is a very popular sunbathing and swimming beach during the summer, but like many of the spots on my fall must-fish list, in September, the fishermen (and women) take over. While the beach buggy crowd fishes the limited over-sand vehicle areas and regulars take advantage of the multiple parking lots with easy walk on access in the Parker River Wildlife Refuge, and drive through the refuge and park right inside the entrance to Sandy Point State Park. Walk out of this parking lot to the left with a bag of wooden metal-lipped swimmers as night falls, or show up just before false dawn with pencil poppers, and you are likely to forget where you are. The images here are usually related to more remote locations like the north side of Martha’s Vineyard or Cuttyhunk Island, and on many a September day or night, the fishing will as well. When the fish are here, the fishing is top notch for both numbers and size. A great big double bonus is that this place never seems to get crowded, and there is so much quality structure that each visit brings with it a new excitement about what is lying around the next bend.
DEER ISLAND, Winthrop
Next, on the northern end of Boston Harbor is the most interesting-looking architectural design in the whole city. At first glance, the Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant conjures up images of cold war Europe – it used to make me think of nuclear missile silos. Today, the “poop tanks” as I have come to know them, only make me think of huge numbers of blitzing striped bass and arms that just can’t reel any more. This is what it feels like after a full tide of fall run fishing on the rocky bars at the point surrounding the plant. Parking is decent, and once again, this is not a heavily fished location so you are frequently left alone to explore each and every tidal rip and eddy. The classic blue-and-white Atom popper is still king in this area for daytime blitz conditions, but do not be caught here without a Kastmaster when the wind is blowing, which is often the case here at the entrance to the outer harbor.
NANTASKET BEACH, Hull
On the opposite end of Boston Harbor, another of my fall run favorites is the northern end of Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts. On a map, you will see that X & Y streets in Hull sort of run into each other. These short roads lie behind the Daley and Wanzer moving company parking lot. I used to live in Hull and would frequently park in the lot and walk the half block out to the beach. It has been a couple years since I have fished this spot, and the parking situation may have changed, so stop in at Hull Bait and Tackle and get up-to-date info about where you can find safe parking. The stretch of beach from X Street to Point Allerton has been a favorite fall surf-fishing spot for many fishermen over the years. Every once in a while I get the honor of being asked to give a talk on surfcasting. When I try and explain that successful surfcasters increase their ability to understand a spot and catch fish when they visit a spot during low tide, it is pictures of this spot that I use in my slides. The difference between what this stretch of beach looks like between low and high tide is amazing, and after one views these contrasting images, they immediately understand what I am trying to convey. If you check this spot out, you will get it as well. Black Mambo Minnows at night are a deadly here, absolutely deadly.
Next up is my favorite surf-fishing location on this whole planet. This month, the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby weighmaster will once again ring the bell, and one of the most prestigious fishing tournaments will begin. The island of Martha’s Vineyard has it all. Point one about fishing Martha’s Vineyard is that there is always moving water at some location on the island, so there is always a decent tide to fish. Point two is that there is always a section of the island in the lee of the wind, which means there is always a place to tuck in and not loose a fishing day to a big blow. Point three is that there is structure – a wide variety of quality structure – found all around the island. Sandy beaches can be found at Wasque and Gay Head. Boulder fields are located on the north shore of the island. If you prefer a jetty, the island has locations such as Menemsha and West Chop, and I am only just scratching the surface. Point four is the variety of species that can be caught: striped bass and bluefish are the superstars, but many come for the exotic false albacore, bonito and Spanish mackerel that are available from shore. Point five is Dick’s, Coop’s, Larry’s and Porky’s – classic, old school tackle shops that each have owners with big personalities yet each maintains a distinct and separate identity. Last but not least is that Martha’s Vineyard has some of the best shore access anywhere. In general, fishermen are welcome across this island. Isn’t that a precious surprise? If you have never made the trip, all I can say is that a fishing trip to Martha’s Vineyard delivers way beyond my expectations and I am hard to please – just ask my saint-like wife.
There is one thing that each of these locations has in common when the fishing is good: They will hold a lot of bait. The presence of a concentration of forage is the most important factor that contributes to choosing a successful fall run location. No bait, no fish. It is that simple. Once you find the bait, determine what fishing method will match that bait and you are past half-way to great angling success. I hope this column got your mind thinking about the fall run. September is great weather and greater fishing. Get out there and rub some sunshine on your face, we all deserve some of that.