It's official, the lil' Bluefish have invaded the inlet.
There's no way you can float-rig fish the rocks right now without handing every shrimp to a Blue on a bronze platter. I tried. So, it looks as if we completely lost this years early spring Trout bite at the Jetties. This heinous winter keep them hunkered down in a few select creeks, then as the water temp rose slowly, I figured we'd get a trickle of them heading to the ocean. NOPE!
Then, when the bubble finally breaks, and the water temp reaches 63 and were steadily over the 60 degree "tipping point" the nasty lil' Blues show up along with some small sharks, cow-nosed Rays, plain old Stinger Rays, and still no jetty Trout! Or if they are there, you can't even get a bait to them. Lures don't even work, because there so many Blues. But the Trout could be there, too.
Next up will be small Jacks, and then Spanish Macs. Maybe by then, the Blues will dispurse and I'll get a chance to Float-rig for Trout at the big rocks. For big spawning Trout. Till then, I wouldn't run a single float-rigged shrimp down the inlets rocks. But you can, and let me know what ya come up with.
Prepared, I went and did some R&D for Sunday's trip with some folks I had aboard the boat all the way back in summer of 2004, the Hamrock group. I brought monster chowder clams. And quickly switched from float-rigging the rocks to bottom fishing outside the rocks.
The Whiting were all over the clams at first on the mid incoming tide, but my hook was a bit too big for them. So I only caught a few. The clams were of course intended for that 50-60 pound Black Drum. Not a half pound Whiting.
I planned on this, so an abundance of clams was needed. It didn't take long to get bit. And as I have said before this is MEAT fishing. No light tackle sport fishing involved, at least not today. The rod bounced back and forth hard and I knew I had the mornings first Black Drum. I cranked it to the boat with my heavy Ugly Stik charter series rod and Accurate twin drag (ATD) reel. Heavy leader and a Mustad Pro Baiter long shank circle hook made short work of ole rubber-lips.
Drum are 100% smell feeders here in our deep dark water. So keeping a fresh clam on and smelling good is important. I have a few tricks on the how's and why's, that I use and it all worked like a champ. Between the hook, tackle and presentation. I was happy.
A 28 inch, 8.5 pounder. Did kick and put up some fuss on my "HD" tackle. But loosing the fish was not a worry. I just reached over and slung the Drum into the boat. One down, and a one 50-60 pounder needed, for the JOSFC "inshore board" year long tournament.
The fish sure looked bigger than 8.5 pounds! But into the box it went. Saw no one yet tangle with a VW beetle sized one. So "a bird in hand is better than two in the bush"... is what I always say. Kind of not good, because if I had gotten a monster today, I would have two over 24" then...."free Black Drum anyone?" With all the fish being caught looking like this size. And being out there by myself. I was only allowed one over 24 inches. So to keep more Drum, I would have needed more bodies aboard. Or smaller fish.
So I pitched out all new Clam on 4 rods and waited. The Blues and Whiting tasting the new clams was a real pain. Having to constantly be checking baits over and over again. But the bites were there. Unlike when I fished with DOA Rob in 45 degree water....." we would loved to of had bites back then." at least, so no complaints out me! The rod bounced hard again. And I cranked another exact same size Drum to the boat.
I had a few ripped off baits, a few runs and then no hook break-offs. And a few more Whiting ingesting my large circle hook. And the bite quit. As the tide started to change and a long rip line heading my way confirmed that. So I changed positions and even marked big fish off the rocks in 65 feet of water. So I tried it. The tide was slack and the Whiting were all over my baits.
So I tried float-rig fishing one more time, on the North Jetty. Figuring I may get a Redbass like I usually do. But the Bluefish were here too. Which confirmed my "the Bluefish are everywhere out there", suspicions.
It seems to me that the big spawning Sheepshead should be off the rocks out on the mud or sand, because this is the time of year I catch them no where near the rocks. So I tried a spot that usually produces a big 7-Striped Jetty Snapper, by now the tide was starting to fall perfectly. Not too fast, not too slow. So I anchored up on the spot and was there 5 minutes and the heavy duty Ugly Stik started to bounce. I just left it alone.
If it's a whopper Sheeps, it'll eat that clam and by the time it does and I check the rod, it'll be crapping the hook...."that's what I let them do." It means no loosing the fish, not a chance! Sheeps don't eat clam like a shrimp, or a blue crab, or a fiddler. They inhale, and swallow that juicy clam. So after a few minutes, I grabbed the rod and just felt for tension. That's all. No Bill Dance hook set. Just feel for tension, then movement. And then, just reel fast with that long shanked circle hook. YEP, FISH ON!
Not a super sow Sheepshead, but a decent 8 pounder. Nice and thick and full of roe. Then, I caught two toadfish, ands that's a "here's yer sign" kinda thing. So with no more sheeps bites I took off. Went looking down river for a new spot to try and the river was a complate zoo of boats. Had two idiots in Go-Fast noisey pointy boat, race by me even and cut straight in front of me, that I had to grab the throttle and come off plane. But as usual, no idiot goes unpunished in the long run. They ended up floating down river with the engine hatch up and something wrong as I slow peddled by them looking for a spot where it wasn't 4 foot seas in the river from all the wakes. Good for them. I hope their engine blew up!
I stopped on one spot and anchored but the tide was screaming, and no Drum is gonna bite when the boats planing in current like this. And the SE sea breeze was honking. So I headed back to the ramp to clean my fish.
Decent morning, and a no good afternoon. Too may people and not enough water in the river for them all.
I'm sure Sunday will be the same exact way. Looking back in my log books at Easter Sunday, it's always been tough Trout fishing the river because of all the people. So Sunday I'll be leaving the float-rig rods home and going bottom fishing instead. Hope for a big Drum bite, as I'll have 4 people aboard plus me, that's 5 Drum over 24 inches we can keep, if they want too.