Saturday, July 30, 2016

Summer of the Blues

This has been one of the biggest summers for bluefish that I have seen in over a decade. I am consistently getting upwards of seven or eight blues an evening in the Bay from shore, and there seems to be no let up in sight.  In fact, their numbers seem to be increasing!
It's been blues, and lots of them, so far this summer.
This influx of bluefish is all being fueled by an unusual amount of bait that entered the Bay in the spring and that keeps coming.  Right now, there is everything known to these parts.  I see big schools of large menhaden on occasion, very large concentrations of peanut bunker and even schools of bay anchovies. The bigger blues are on the large menhaden while the smaller ones under 8 lbs. are voraciously feeding on the peanut bunker and bay anchovies.  At times they can bee seen busting in big groups.
As I have said in previous posts, these fish are fussy which is probably due to the warm water (mid to upper 70's). The smaller blues are keying on plastic shads and cutting up as many as they are taking. The larger blues (when they are in the mood) are taking larger plugs like pencil poppers and large standard poppers.
While I have stayed in the Bay to catch these blues and occasional stripers, I am hearing about bluefish action along the oceanfront also. Same deal as the Bay....where bait comes ashore, bluefish are on it.
This is all setting up what looks to be an outstanding fall. Come September, the Bay should be wild with blues and occasional good size stripers.  The oceanfront should be a mix of stripers, blues and albies. Can't wait!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hottest Lure of the Week....Plastic Shad Body

I don't like using plastics when blues are around, but when the plastics are the ONLY thing they will hit, I'll use them.  All of a sudden, the hottest lure in my bag is a 4-inch shad body mounted onto a half ounce jighead. I especially like a sparling green color with a black back. This lure is catching lots of bluefish for me in the Bay along with some stripers. The drawback to using this lure is that the blues are merciless when it comes to cutting them up.  A couple of nights back I landed seven blues and went through at least 10 plastic bodies.  However, years ago I bought bags of 50 of them at a time and these bags have sat in my basement for years so I am now putting them to use!
A plastic shad is a dead ringer for a peanut bunker.  It has the right size and shape.  And, that wiggling fan tail is the icing on the cake.  It's also a lure anyone, even a novice, can use with deadly effectiveness.  Simply cast it out and reel it in.
I wish I could tell you the blues are hitting hard plugs. They are not.  They have gotten mighty fussy in the warm water that is loaded with bait. This fussiness is a summertime thing I have seen repeated many times over the years. So, if it's plastic shads they are hitting, it's shads I am using!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Bluefish Take Over

I got this blue last night on a
plastic shad body. The blues have
been fussy at times and plastic
sometimes does the trick.
In the last week, the striper fishing has dwindled down to an occasional small schoolie in the Bay.  On the other hand the bluefish fishing has just taken off in this warm weather.  I checked the NOAA site this morning for water temperatures and was surprised to find the surface water at Conimicut was a hot 79 degrees.  Most of the Bay water was running in the mid to high 70's. Even the oceanfront was running in the low 70's. That has driven most of the good size stripers right out, and they have been replaced by bluefish.  The Bay is still full of all kinds of bait and that's keeping the blues active.
The blues have been running all sizes.  On one cast I'll catch a 12 incher, several casts later might produce a 6 pounder, and if you can find large menhaden around, you might even hook into a real large fish up to 15 lbs.
The other surprising thing is that many of these blues have been fussy. I've seen evenings where they are tearing through bait yet unwilling to hit most artificials. This does happen in the summer.  I was fishing next to a friend the other night and he was having the best success on 4 inch plastic shad bodies on jigheads.  I'm not a fan of using plastics for blues, but if it's the only thing that is working so be it.  I've gotten some this week on Jumpin Minnows and bucktail jigs as both have worked at times.
So, it's July, it's hot, and the striper fishing has taken a dive from shore.  All pretty normal. The good news is that there is still good action to be had if you like fishing for blues.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Hottest Plug Right Now

In the last week, my son Ben and I have landed over 100 stripers from the Bay.  These fish have ranged from small schoolies up to 20 lb. keepers (see photo at right)  In addition, we have landed a good number of bluefish. All these fish have fallen for the same lure, a Rebel Jumpin Minnow. This plug is about the best thing to use when peanut bunker are around and the fish are hitting on the surface. And, the peanut bunker are around big time right now.
The Jumpin Minnow is an inexpensive plastic plug.  I noticed they were on sale this week at Cabelas for $5.79. The problem with these plugs right out of the box is that they come with super flimsy hardware and hooks.  So, I get rid of the hooks and split rings and put in beefed up split rings and VMC 4x trebles in a size #2.  I get this stuff from NJ Tackle.
My favorite colors in this plug are a bone color (white), silver with a black back and a blue back model (see photo at left). Note that this is a small plug weighing half an ounce, but it casts well.  It is best used with fairly light tackle.
Here's how I work it.  Cast out and retrieve slowly while pulling on the rod tip with a lot of small pulls. If the plug is darting back and forth along the surface, it is working correctly. A lot of times fish will whirl it.  When that happens slow down the retrieve to a crawl.  Usually they will take the slow moving plug.
This plug is hot right now.  I have also used it a lot in the past in the fall when peanut bunker were along the oceanfront.  It works real well there too.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Photo of the Day

Ben Pickering holds the biggest of 35 stripers landed
tonight from shore.  The spectacular Bay fishing

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Peanut Bunker: A Game Changer

The water temperature in the Bay at midweek was in the mid seventies.  Most fishermen will tell you that is way too warm for stripers.  Yet, this has been one of my best weeks of shore fishing in the Bay. So, what's going on?
Peanut bunker have entered
the Bay in big numbers and
have lured in all kinds of fish
to feed including stripers
and bluefish (right).
Peanut bunker have changed the game.  In the last couple of weeks I have seen big schools of these baby menhaden moving around in various places. This is unusual because we usually don't see them until late summer. They have lured in all kinds of fish such as stripers, bluefish, fluke and even sea robins. Wherever this bait gathers, big numbers of fish follow.  And, these predators have followed it into the Bay regardless of what the water temperature is reading.
One issue when chasing down stripers is that there are almost equal numbers of bluefish around. Because of that, the use of plastics is out. So, I have been going with a bucktail jig (half ounce) when fishing the bottom and a Jumpin Minnow when fishing the surface. I am adding inexpensive grub tails to my jig that makes it even more effective. The jig has caught more because it is also attracting bottom feeders.  Most of the stripers I am catching are schoolies up to 22 inches.  The blues are running three to six pounds although there have been some huge ones around after larger menhaden when you can find them.
So far this year the Bay would have to be given an A+ rating. I know other hotspots of the past don't seem to be producing this year, but the Bay has been excellent.
It is now July 9. The Bay should have died weeks ago.  It hasn't.  Credit peanut bunker and the occasional schools of adult bunker for the recent good fishing.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Holiday Weekend Best Bets

Lots of small blues in the Bay
chasing schools of
peanut bunker. This is one of
three I landed tonight.
It's the start of the fourth of July weekend and the start of summer vacation for a lot of people.  I'm sure many will wet a line in the next week or so.  Here are your best bets;
Blues in the Bay-  Whether you fish from shore or a boat, you can expect to find blues on the increase.  There are some good numbers of small ones in the 3-6 lb. range tearing through peanut bunker schools in the Bay. They are hitting a variety of lures including poppers, swimmers and jigs.  With water temperatures in the Bay climbing into the low seventies, stripers are moving out, although there are still some around, but nowwhere near the numbers we had weeks ago. With water temperatures in the upper 60's, the oceanfront might be a better bet to find stripers, although reports are not good.
Black sea bass are abundant along
the oceanfront.  Other bottom feeders
like scup and fluke are also around
in good numbers.
Bottom Fish Rule the Oceanfront-  It's that time of year when bottom fish are abundant.  Scup, black sea bass and fluke are all around in good numbers along the oceanfront and parts of the lower Bay.  Boaters have a big advantage here as they can move around and find the concentrations of these fish. However, scup, in particular, are available to shore fishermen in good numbers.  I like to use artificials for these fish.  From the boat, vertical jigging such lures as Kastmaster XL's, Deadly Dicks, and bucktail jigs spiced with squid strips are all good bets to catch these bottom feeders.  And, as a bonus these three fish are all great to eat. If you are looking for detailed tips and ideas about how to catch fluke, scup and black sea bass from the boat, check out my latest story, Bottom Fishing Trifecta in this week's Fisherman magazine.