by Capt. Steve Byrne
There's something special about looking through clear water at several hundred bunker swimming straight at you, mouths open, and then watching as they suddenly explode in reaction to a bluefish tearing through the school. It's good stuff.
Good as that stuff may be, bass are better. Problem is that lately, the number of bluefish seems to rival the number of bunker. Stripers don't stand much of a chance in the race to live bunker when they're competing with pomatomus saltatrix.
That meant channeling my inner George Peppard and coming up with a plan. Those of you too young to remember the A-Team will have to google it.
I pondered the question of how to deal with the onslaught of bluefish and I came up with a couple of good solutions. I found the bunker, loaded up the live well, and then put my plan into action. The Plan included two tactics this morning and they both produced stripes.
First, I found schools of bunker (not the ones I netted) that were getting hammered by bluefish. Instead of tossing a live bunker into the melee, I put the boat down-current of the war zone and started my drift.
That paid nearly instant dividends as line left my reel faster than any bunker ever swam. I was hooked up on the first drift, and it was not a bluefish. By the time I brought the fish to the boat, unhooked her and straightened everything out, I was a good one hundred yards from the blues and bunker.
I was able to repeat that performance three more times before the action broke up. The four fish were from 33 to 36 inches, and I kept one for dinner.
Instead of waiting around for the bluefish to get their act together again, I took a ride to one of my blackfish spots, and no, I was not going for blackfish.
The structure appeared on the fish finder as I passed over it, and I stopped the boat upcurrent. Four ounces of lead was enough to encourage the live bunker to swim down to the structure, and very quickly there were bass smacking it around. Although the bass definitely were playing with the bunker, they never took it.
A slow retrieve brought the bunker to the surface and there were two stripers right behind it. They knocked it around some more but swam off without finishing the job.
The next few drifts were frustrating: the screen had excellent marks on it, but the fish just weren't eating. Finally I connected with another bass, after which I decided to call it a morning.
So for the next couple of weeks that's my plan: fish away from the schools getting chomped by bluefish, and focus on structure when I can't find active fish.
What's your plan?