John Skinner is the author of Fishing the Bucktail and A Season on the Edge. He’s the creator of the fishing log software FishersLog. He’s a consistent producer of trophy striped bass and holds the current New York State false albacore record.
I was at a South Shore inlet recently catching triggerfish when several familiar SUVs rolled up with kayaks on the roofs headed for the ocean. These were hardcore striper surf anglers, but like me, they were in summer mode, preferring to catch bottom species in bathing suits and sunshine rather than to grind out mostly uneventful and labor-intensive stripers during the humid and buggy nights. Fluke, porgies, sea bass, and triggers are providing plenty of fun action and good eating for those willing to give the stripers a break. If you have a kayak, the possibilities are endless. Even without one, there are plenty of shore-based opportunities. An angler that I took fluke fishing in my boat emailed me recently to tell me he was using the bucktail and Gulp rig I showed him to have good fluke action from the open ocean beach. His modification to my rig was to substitute a Gulp Jerk Shad for the Gulp Swimming Mullet on the teaser hook in order to better match the profile of the sandeels he was seeing. "I can't keep them off it!" was how he described the action. The rig is a 1-ounce bucktail tipped with a 4-inch Gulp Swimming Mullet and a 3/0 Gamakatsu Baitholder hook on a dropper loop 12 inches above the jig. This hook is tipped with the Gulp or strip bait of your choice. After bucktailing a couple of jumbo 18-inch porgies in my kayak while targeting bass in Long Island Sound, I dropped down to a jig with a smaller hook and targeted the porgies with bucktails. It's something I began doing a couple years ago after noticing how I often caught porgies on bucktails meant for stripers. You can catch the porgies on jigs tipped with Gulp worm pieces or small strips of porkrind, making this perfect for a shore-bound angler looking to catch a few scup without carrying extra bottom fishing gear and bait. The Gulp and porkrind usually work, but tipping the jig with small squid strips means almost guaranteed action if the porgies are around. A fun aspect of the jig fishing is that it seems to cull out the larger porgies while reducing a lot of the interference of the smaller "pin" porgies. It's important to keep the jig within a couple feet of the bottom as much as possible to stay in the porgy strike zone. I use a slow retrieve with lots of twitches to get their attention, and free-spool the line to get back to the bottom when I think my jig has climbed too high in the water column. Here's a video I made on how I do it.
"Global warming is great!" is how I felt while looking into my cooler of shore-caught triggerfish. While I'm quite sure their presence has nothing to do with long-term weather trends, I do have to wonder how it is that ten years ago these fish were a relatively uncommon southern visitor, but now you can target them with a high chance of success. There's no doubt that this summer's above average temperatures and warm waters are helping the trigger fishery. They'll readily take squid or clam strips fished on porgy hooks. Be sure to bring extra hooks. If you hook one deep, it's nearly impossible to get the hook back. They also have a set of hard chomping teeth that can bite through hooks. Look for the triggers around any ocean jetties or other hard structure. Bring lots of bait as this same structure holds plenty of tiny sea bass and bergals, and don't forget to read Rich Trox's trigger how-to on stripers247. If you're still bent on fishing stripers, your best bet will be to stick to the dusk through dawn period. Worms fished from North Shore beaches produce bass through the summer. Eels fished in and near the inlets and at Montauk give a good chance at action on the South Shore. With snappers getting larger by the day and becoming striper candy, fishing pencil poppers on the open beaches at dusk and dawn should provide a decent shot at bass.
Judging by the information coming from Penn Reels concerning their new Spinfisher V series, buying a dependable reel for all but the most extreme surf fishing applications at a modest price is about to get easier. Later this year, Penn is expected to release the new line of reels. Of interest to surfcasters and kayak anglers is that these will be marketed as watertight reels that will keep your gears and drag washers dry even when the reel is dunked underwater. This is a full line of reels from light tackle to offshore sizes, and will replace the SSg, SSm, and Slammer lines. Something to take note of on these newer reels is the higher speeds. Surf reels are typically slow as compared to reels made for anglers casting to tuna from a boat. This is worth noting because if you've fished a lot with reels of a certain speed, you've probably become very in tune with how fast to crank in order to produce hits. As an example, let's consider my North Shore plugging reel. It's a Penn 550SSg, previously a Penn 5500SS, previously a Penn 550SS, which replaced a Penn 710 that I used since I was a kid (and still have). On the Penn website, the line retrieved per crank on the 550SSg that I use now is listed as 29 inches. This reel has a gear ratio of 5.1:1. This means that every full turn of the reel handle spins the rotor 5 times and retrieves 29 inches of line. The equivalent reel in the Spinfisher V line, the SSV5500, has a gear ratio of 5.6:1, and pulls in 35 inches of line. Another way of looking at this is that the new reel is 20% faster, and if you're to present your lures to the fish at the same speed with the new reel as opposed to the current one, you'll need to crank about 20% slower. When I'm plugging Long Island Sound at night, I'm crawling plugs such as Bombers and RedFins at very slow speeds, and barely turning the handle. With the new reel, I'm going to have to discipline myself to turn that handle even a little bit slower. With time, this "new slow" will eventually become the norm, which will be a good thing because many new spinning reels have high gear ratios. I've pretty much gone through life with water getting in the gear case of my Penn 706Z. It's packed with grease, and no damage or significant loss of performance comes from this. Still, I'd appreciate the water staying out. The very attractive improvement for me on the new reels is the watertight drag. I'm constantly popping out and drying my drag washers on my 706 because wet drag washers can be a disaster with a big fish on. When they're wet, there's no middle-ground. You have to crank down very hard on the drag, and when the water-induced slippage stops, it sometimes stops completely. This might be more of a problem for me personally because, in big fish situations, I fish with a nearly locked drag to maximize the hookset. I back down immediately on the drag after the hookup if I need to. Many people say you should never touch the drag while fighting a fish. Frankly I can't understand why anyone would think that the drag setting should be the same at the very end of the fight as it is when you're trying to bury the hook. In any case – dry drag washers are huge. Even if you don't dunk your reel, rain works just fine at soaking drag washers on many reels, especially when the reels are transported outside the vehicle. The new reels are expected to retail in the $140-$200 range. I'm not going to go through all of the other features of the new reels. Penn does a fine enough job on this link. An even better look can be had on the following two videos. I especially recommend the second one - "Upclose Look at Upgrades".