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John Skinner

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.

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September 24, 2013

Trusted Tools

by John Skinner

Eels, bucktails, pencil poppers, minnow plugs (Bombers/RedFins), and various Super Strike lures - I'd bet these make up what I'm casting at least 90% of the time. I see Super Strike plugs in particular as solid tools in the bag. They just plain work, and because they're plastic, there's no difference from one to the next. No "blems" or imperfections. If they're not catching, I can't blame the plug. It's one thing less I have to think about. I also like that, unlike wood, the plastic gets barely more than scratched by teeth and sharp hooks while their wood counterparts eventually get gouged.
Mullet began moving out of the bays and along the ocean beaches at least 10 days ago. I have seen very little on them, but there's always potential when they're around. It's hard to beat the blue Super Strike Little Necks when the fish are on mullet. The 1 1/2-ounce is a perfect match for a mullet's size and profile. The 2 3/8-ounce is what I go for when I need to reach the whitewater of a distant bar. That was the situation in the video below. There was nothing showing - no birds or fish breaking, and I didn't actually see any mullet around. I just figured there would be some, and even if I was wrong, blue is a good plug color anyway.
There's still mullet in the surf, and plenty of other bait to move. Sandeels are along the beaches to at least Moriches Inlet. What we need are some more bass. Just ask anyone who participated in this past weekend's Montauk Surf Classic. The top three bass were 37, 18, and 18 pounds. Out of all those entrants and talent there was only one fish over 20 pounds caught. Amazing. And not in a good way. Reports are that most anglers would have been happy to bend a rod even on small fish, but they were scarce too. It can only get better. Enjoy the video.

September 16, 2013

Sometimes the Nose Knows

by John Skinner

Have you ever been going along and then thought to yourself "I smell fish"? Fish such as bluefish and bunker give off enough oil that it often ends up on the water's surface and you can smell them from quite some distance. If you're a bunker chunker, you've probably seen the small slick that results from your chunk hitting the water. The problem with just smelling fish is that the smell can travel quite some distance, and it may be from nothing more than an angler in the area fishing with bunker. Those shiny spots on the water can also be a sign of fish, but they can also come from many other things, such as a little oil or fuel dripping off someone's boat. A couple weeks ago I was paddling out to troll tube and worm over some deeper rocks when I noticed a fish smell and shiny spot that was maybe 30 feet by 30 feet. The smell had me thinking there were fish feeding nearby, and the slick gave away the exact location. Because this was in a shallow structureless area that had nothing to hold fish, I figured this was a fleeting opportunity and put a bucktail on the upcurrent edge of the slick as fast as I could. I had some fun for a bit. When the slick was gone, so were the fish.

September 08, 2013

Here We Go?

by John Skinner

Northeast winds 15 to 20 knots, gusts to 25. Temperatures dropping to about 50 degrees. That was the forecast as I wrote this on September 8. One word should come to the mind of every surfcaster looking at that data – mullet. It's about a week early for a major blast, but I'll be very surprised if I go to the beach in the morning and don't see some making their tell-tale "V" wakes on the surface of the ocean. Ten years ago, probably even five, I'd be quite confident that there would be at least some bass on them. Probably not a total blitz scene yet, but I could expect some action. I'm not expecting much tomorrow. I'll nevertheless have a token line-up of plugs proven on past mullet runs: a blue 1.5-ounce Super Strike popper, a blue 1-ounce Gibbs Danny metal-lipped swimmer, a blue 6-inch Bomber, a blue Gibbs pencil popper. As expected when targeting a mullet run, blue is heavily favored. I'm not going to weigh the bag down with stuff. Should I be pleasantly surprised, these plugs will collectively do plenty of damage. I'll use my 9-footer because it's a little better suited to working plugs close to the shore where mullet-fueled hits often occur. I'm secretly hoping there will be some bluefish around just so I can go through the motions and bend the rod a bit.
I'm usually not so pessimistic, but that's because I'm usually doing structure oriented fishing on the night tides, and most of those efforts are fruitful. Still, I know there's no way I'll be able to sleep past first light tomorrow morning with the sound of the leaves rustling and a cool breeze blowing through the bedroom window without my brain telling me I need to be on the beach. So I'll go. When I fail to catch any bass of significance, I'll blame it on the calendar, use the excuse that it's still a week early, and go through the whole thing again on the next cold front.
My pessimism comes from a string of years with little or no mullet-induced action. When it happens, it's localized or short in duration. Another thing that has me feeling a little extra pessimism is this summer's lack of good striper boat reports from the eastern inlets. No matter how you feel about people posting reports, it's undeniable that they give some feel for what's going on. Even if no surfcasters are reporting, you can bet that the charters will be quick to advertise their successes in a timely fashion because it's good for business. The only bass being reported out of the inlets the past six weeks ago are a handful of keeperish fish on live baits. Somehow I'm not expecting that bass are suddenly going to materialize on the beaches because there's some mullet swimming around.
If you're reading this on Tuesday or later we'll already know if the wind that I can hear accelerating while I'm typing this will ignite some beach action. I'm hoping my pessimism was off-base and I sounded clueless.

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