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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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October 13, 2013

Sandeels and Needlefish Plugs

by John Skinner

It's probably safe to say that the predominant baitfish in the eastern Long Island ocean surf is now sandeels. They fueled some good fishing over the past week, with the recent easterly blow producing some localized excellent action. As with most sandeel powered fishing, the action included the night hours. As is always the case with sandeel runs, diamond jigs in the 007 through A47 sizes dominated the daytime lure choices. The A17 and A27 sizes were seeing most of the action.
Super Strike needlefish plugs, marketed as "Super N Fish", were my choice in the dark. The Super Strike Needles come in three sizes and six different weights. The red-eyed plugs are the special heavy-weighted versions. In the recent strong easterly winds with a big sweep I favored the heavy weighted 3-ounce needles that cast and cut through the wind like a missile and had enough weight to stay in the strike zone long enough to get hit before being swept away by the sideways winds and seas. Under more moderate conditions I did well on the middle size 1 1/2-ounce plugs. The six different weights of Super Strike needles can cover everything from a quiet back bay to a storm on the oceanfront. Numerous fishing lure manufactures make needlefish plugs. I have a personal preference for the Super Strikes because they work consistently and hold up well.
The challenge for anglers who have never caught fish with needlefish plugs is to have any confidence at all that they're going to work. After all, these are little more than straight plastic or wood sticks with hooks hanging off. Drag one through the water to observe its action and you're sure to be underwhelmed. Nonetheless, stripers will pound these plugs, particularly in rough conditions. Over the years, many bass over 50 pounds have fallen to needlefish plugs in the northeast surf. Little more than a straight and steady retrieve is required to make them catch, but you can also add in occasional lifts and twitches. I use a slow retrieve speed at night and maybe a touch faster in the daylight. The most important aspect of the retrieve is to stay in contact with the plug as it's being knocked around by the surf.
The following video shows how I work a needle and should give a little confidence to those who have never caught fish on them before. If your area is not seeing sandeels now, they may be yet to come. My logs show that the excellent 2010 sandeel run didn't become widespread until late October.

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