Any Given Sunday


We live in strange times for the surfcaster. A dwindling population of stripers has shown that it will set up shop in just a few areas each season. And as that population has continued to decline those areas have become more and more concentrated. This has given many striper crazies the travel bug and plates from all over the coast can be seen at most of the famous striper outposts that harbor a (usually) consistent bite.

This fact has also brought out the braggarts, people who use social media to make sure that people everywhere know that they are catching when the going has gotten tough for so many others. Closer looks reveal that many of these proud Mary’s cannot be taken seriously as they recycle new shots of old fish to keep their legends alive. What they don’t seem to understand—or maybe they just don’t know that they should care—is that they are placing a big, red target on their backs and it will not be long before their own hallowed grounds are overrun by the hounds looking to exploit whatever work they’ve done to keep themselves catching.

I move around a lot, fishing the waters from Cape Cod to South County Rhode Island and even moving north when conditions line up. Fishing mostly within a “doable” drive of the Canal has had a strange effect on the way people fish on my local turf; the Canal is easy to predict and relatively easy to fish and a lot of guys have migrated there, seemingly permanently. But the last two seasons—this one especially—have been inconsistent, the four day tides that used to be melees are now usually only really good for one day; the others fall somewhere between ‘working for a few’ and ‘skunk’. This has had a sort of “reverse osmosis” effect on many of the surf spots I frequent.

I’m starting to see lights again. Which is kind of bittersweet; on the one hand it does my heart good to see that there are still some surfcasters left out there who don’t mind working for them—but on the other hand, it has forced me back into stealth mode.

Being stealthy is more important than it ever was. Before the Canal started to blow up with big fish, bass could be caught just about everywhere and just about any time. Sure, there were nights and even weeks where the action was very slow, but most areas, at least within my range, had resident fish every year. It was so easy to take for granted, and there wasn’t much worry about being seen catching (unless the fish were big) because odds were that the other lights on the shore were catching too.

It’s not like that anymore. Now it’s all about tide windows and very specific slots within the spots—places that feature the perfect blend of current, structure and depth. And even when I feel like I know the formula, on all but the best nights, there’s still a lot of waiting between fish. But these days, when I see lights, I hardly use mine and I don’t take photos—it’s just too risky.

The exception seems to be Sunday nights. The end of the weekend coupled with the beginning of the work week seems to keep nearly everyone off the water. I never used to fish Sundays either unless I was on a hot bite and didn’t want to lose a hold on the pattern. It’s strange to say, but fishing on a Sunday night makes it seem like 50 percent of the world’s population has been beamed to another planet. There are very few cars on the road after 10 and the shore seems to be soulless. It’s the only night of the week when fishing the surf feels like it did every night 15 years ago when, even on the Canal, seeing the lights of more than three or four people was rare—in the surf I almost never saw another light.

Of course, this Sunday phenomenon is negated at the famous crossroads of striper fishing, there are guys fishing the Canal at every hour of every day and I would guess that, especially as we near September, places like Montauk, the Rhode Island Breachways and Block Island have their own contingent of steadies that are out there no matter what the next day has in store. But if you’re finding yourself being forced into ninja mode like I am, take advantage of the rhythm of the American work week, Sunday nights feel like they could be set in 1940 or 1840; and you don’t have to hold your breath for 20 minutes—waiting to see another—when you’ve had to turn on your light.

5 comments on “Any Given Sunday

  1. Aaron

    Makes me feel “lucky” to live on the West Coast. While all of us out here salivate at the sheer size of your fishery our beaches are essentially wide open (save for a wide open bite that has lasted more than a few days). Most of the fishery in California depends on the San Francisco bay and delta. Fish migrate out the mouth of the golden gate and go either north or south during the summer months with some scattered year round ocean residents. The surf fishing this year is better than anyone can remember it so the beaches are getting more and more crowded, but it’s nowhere near what you describe in your writing.

  2. Gerard D

    It’s funny you wright this. I love Sunday fishing by me in September and October especially . Different reasons but here’s mine. I prefer when the J-E-T-S have the 1 or 4 o’clock game followed by the Giants having the 4 or 8. Here’s why (haha) the Jet fans seem to be a younger louder crowd that like to have a few beverages while watching the game. Some have to many and aren’t capable of driving or are to tired from eating and drinking that they don’t have the energy to get off of the couch. Giants fans are more conservative and want to get home before the game starts and get there bets in talk a little shit to there cowboys fans then watch the game and complain the whole time. By the time the game is over it’s to late and they have work in the morning so they’re better off going to sleep and they’ll get them tomorrow. Leaves me with a few die hards good company and a Rams t-shirt that stinks like fish. I hope this season is a repeat. Is it September yet

  3. Tyler

    Glad to see you calling out the people posting a different picture of the same fish. If they want to be fishing famous so bad, they should fish tournaments.


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