Canal Retentive! ‘…………By Dave Anderson

Canal Retentive!

By Dave Anderson


I suppose it’s no secret that I love to fish the Canal, it’s the place where I first started putting countless hours into fishing for striped bass. It’s also a place that’s has taken on many big changes over the 15 years that I’ve been fishing there. The big blitzes have turned everyone that can carry a rod into a self-proclaimed Canal Rat and it has made the battle for space a tough one. People get so caught up in the possibility of catching a big fish that they forget that there has to be some etiquette that goes along with it all!
One particular day I was down at the Ditch fishing a late-morning tide. It was sunny, hot and no fish had shown for over an hour. I was just about to call it quits when a fish blasted my pencil popper three times—and, of course, missed each time! I heard the screech of bicycle brakes pierce the silence from behind me and within seconds an old man was clamoring down the rocks to get in on my “action”. There wasn’t a soul in sight to my right and he chose to set up shop 30 feet away from me—too close for fishing in the Canal. I turned to him and said, “Don’t you think we might be a little too close together?” He cocked his head and inquired with an angry bark, “Are you trying to say I’m too close to you?”
So I said, “Yeah, you’ve got miles of open bank behind you and you’re going to set up THERE!?”
“I can tell you don’t fish down here much,” He said, “You’ve got a lot to learn!”
I couldn’t contain my laughter, so I just burst out laughing.
“Oh, what are you, some kind of tough guy?” Said the old man.
I just shook my head.
“They come a lot tougher than you down here let me tell you!” He yelled.
I shook my head and made another cast.
“Oh, you don’t think so?” He said, “Just wait, they’ll be here soon!”
He kept on his incessant yammering and finally I said, “Hey, I tried to be polite about it, I could have been a lot more…”
Before I could finish my sentence he said “Polite!? Ha! If you were trying to be polite you wouldn’t have said anything at all!”
“Oh I see, I’m supposed to just let you walk all over me.” I said with an ear-to-ear grin.
I decided at that moment that I was going to annoy my new friend to no end so I just started asking him as many questions as I could think of.
“Hey!” I yelled and he refused to look over, “Hey Pops!” He turned toward me. “Where are you from?”
“Why do you want to know where I’m from?” He asked with a drip of fear in his eyes.
“Well, if we’re going to be best friends down here, I might as well know something about you!” I quipped with an evil smile.
“Oh yeah, we’re gonna be REAL good friends!” Said the old curmudgeon.
I went on to tell him everything I could think of about myself that that was impossibly boring, and I asked him maybe 100 questions. The best one was “Have you ever gotten anything really big out of the Canal?”
“Oh yeah” He said.
“What are we talking? Forty? Fifty? SIXTY?” I asked with a tone that begged him to lie.
“Well, I’ve had them up to sixty,” He said, “but those big ones always get away before I can get my hands on them!”
The obvious mark of someone who has not fished the Canal for very long.
This is an example of something that has been spiraling out of control over the past five or so years. And it’s getting worse now with Facebook groups whose sole purpose is to alert all of the members of said group when the bite is on and they are encouraged to provide intimate details on exactly where. Undoubtedly started by someone who wants to do ZERO work and reap all of the benefits of other people’s time and dedication. We’re at a crossroads in surf fishing where people are not considering the damage they can do by posting details on Facebook, but that’s a subject for another day.
Guys who fish the Canal a lot know there is an etiquette to fishing there. It’s an unwritten set of rules that needs to be followed so that people can fish in harmony. For starters, you should set yourself up at least 60-feet from both of your neighbors. Then you have to time your casts to be in synch with those around you, the current carries everyone’s plugs, so the rule is that the guy downtide from you casts first and you follow him while the guy uptide follows you. It’s a simple formula that ensures no one ever gets tangled up out there.
When someone hooks up, the people downtide stop fishing. It doesn’t matter if all hell breaks loose with breaking fish in front of you, you have to wait until the hooked fish is clear of your area (or until the guy with the fish on gives you the go-ahead). When the Canal goes off with blitzing fish and huge schools of bait the best thing to do is talk to the guys around you and try to make friends with them. Help them land fish and try to establish a rotation so that everyone is getting a fair shot at the fish and everyone is helping each other. It makes a huge difference and you’ll never be stuck in the middle of great bite feeling angry because the guys next to you aren’t working with you. These bull-headed bastards that are taking over these days, come down and wedge into spots that physically cannot accommodate a caster and then verbal accost YOU for voicing your displeasure! There’s more to being a fisherman than catching a fish, there should be an ingrained sense of pride that comes with the way you conduct your business and the way you carry yourself. I guess it all boils down to things that should be obvious not to do. I always think of it this way, when I see a spot that’s blowing up with fish and there’s an opening I ask myself if I would be pissed if someone filled that spot next to me because of its size, if the answer is yes I move on. Or you can try just staring at that spot to see if one of the guys will yell up, “What are you waiting for? Get down here!” The Canal will never be what it once was, but if you play by these simple rules you won’t need blood pressure meds when you get home and maybe we can avoid a few of these altercations that have been becoming more and more intense on the Canal.DSC_2105-Edit

22 comments on “Canal Retentive! ‘…………By Dave Anderson

  1. patrick

    Well said. The waterway we grew up fishing has changed so much in the past few years, and not for the better. I really hope that some of the fervor and facebook live reporting eventually breaks under it’s own weight, but I fear for the day I no longer feel like jigging the canal because of an inconsiderate new guard that has made it less fun to hunt for large.

  2. Mark

    There are certain tides and locations that breed idiots down there. Avoid those and enjoy your experience as Dave knows. It’s amazing what happens when you walk up to a guy and ask, is this too close for you over here? You actually make a friend. You may actually see that person again and maybe you can “learn something”

    Starting to really hate internet heroes.

  3. Mark

    I agree totally well said Dave, you must write an article on this subject in spot burning it’s getting out of control!!

  4. chuckb

    Agree wholeheartedly! There are certain spots I will just not fish there any more as the blood pressure goes through the roof due to the lack of etiquette.

  5. Trisser

    Please stop the keep secerets, spot burning, internet hero, and the my turf talk on SJ. The hypocricy is ridiculous! This chatter has been thick since January to a point I am probably going to drop my subscription. What you are saying is I’ll share enough to sell a magazine but hold back with the real good info. I fish the CCC and watch all the old timers calling around on cell phones to their buddies. I personally don’t post or call around but if someone wants to distroy a spot that is their right. If someone wants to stand right beside me to fish the surf that’s their right. I might not like it but I respect it. Helping a new Surfcaster hook up is more rewarding than catching a fish on occasion. I’ve had people cast over my head in NJ, NY, and MA and that is how it goes. If your not happy or excited about it find a new area to fish. Don’t take this wrong because no one likes a jerk standing beside them but access rights is what makes Surfcasting a great sport.

    1. derek

      Trisser the problem with your comment is in most of these places access and to some extent the areas wether canal or beaches or jetties are not rights and we take them for granted the more people the more noise and trash, the more cars parking on lawns and blocking driveways and access roads. it all spirals out of control. I understand were you are coming from but teaching someone how to fish is different than doing everything for them. some secrets are ment to be secrets and it has always been this way in surfcasting from people hiding tire tracks to hiding footprints and fish, to giving false info on lures and locations.

  6. Jeffrey Kellish

    I agree with you,Trisser. I fish with a tight group of guys (4). We fish spots till they get overrun and then move on. It actually makes the fishing challenging and fun, kind of like when we were first starting out. Scouting new areas, learning new spots, keeps it fresh and interesting. You can go on to any blog, forum or website and the bullshit, bitching and whining about how the fishing is getting ruined is the same, don’t want to be a part of it anymore. And if you do post, more than likely you will get some kind of negative response. I have been fishing for 30 years, 22 on the fly rod. I don’t subscribe to magazines anymore because they just rehash the same old stuff, I can’t watch fishing shows either. I would rather be fishing. And I am not one of those Flyfishing snobs that looks down on spin guys, plug, bait or whatever. Fishing is fishing. I will use whatever method the situation or conditions call for. For the sheer pleasure, comraderie, the thrill of the catch, challenging yourself, food for the table, whatever the reason you fish, fishing should be fun!!

  7. Soybomb

    Trisser, I agree with sentence 1 , 2 and 3. Sentence 4,… the “good info” is about learning techniques from experienced sudsmen, not where the bite is. When you mention someones ” Right “, as opposed to what the right thing to do is,… you’re dead wrong. If i’m into fish on an empty stretch of beach and someone saddles up right next to me,… he may have a ” Right “, but something is inherently wrong for him not to realize that his actions are not normal and most likely will cause tension. Do you like close talkers ???? No. No one does. Normal people understand personal space. The more room there is, the greater that buffer becomes. It’s basic human skills. I’m not saying that the next sentence applies to you,… but generally speaking, it’s the people who insist on their ” Rights” that are the real problem in society, not just fishing. Whatever happened to common decency and common sense ???? Having said that, I too have had it with the ” my spot ” mentality. Guess what guys,… if any of you think that your spot is indeed “your spot “, someone else knows about it. Yeah, that’s right. If their not there when you are, their probably fishing a better spot !

  8. Trisser

    Soybomb, I totally agree with you. Right are different than common decency. Sadly, some people get it and some people don’t. That said fishing in the surf allows people to park in your back pocket if they want to. It is the same right that allows us to walk any stretch of beach along our coasts to fish. I’ve learned to walk away to find different fish or help a new surfcaster out. Just part of the challenge!

  9. MRisser

    Dave, I’ll be at the canal in a few weeks. I hope you can spare a few feet for somone who doesn’t have the chance to spend 15 years learning every nook and cranny of it, to the point where they feel like they own it. Maybe the ediqute lesson would be better recieved if it didn’t seem like the icing on a hate-filled cake. Befriend a fellow surfcaster, and maybe you have a fishing companion. Certainly don’t write a blog post about how you berated one, and how good you were at it.

    I’m only taking the time to comment here since I am a subscriber, and in a small way support with my $ this forum. SJ has, in my opinion, taken a bad turn in the last 6 months. The theams of hiding, no-communication, owning a location, it was better yesteryear are undeniable. The internet, cell-phones, social media, blogs, etc. are not going anywhere, and this publication is part of it!!

  10. pa. rick

    Dave, +1. new breed of fisherman out there, they want it all and they want it now, with the least amount of effort on their part. unfortunatly they think that is o/k.

  11. Roger C

    You write about fishing online and post trophy bass pics at the local b&t and you expect to be left alone??

  12. derek

    Dave spot on, for the other guys not liking your comments oh well it needs to be said, because the next problem we are going to face is losing access. and yes that stems from all the internet heroism. no one is saying you cant fish there but no need to let the whole world know either . spots only hold so many people right or wrong. I fished next dave there and a lot of other people some good and some bad. the bad are becoming more what I take from this article is how to fish the canal so everyone can fish and have fun and not lose our access rights because I guarantee the way it is going we will lose it and many of the other spots we fish.
    one thing I do love about all the talk about the battles at the canal is how bad we are there and all the crying and casting over guys heads and casting on their fish, try doing this stuff at Montauk or jersey and you will get punched in the face , you wont get a warning
    way to go dave I will reup my subscription and would fish next to again any day ( 60 feet away of course)

  13. Ron McKee-Striper-Maineiac

    Nice start of a discussion Dave. I started fishing the Canal back in the 60’s while staying with family.The herrin run was something with guys standing shouldr to shoulder.I was just a kid so i got treated better than most an my old Schwinn didn’t have rod holders just big tires an baskets LOL.Respect comes hard but it comes many times with an open hand and lettin the new comer know how to do it without trying to sound like you have rights an they don’t. most of my fishin in the ditch is at night now and when I’m passin through. Way too many better spots out there that the new crowd doesn’t want to take the time to learn them by just goin fishin when you drive by a good lookin spot. askin permission to park or just givin someone a fish or 2 in good will goes a long way .I’ve been 100 yrds away from someone an had them complain as I was in their drift. get over it if you need all that space your the problem not the guy who is just tryin to catch some fish. Tolerance is part of it as we were all googans once apon a time some of us were lucky an this is our passion. Most have way too many things in their life to have or take the time as some of us do persuing our striper fever as it is called at times.
    Remeber the anglers who respond to allllllll the secret cell calls going on is the last person who should ever complain as the same for anyone makin a buck from writing about it. Teaching is a better way to fix things an a bit of kindness goes a long way.

  14. B Fishing

    This post reads like a conversation between friends over beers. Candidly, that’s where it should have stayed. Unfortunately, the only thing worse than getting mugged at the Canal is listening to or reading people bitch about it. For such a young guy, Dave seems very angry, entitled and condescending. He’s had a few pieces about messing with people at the canal that I have found obnoxious and offered absolutely zero value. I enjoyed his piece about helping the young boy learn to and land his first canal fish. That article temporarily changed my opinion of his writing. If I wanted to read writing like this I can go to the online “striper” sites. I expect much better from SJ. I realize the blog is free but I’m a paying magazine customer. I also wouldn’t threaten to cancel my subscription, because the magazine is a tremendous resource I enjoy. Please boys find someone to add content that relates to actual fishing (north of CT, NY, NJ) that isn’t loaded with sarcasm and smug anecdotes. You have so many talented writers and I’m sure plenty of people to choose from.

  15. derek

    I think a lot of people are taking his article the wrong way, I think what he is trying to get across is canal etiquette . if you fish down the canal a lot and been doing it for many years you know exactly what he is talking about. so this article might not be for everyone , but it is right on the nose for a lot of people

  16. Canal Rat #1

    Dave is just a jaded old vet who knows of how things “once were” like all internet hero’s before him (Tongue in cheek, I’ve been fishing the place quite a bit longer).

    Needs to be said? like these sentiments haven’t been hammered to the ground for 5 years online at this point- you must be a newbie.

    When someone like that pulls up next to me I head to another spot; simple as that. I don’t need to show some jamoke how much I know about fishing the canal as I’m well aware there will ALWAYS be someone that does it more consistently and with better results than I and like to fish alone. Instead of resenting someone for fishing too closely to me, I live by my words and FISH ALONE.

    And yes, I do listen to A LOT of Phish and like my occasional puff when the bites off.

  17. Sy

    It all comes down to etiquette and respecting people’s space. I know easier said then done, I do my fair share or canal fishing more then most that think they own the place. I see it all the time not just from so called newbies or weekend warriors, but from the guys that supposedly own the place, they sit up top service rd nose in the air and when they see someone catching they run down or better yet they cast from up top of you and think it’s ok because of their sense of entitlement. Maybe it’s the Gibbs stickers on their bikes or what but some people think they don’t have to follow the same etiquette they preach or expect from others. The worst thing that happened to me was fishing by the sag and caught to small keepers jigging, I guess these 2 idiots watching from the lot above thought it was ok to run down place their rod in the rock next to me and run up and get the rest of their gear. I could of made it ugly and thrown the rod along with them in the ditch but I just packed up and moved on. Not worth it, 7 miles on each side, and I got enough confidence in myself to catch elsewhere. The guys new to the sport follow by example so show them the way, I know some people are helpless but most just need a good teacher or guide. Tight lines everyone and be safe


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