Holding back…

I know some of you will take exception to what I am about to write but its something that is rattling in my head and I want to see what everyone’s feelings are on it. Personally, I think there is way too much “where are the fish” instead of learning how to catch fish in your local spots. I been fortunate over the years to be clued in few things but I also spend many night intently looking at what other people are doing. I share as much as I can but sometimes I also hold back few things..


The other night, I arrived at one of my local holes in Jones Inlet to find three guys fishing were I wanted to fish. I was waaaaaay overdressed in comparison, waders, jacket, belt where they had shorts and sneakers. I know this crew from before and they always have tossed bait in the past and often leaving this spot looking like a pigsty. But now all three were tossing bucktails…hmm, that is interesting.


There are certain spots, pick any jetty from Montauk to Cape May where guys toss clams and bunker all day long off the jetties only to leave at dusk. I am cool with that (other then ungodly mess they leave behind). I rarely show up before dark and considering impending darkness and no cleats, a little after sunset they are almost always gone. They catch their share of sea robins, skates and occasional blue or bass. So far, I have never seen them graduate to plugs. Until this year…..when bluefish showed up few weeks ago they were all armed with tins and they were bailing fish. Yeah, having no cleats, they lost quite a few fish into the rocks. But once it got dark they were gone. They weren’t missing much as finding a bass has been tough here even at night.


So after exchanging pleasantries I also attached a bucktails and watched. They were doing everything right, casting far and in the right place but their retrieve was kind of wrong. I made a cast and about half way trough the cast I got a bump but I didn’t set a hook. On three consecutive casts I got a bump but again, I did not set a hook. I switched to tsunami Shad and again I got a solid bump but no hook up. However there was a reason to switching to a shad. If the blues were around that shad would have been cut in half but it was not. There were bass stacked up in the rip but If I catch even one these guys will never leave.

What to do?

I took a rigged eel and replaced a shad. I figured I’d toss this and if I do get a fish it will at least be a decent one. Small fish tend to shy away from the large rigged eels. No sooner as it hit the water I got a hit all right…but not the one I wanted…trrrrrr, trrrr…oh !**!%.

Bluefish , and small one by the bite marks took few chunks of it. Now what? I continued to cast the darn eel, it was already damaged. I got few more bumps from small blues but I managed to get it away from them by fast retrieve. About an hour in the darkness, they gave up and started to pack. I attached the bucktail with pork rind as they were about 50 feet away with their backs turned to me and BANG…fish on. I managed about a dozen bass in the next two hours, nothing huge, up to about mid teen.


I finally split around midnight as I had to get up at 4 am to go to work. As I drove home, my conscience was bothering me a bit. Should have I told them what to do? But then I will never have a piece and quiet at that spot. Its not like they were going to call me with reports in return. If anything they would bring even more people here. Not only that but one guy mentioned to me that he got a $300 ticket for an undersized bass last year and that bugged the crap out of me.rgftrf

I don’t now what the answer is, helping a fellow human being was always a right thing to do but helping three of them catch a fish that you know will all end up dead didn’t seem like the right thing to do. Yet, they were so close in what they were doing, all they needed was to adjust one thing, be that a retrieve speed, pork rind size, depth, twitch…


Winner of RockHopper package, some news on the app, new giveaway to coming later this weekend

25 comments on “Holding back…

  1. Magnotti

    Loose lips sink ships… A guy that keeps undersized is an asSh@le and deserves no insight into a sport he clearly does not appreciate. If a guy reads online about what people are catching fish on and goes to Dicks, buys a Spro bucktail, and casts as far as he can until sundown does not mean he has dedication or any knowledge of what he is doing. I think it’s a bit easier to tell who’s out in the surf “putting in work”. Whether they are catching or not the difference is pretty easy to see. Helping those who are deserving of your help are the same guys that are willing to return the favor tenfold. In a obvious depleting fishery I think protecting it anyway you can is of the utmost importance. Weather that’s releasing every single fish you catch or it’s keeping the years of work, knowledge, and dedication to the thing you love so much to yourself.

  2. Bunufish

    Because you held back after consideration , i feel you have no reason to feel guilty. If they happened upon this blog, you have shared some tips. The consideration with regards to keeping short fish, is like debating whether to date a cheater… Once a cheat always a cheat, assuming he knew the regs, no reason to help them even more.

  3. Don R

    Poachers that litter? Nah you did the right thing. They were probably more worried about getting a good seat at the bar.

  4. andy_k

    Possible for reason for having the undersized fish is ignorance of the lawful requirements over fish sizes. Sure, it’s the anglers responsibility to find this out for his / her self. But if no one tells them they are wrong, then are not going to know until they find out the hard way. Now had that guy of received more than one ticket, then they are seriously in the wrong in my book, because they have been told by an official person and fined once already, so doing it a second time is asking for trouble. Maybe the guy knew he was breaking the law, maybe he didn’t.

    As for not helping them out. Well would these guys have starved without fish to feed themselves? I very much doubt it somehow. They are fishing for fun, pure and simple. As such and with the knowledge that on of them had already been fined for an undersized fish, then you were more than justified in keeping that info to yourself, Zeno. Who knows, as time passes and you have more encounters with them, you might get the chance to point out that people who litter, wont get helped. People who insist on flooding an area with more and more people, wont get helped. People who take undersized fish, wont get helped.

    In this day an age, the quick and easy answer for things is constantly sought and all too often, required, for someone to get ahead. That mind set gets stuck in the head and before a person knows it, then anything new which they embark upon finds their minds automatically seeking the quick and easy answer rather than having to figure the why’s where’s and when’s of of any given pursuit. Also, within this mindset, the full rules of anything are seldom learned except by getting your fingers burned in the process. I’d bet we have all been guilty of this to one level or another. How many of us have joined a new site of some sort and simply register and ticked the “I accept the terms and conditions” box without even reading them properly and fully understanding it all first? I never have unless I am parting with money in the process. Even then, I only tend to skim through it all.

    So, what to do with such people in the future?
    Give them a chance to prove themselves. If they mess up badly and in such a way that it’s “offensive” (repeated undersized fish, constantly inviting new people to a spot you hold dear etc) then ditch them! Bare in mind though, that when we get a new guy turn up, how many of us are itching for him to make a stupid mistake that has him harmlessly getting soaked by a wave or something similar? Come on, be honest. We all like to see the new guy get baptised somehow 😉 So, give them a little seed of trust and see what they do with it. Do they nurcher and care for it, allowing it to grow and mature or do they treat it like sh*t and allow it to die? Whichever one happens, let that guide you before either cutting ties with them or maybe allowing them a little more help.

    Those are my thoughts anyway.

  5. Frank

    It is one thing if a person ask for help and it is another when they do not ask. Children are an exception! Two other factors: if helping someone who undermines the values I associate with good sportsmanship and protecting the environment. People who disrespect the creatures that live in the water, whether they be bass or spider crab do not deserve a helping hand.

  6. Rich M

    You had to do it Z that is your spot you worked it,maybe someday they will figure it out on there own

  7. Joe GaNun

    I’m with Andy K above. I say just BS with them a bit to get a better read. Don’t necessarily spill the beans on your success but throw them some kind of bone. If they catch and release undersized OK, another bone maybe. I would suggest a technique bone, not the reality of the spot being reasonably good. If they prove they are jerks, cut them off. Tell them the spots been poor. If they do the right thing, you have made a friend.
    ps: I also think there is too much “where are the fish” discussions. Unfortunately we are all wondering that same question. They are off shore, and there are a lot fewer of them.

  8. Brendan

    Short keeping trash tossers? No way. I drag so much garbage out of that spot it’s sickening. If they can’t respect the resource they don’t deserve it. Sounds harsh but unfortunately that’s the way it is.

  9. Brian K

    I do not understand why you would not strike up a conversation with these anglers? Even if you suspected them of being litterers and poachers you could of done several things before leading them to the “secret weapon” (bt with rind).
    Maybe you could have talked to them about several things : In menial conversation you could have explained the importance of keeping areas we all fish at as clean as possible so as not to piss off the locals, municipalities and governments which could limit ALL of our access to fishing spots down the road. If they had given you some crap about that then screw them, BUT if they did listen a little and were kind of listening about what you were discussing then you could of led into conversation about keeping shorts or poaching. Who knows what a little conversation could do to fill in or change peoples look at things.
    I myself experienced a similar situation fishing an inlet a couple of summers ago in South Jersey. My friends and I were fishing and there was a group of “foreigners” fishing about 40 yards down the rocks from us. We were catching a lot of 2-5lb blues and weakfish and they were not having much luck. One of them came over to ask (in broken english) what we were using for bait and type rigs we were using. My friends and I were not giving them any info BECAUSE the area they were fishing was littered with beer cans, trash, diapers, trash bags and a TON of crap! When the guy came over I told him to clean up all the shit and then come back over and ask me for help. He returned to his group and continued to fish. We saw them catch some decent blackfish several of which went into a cooler and looked a little undersize to keep. There were at least 20-25 in the group and 3 of us so we did not say much. When they went to leave we saw they left a PILE of trash right on the jetty rocks!! It was still light out so I ran down to the rocks and across the street while they were packing there vans up. I told them to get the f*** over and clean up the shit they left all over the place!! They let on that they could not understand what I was saying. Ran back to my truck grabbed the video recorder and ran back over to the 3 vehicles and started taping them packing up. Told them I was taping them leaving a huge pile of trash on the jetty and documenting their vehicles, license plates and filmed the trash they left. Said to them I would be providing it to the local authorities. Well you should have seen how quickly they ALL jumped out of their vehicles and ran over to the jetty and picked up all of their trash including some I know they did not leave there. Was really funny watching and taping a real “Chinese Fire Drill”!! Still pisses me off I did not film them keeping shorts. I will also mention that all 3 license plates were from NY. Not accusing or trying to start anything with guys from up there but all 3 made a 100+ mile trip to a South Jersey Inlet to fish.
    Anyway I probably would have felt guilty about not giving them fishing info or help also unless I saw firsthand them leaving trash or poaching. We even had a couple of fish that trip and handed the rod to some kids that were walking next to the rocks and stopped and were asking us info. You should have seen the smiles on their faces! Very rewarding. Parents were happy also until they were walking away and I heard the one kid say “Mom when are you buying me a rod or taking me fishing??” 🙂

    1. Jay K

      I get your point 100%, and I absolutely agree with you. But the words that you used such as “foreigners”, “broken English” and especially “Chinese fire drill” can be seen as racial remarks. There were no reasons to include them. As one of the surfcasters who enjoy this lovely sports and do cpr (catch, photo and release) 99.99% of the time, I believe that those issues have nothing to do with their ethnic background.

  10. Jim H. in RI

    Z, not sharing info was the right call. They need to earn your trust first.

    Also keeping under size fish is an immediate red flag and dis-qualifier to me. If he got caught once and fined then how many times did he not get caught? In the last 5 years I have never been stopped and checked by the local Fish and Game. The Enviro cops know the deal and who is more likely to be poaching.

  11. TedC

    Dude, never feel guilty. Ever. Feel good about when YOU decide to help another fellow fisherman, but dont feel bad about having an upperhand due the time you’ve put in!!!– When ya left the house, you had intentions to fish, not run a training session. time on the water is limited– enjoy it. You’ll find better scenarios to help a fellow fisherman in life.. Its not your duty to do it everyday! If you have to— tell them to check out SJ! Conscience cleared!

  12. Gene

    Z – depending on the situation i.e. if you got to know the guys better and they weren’t poachers, you would have probably given them a tip or two. I’ve learned a great deal by watching experts in different situations and asking for help and very often get it. I was fishing the bay the other night and noticed guys catching blues. I happened to also have a burple SP minnow which they were using but most important was their moderate retrieve speed AND a slight twitch. That did the trick and I was a happy camper.

    You mentioned above “…but their retrieve was kind of wrong.” related the the bucktail. Can you elaborate now for us? Also, what rind/size, color were you using in that situation?


  13. Barry Thomas sr

    My son and i fish bait here in Cape May County the beaches are Flat Sand with not much structure. I have taught them not to leave a mess haul out what they haul in the only thing we leave is foot prints

  14. jimmy z

    I think the key is, they fish during the day time hours. I believe good begets good. I don’t think showing them what to do would have been a bad thing, my friend. Good always comes back to us! We all live and learn.

  15. Craven Moorehead

    I give nothing away, maybe if some young kids are there fishing but I do my best to steer people away from this sport, there are way too many people fishing already.

  16. Jim M.

    Stick with your instincts! “…learn how to catch in your backyard” – perfect. Nothing wrong with holding back a little, especially with the sheer volume of folks your neck of the woods sees. I remember you had a local resident fish who was a regular catch, until something happened, maybe someone making that leap with the bucktail or just getting lucky. Too many folks that know and don’t release, then…

    I too carry a garbage bag and walk off with it full of trash from the booze and bucket brigade, and still leave some behind, and until that gets better I wouldn’t be too quick with more info. There’s books by you, John and Doc, among others, a wealth of info on the web, it’s all out there, they just got to make that leap.

    Between the books, the Journal, the talks, etc. you have done more than enough to help spread an excellent message, respecting the fish and the beach, honing your skills, (my favorite -) showing how it was back in the day and how it was done, among others. I wouldn’t worry about it.

  17. Dave Whitney

    Nothing wrong with holding back. Unfortunately these guys are not sportsmen. They will take until the sea is empty. I don’t mind giving a little but these guys take too much.
    Karma? Took a walk last nite with the wife on the beach. 3 guys on the jetty at dark. Always small bass scales on the rocks when I get there. Went back this am to fish, found out one took a spill and had to be rescued off the jetty. Real bad, don’t wish nothing on anybody but you know what they say.

  18. matt viggiano

    Z for you and all the others that have had the ability to put the time in and learn the waters that you have put the time in on I can understand wanting to keep the very information you’ve learned to your self.There are alot of people out there that could care less about striped bass numbers or any other gamefish for that matter nor the laws that state size limits and bag limits.Due to the fact that im 3 hours away from my beloved MTK i’ve learned what i’ve learned through 10 years and a few trips a season and still can’t scratch the surface of the knowledge three quarters of the people on this incredible site have.So with that being stated your not a mind reader and you have good sense so if something inside of you told you to stay quiet than you were probably right about it and should not feel guilt as a result.I look to you for advice whenever i can get out MTK and i appreciate any info you can share with,for that i am truely grateful.If i keep 2 to 3 legal fish a season that’s about it so i can maintain a clear consience about my concern for the well being of striped bass numbers.

  19. unkaharry

    I have held doors,helped with packages,pushed stuck cars,carried a kid with a broken ankle off a frozen lake,worked for nothing,shared my food,time,money,and bait.I have tried to share my knowledge and expertise from 45 years in my trade.I even closed my Moms eyes when she passed, I’m a true beliver in Karma, but I also belive no good deed goes unpunished.You don’t have to help everyone to make you a good man! Be like a lepard and keep your spots to yourself. They’ll learn in time,or maybe not!

  20. Steve George

    I see where you are coming from Z , many years ago ( wow over 3 decades now ) I basicially self taught myself how to surf fish by using my eyes and ears. Early in those years I also made some close friends ( older fishermen that have since past ~ RIP~ ) that I learned to listen and respect what they had to say and kept that info very close to my vest. It helped me out greatly and I vowed as I continued my journey surfcasting the NJ Coast I would do my best to help educate others with the same passion I basically had since birth.. And I guess it was sometime after 2000 that I really found great pleasure passing on what I know and made some very close friends today because of that. But something changed over say the last 5-10 years as I found a lot of todays new fishermen want that instant success and using the easy buttion to get it, not only in fishing but also in life. Maybe its just me being in my early 50’s now and not relating to the younger generation but something seems different.. Today I don’t offer the help freely either via the internet to those that I don’t know personally and even out in the field if I see what you may have seen in regards to poaching or littering.. Those guys really don’t deserve it but if someone takes the time and puts in the effort working it hard like I use to and still do plus honor the regulations, protects the enviroment etc., they get rewarded if they make a true effort to get to know me and that does still happen from time to time. These days I really get a kick out of putting friends on fish and providing some insight as to why they caught those fish based on my experiences and I hope that more people realize what I am talking about and take advantage .. Good Topic,, Enjoyed reading and being part of it..

  21. mikebfishn

    some one who has been plugging away only to come up empty and still go again and again , yeah help away. but littering short keepers no way . you did the right thing

  22. Johnp

    I don’t offer help as freely as I used to Might be the wrong reason or misplaced emotion, but the whole situation with the striped bass population, and the fact that so few fishermen care about it, makes me so much less interested in helping others.


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