The Midnight Rambler by John Papciak

The Midnight Rambler
An Occasional Series by John Papciak

“Big Fish Spots”


Let’s cut right to the chase – there are spots and then there are big fish spots.

I can’t tell you why. I did not make the rules here.

I wish I could tell you I believe the crap you have been fed for years – That all you need to do was put in your time (presumably at any given spot), and you will eventually connect. We should all live that long.

I can’t, I won’t.

But I can tell you that if you put in your time at certain “big fish” spots, you will at least get to see just how strong your hooks and knots really are.

You may not understand why big fish like to be there, you might not be dialed in to the tide or the barometer or the lunar phase… but you are there. And if you are “there,” enough of the time, well, eventually, one of those nights will be the right time.

I wish I could name all the locations that are considered “big fish” spots.

(Now don’t get your knickers in a twist. I didn’t say I would publish them, I just said I wish I could name them.)

I can name a few, thankfully. Just enough that if I needed to go out and prove my manly-hood by dropping a big fish on some tackle shop scale, I would at least have a fighting chance.

Hold that thought, I’ll get back the manly-hood thing in a minute.

Let’s talk more about the spots

When I page through my logs, and consider fish over 30 or 40 pounds, caught by me or someone else I know (and trust), my own take is that those bigger fish tend to be coming from a very limited number of spots. True, most of those who seriously target big fish are concentrating their efforts on very specific types of spots – so much so that if they told me they could nail a cow just about anywhere, they would start to lose serious credibility. They don’t.

I remember moving to Long Island many years ago, and being frustrated that I had not taken a fish over 30 pounds in a long stretch of time. I was catching plenty of fish, I was having a ball, and by most other measures I felt that I was getting quite good at figuring out how to surf cast in my new home.

But as I got to know some of the seasoned regulars (They eventually talked to me – I guess if you are on the beach so much they feel sorry for you, and eventually clue you in), they began to say things like, “Man, why are you wasting your time fishing that [fill in the blank] spot…That’s not a big fish spot”

The reasons why a spot is a big fish spot? There has been plenty of ink spilled on this topic by some very capable fishermen and writers here. I am sure there will be more. I can weave my own tales about proximity to deeper water, structure, and unique currents.

And this is all very convenient because I can say whatever I want, and it’s impossible to call me out on it. No one knows for sure. The beauty of it is that most of us never tire from hearing thoughts on topics like this anyway.

This is not to say that you can’t get a 40 by just walking down to the water and start working a pencil popper. And I completely understand that if you have the mother lode of bunker moving along a stretch of beach, that spot temporarily can become a big fish spot.

It’s not the isolated landing of a 40 on some random day or night anyway, it’s the ability to repeat the trick. Year after year.

Resilience and intuition will eventually lead you to a big fish spot or two. You’ll either be there when two 30s and a 40 come up, or you’ll be able to connect the dots when you see a handful of guys – who obviously know what they are doing – staying put and continuing to cast with complete focus at 2am on a Tuesday night.

So after I listened to all the advice way back when, I changed my approach to local fishing. I added some big fish spots, but still no big fish.

“You keep fishing those kinds of spots, you keep working it the way you are, and eventually you will cop,” a would-be mentor finally told me.

If I only knew how accurate his prediction would be.

So when I was finally standing there holding a fish with a mouth so large that both fists could easily fit inside, what had changed?

Did it validate that I was capable of targeting big fish, and actually delivering? I guess to some, but not to that mentor who called it early on.

Did it make me a better fisherman? That’s a bit more complicated.

I remember celebrating a catch made by a close friend. A very large fish at a big fish spot, and a weigh in the next morning when very few fish in that class were reported anywhere.

“So you weighed that fish in, and you got the glory, but did it make your ^%$* grow any bigger?” was the gut reaction from one of the crew.

I have a “Love-Hate” relationship with big fish spots today.

For me, targeting big fish requires a relentless focus on certain spots and certain conditions, and the ability to drop everything when mother nature says so.

Its “Love” when you CAN be there, when it all works as it has in the past, and you repeat the trick.

Its “Love” when the trick works so well that you wonder if anyone will believe the night you are having.

Its “Hate” when there is someplace else you’d rather fish, but you know the clear odds favor going back to a certain big fish spot, again.

Its “Hate” when have to choose between your job responsibilities and a serious shot and your next cow. And your buddies won’t miss that opportunity to rub it in your face if they nailed that fish instead of you

You can choose to go to work or you can choose to stay out there casting at the big fish spot. Either way you have to wake up to some potential bad news the next day

Either way your manhood remains the same.


Editors note;
Big fish are starting to show up.
This 56 pound brute was caught on a bunker spoon on a boat in NJ. yesterday  It was weighted in the Fisherman’s Headquarters in NJ,  a Surfcaster’s Journal sponsor. Give them a call for more information about this fish or action on the beaches in NJ

3 comments on “The Midnight Rambler by John Papciak

  1. uncatim

    Nice story. Great line, “But I can tell you that if you put in your time at certain “big fish” spots, you will at least get to see just how strong your hooks and knots really are.”

    I live too far from the beach – & I’m broke – so not much is going to change in the salty manly-hood department. Despite doing pretty well in the big smallmouth area here in the rivers – well – no change. Sorry, ladies.

  2. richtrox

    Yup, there’s fishing, and then there’s big-fish fishing. And for what it’s worth, it’s all good. If hanging a 50 is the goal, then have at it, stalk the big fish spots. I like the fact that you implied that a 50 doesn’t make your d!(k any larger, it just makes you dedicated. For many of my younger years I tried to make that mark, with 49lb 13oz my closest weigh in, but it no longer matters to me. I’ve had 50’s come up on either side of me, all fishing the same bait, the same way. Yet the fishing gods laughed at me. Karma is a bitch LOL. I still take my shots in June and late fall and have come close more than several times, but I no longer obsess about them. I used to think that catching a 50 was some sort of validation, or rite of passage. No longer do I think this way. If that day comes, I’ll give her a kiss and see if I can revive her, but to be honest, most big fish are too shot to be revived properly, so I’ll eat her, and probably die from the pcbs and mercury LOL. Nice post!


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