The rules of the game have changed

I am sitting on cramped  LIRR seat at 4 AM banging on the phone keyboard…what could possibly get under my skin to take such a drastic measures?

Something we have discussed many times over the years. Here is the thing, if it helps one person I’ll be happy. But the point of this blog post is more that we educate those new to the sport than to increase our catch.

We are in the middle of the fall run in northeast. You can blame water temp or lack of bait or reduced striped bass stocks or President Trump. But none of that will increase your catch. As of this writing this has probably been one of the worst seasons in general since moratorium in early 90’s where I fish. Obviously, people in Cape Cod Canal would disagree with me (and you). But then again so would have people fishing Block Island during the moratorium.

I think it’s obvious that striped bass stocks are not what they used to be. Less fish competing for food will result in less places they will venture in to get it. If you get to the restaurant and there is 2 hour wait, most likely you will leave and find another place to eat. It might not be as plentiful or delicious but it will do. Same goes for seals. Part of the reason they are spreading from Cape is because there are so many of them, they are going further away from the main group looking for food.BLORT

What does this have to do with the fall run? I thought you’d never ask!

In days of abundance you did not have to go anywhere. The fish were going to be at your beach as SOME point. There were so many of them, everyone had “resident” fish ( basically throughout the season) . What happened to most of these fish? Well, we ate most of them in my opinion!

So you went to your local beach and you knew that you can pick few residents, and when big migratory schools come down the beach in fall..…oh boy!

Some guys become fixtures on the beach, some even got nicknames like Shiny Bob or Jetty Steve or whatever. They could be counted to catch their share of fish because they were dialed into the place AND they were there every day. They never moved!

They are still there every day, the difference is they are not catching. In a lot of instances they are not caching anything, a huge difference from years past. And they still hammer their honey hole while saying how good water looks, how warm are temperatures, how all they need is bait.

Don’t be that guy!

Chances are fish will not come to your local beach at all this fall. If you hear of consistent action few miles away, go to it. Yes , I know it will kill the most guys to be THAT Guy that chases reports but I am telling you it’s the only way you might fulfill your need for a bent rod.

The striped bass schools are smaller and with less competition for food, they might feel less need or desire to  feed in shallow water on the beach if they can instead stay in the deeper water.

Years ago we all “knew” there was a bite in Mtk for example, or few miles east or west but we never moved from our local spot. There was not need as we all had plenty of resident fish to keep us busy be that in NJ or RI.Eel skin chapter IMGP0298

Those rules in my humble opinion do not apply any longer. You will need to move and possibly even do stuff you are uncomfortable with, like fish inlets with Jetty jocks if you are a sand dude. And you might not like it, but you’ll have a fighting chance.

Game has changed, you have to adapt.

Some will rather not fish than move on to the places they are not comfortable of fishing in. I respect that. But most that want to catch fish will go where the fish are. And this will create even crazier crowded conditions than you are used to.

That will definitely be the worst part of this. (Of course, if you subscribe to the notion that there are plenty of fish…. they are just in deep water because the water is too warm, you just wasted your time reading this, my apologies)issue45

17 comments on “The rules of the game have changed

  1. Johnp

    A few things come to mind

    1 as much as nobody wants to get involved in ‘politics,’ Surfcasters are going to have to come to terms with the idea of organizing with other like-minded fishermen and applying pressure to fisheries managers and political apointees. If Surfcasting is THAT important in our lives it’s worth fighting for. Maybe all the bass are really out there, maybe they are all on the Flemish cap, but we have to move past being told the YOY is good and the stocks are fine, but fishing on the beach and the boats is as bad as it’s ever been.

    2 if the Montauk surf fishing stinks I will once again be on the boat jigging with the rest of the fleet on Great Eastern or the other Montauk rips. And if it’s like every other trip I’ve made there over the last month, I’ll see the same charter boats pulling wire, cutting each other off, and cursing each other over the VHF. I’ll see very few fish being hooked and I’ll see small bass retained, if any at all. Then I’ll go back to a marina like Star Island or Gone Fishing and see very few fish being cleaned, Not like the good years when I’d see multiple 40s and 50s being cleaned and the rest were 30s. But then I’ll read how spectacular the fishing was in the rips. Granted all those boats pulling wire and drifting live bait everywhere from Montauk Point to Southwest Ledge by Block Island, somebody somewhere will land fish.

    3 But I agree somewhere the action will break. It’s just gonna cost hundreds in gas and extra days off to run all over the place to find them – if you don’t get a cell phone tip off.

  2. FyshhTrap

    I live in UP-State NY, I’m 3-4 hrs away from the beaches, so when I fish for Stripers I go to where the fish are. Its quite simple. I’ve never fished Montauk but I would like to along with some other areas in that general vicinity, but with the fish populations the way they are now and people “fighting”? over certain areas I think I’ll pass. So I go to Cape Cod and find miles of beaches and of for the most part uninterrupted fishing, yes I fished the Canal this year too, after a Huge blitz went through ,and when it all calmed down I had nearly an 8th of a mile of canal to fish alone, the way I like it. I even met another angler from Montauk there doing the same , we conversed over the next day and still keep in touch via SOL.
    Is the fishing a little different this year, I think so, is it all over for the fishery, I don’t think so.
    Last month a small group of people from a certain fishing forum videoed a Huge bio-mas of year old Stripers from the air and under water, 10’s of Thousands of them all cruising the south end of the Cape, where they were headed we wont know But they were definetly there.
    I wish I knew why the fish aren’t at Montauk, I hope its something simple but I do know that if you want to catch fish one must adapt and change constantly.
    I find myself fishing different areas all the time, beaches, jettys, inlets,outlets,rocky shorelines, Canals whatever, some days I catch fish some days I don’t ,some days I slay ’em and a lot of time they slay me, beat up , bumps and bruised, cuts and scrapes but isn’t that what its all about the “hunt”.
    I’m sorry if I cant relate to “the fish” not being there when “they are supposed to” be there but we are living in a different time now and one must change or not reap the benefits of what is Still there.
    I can very much agree that we as anglers Must keep putting pressure on those that Are hurting this fragile fishery, but to throw ones arms up and look for an answer that’s not there isn’t going to help.
    The fish are there so take a deep breath and smile.
    A quick look on showed that we are not in a panicked state of decline.
    I looked at the Biennial Reports to Congress and Findings of Studies of Striped Bass Populations 2015.
    This showed we are Below over fished bio-mass for the last two years and stock is well throughout the NE coast and down to the Carolinas, unfortunately we are below the incredibly high bio-mass of 2003 but still in good standing.
    These are just some thoughts of an Old School fisherman, keep involved and help others understand where we stand on our beliefs of protecting this Great fishery, and don’t be scared to try something different.

  3. greenmtnman

    Fishtrapp you’re saying not to just throw up your hands, but isn’t that what you’re doing? You’re not fishing where you want, but only going to places that hold the last bastions of our fishery. I fish nearly every day, and I can tell you, the fishery is dying, especially big fish- all the places you used to be able to at least count on catching a few teen bass hold nothing, and the big moon tides that should bring multiple 30s or 40s often result in skunks. And you say you go fish the cape beaches to avoid the crowds, but you don’t mention the reason there’s no crowds is that the fishing is 1/1000th what it used to be, which is exactly what Zeno is saying, and even the hard core regulars that fish every day all year (I’m talking ALL year) are finding it hard to do so anymore. The big school you’re talking about means almost nothing- even if it was a million fish, it’s a drop in the bucket- think about how many millions of tons are harvested by comm and rec every year and really think about if 1 school of 50,000 fish matter. It’s a drop in the bucket. It’ll be destroyed, just like the 2011 fishery. Moratorium is coming.

    1. FyshhTrap

      In response to greenmtnman, this will be the last time I will defend myself.
      First I’d like to say how much respect I have for SJ and the people involed, contributers and readers alike.
      I have learned soo much over the past year since finding this site, Thank You.
      I am 50 yrs. old and fished my Entire life, I have seen many changes in quite a few fisheries over the years many of which I have fished and lost due to many reasons.
      I fish A lot, trust me on that, mostly freshwater, but when I get the chance I love to fish for Stripers, and started about 14 years ago.
      I fish the Cape because that’s where I’ve been fishing for them for so long, I’ve fished for them in CT also and the Spring run on the upper Hudson River.
      The reason I don’t or haven’t fished Montauck is because of the horror stories I’ve heard of being a “newbie” down there, I’m not a newbie, I’m a fisherman and don’t care to be treated in some kind of way because I came to “Your” beach. You don’t want me down there catching “your” fish anyway. I will fish there some time , hopefully soon.
      I Am fishing right where I want, always, because that’s where I want to fish, You wont find me at a “Blitz” on the Canal, I’ll be fishing the Bay or on a beach or some jetty, away from people where I can practice my “science” of what I do, please don’t put me in that category of people, I’m not them.
      I am also very concerned of the plight of the Stripers, please remember my age, I know what the fishery was and has been doing for many years even though I wasn’t fishing it.
      Trust me I can feel your pain to see what is happening to this fishery.
      When I stated there was a sighting of 10’s of thousands of 1-2 year old schoolies I was only stating a fact, it was there, how many more were there, and how many more are there that we haven’t seen, only time will tell.
      If one 12lb female has the capability to lay as much as 800,000 eggs how many eggs can 1476 females lay?
      I live in up -state NY as I’ve said before, and I’ve seen spawning runs change over the years on the upper Hudson River, some were better than others, but last year was the Most I’ve seen in the last Five years, it was a Good sign.
      I don’t keep fish (Stripers), I can count on one hand how many fish I’ve kept in the last 5 years (one)
      maybe Long Island should stop eating Every fish they catch, then some of the resident schoolies might have a fighting chance.
      I fish , that’s what I do , and will continue to do so. I don’t do anything different, it just so happens I fish in a very Large variety of places and for Many different species.
      I hope what is happening in L I is just a passing thing, I really do, there are so many contributing factors but commercial fishing ISNT helping a bit and I believe it should be Stopped.
      Until then I’ll be fishing for Stripers in upper NYS, Cape Cod, Cuttyhunk and wherever I feel like fishing for them, because they are there.

  4. Steve Tag

    I skipped the epic clusterf##k at the canal. Quite a concentration of big fish, but really the only one…… Tough to see Montauk not happening this year. I went through the tough times in the 80s, stuck with it, and it came back. This time, I hope so but I have my doubts. Stock is in tough shape with the seals, we have 20-30K here by estimates; warming water, lack of bait, poaching, etc etc etc. Hopefully in 5 years we’ll look back and say, wow, that was rough……

  5. zhromin Post author

    I hope some of you do not take this blog as a rant on how bad fishing or the stocks are. That is not my intent. I am simply trying to make a case that in order to at least try to replicate past success you might have to move a round a bit more.
    It doesn’t personally affect me one bit as I have bigger fish to fry in my life currently, to borrow a popular phrase, then to worry where the action is

  6. Jimmy Z

    I agree. the bass pop. is way down. But there are bass to be had if one searches. And I don’t forget to thank the good Lord when a fish is provided. Never forget to thank the one who provides!

  7. Vito Orlando

    In the early 80’s we had ten million excuses as to why there were few bass. Water too cold, water too warm, Too windy, not enough wind, no bait around, etc, etc, etc,. You get the picture. some will say we should just take a look at the Canal and the great season that was had there. I say take a look at Block Island of the 80’s as we took lots of bass there when there was little in other places. There will always be some Pods Of Bass but not in great numbers. The Stocks are in danger and if we as John P stated, do not take some action are doomed. During the late 70’s and early 80’s there was less pressure on the bass stocks. Agreed, we had The Pin Hookers, yes I was one who contributed to the slaughter and look back in regret today. We had the Haul Seiners but very little others who targeted bass. The Head Boats had other species to fish for so did not bass fish. Today its a different story. Between the Party/Charter Boat Fleets who are considered Recreational by the way, and The Commercial Exploitation of the species the fish do not have a chance. Even us Surfcasters are not without blame. How often do we see guys taking more than 1 bass per day. The Law states “One In Your Possession” Period. Some take 3 or 4 home as they will say “I am Here in Montauk for 4 days and am entitled to keep 4 fish”. Not so. 1 in your possession. We are witnessing the total decline of a beautiful species. As I always say, If Any Species is over populated they Extent their Range and spread out to forage. The bass would not only be in The Rips but also would overflow onto the beaches. Too Crowded so lets move. as humans might say. As an example, just look at The Seal Populations. They are now everywhere. Too many so they extend their range. Gentlemen, , I am sorry for my rant but I have seen this happen before and in those days we had The PCB Scare that saved the bass, not any two faced Politician or the other Fishery Regulators. today we have nothing to protect the species but ourselves. Gee, I honestly hope that I am wrong, but do not think so. Good Luck.

  8. crowldawg

    Put them all back.Stop taking pictures and get them back in the water ASAP.I watched some traveler take three poses this morning before he kicked a bleeding albie back in the water.

  9. bob jones

    I agree that this season in Montauk has been terrible. I can’t blame it on the warm weather or the lack of bait. This has been happening (to a lesser degree), the last 3 or 4 years. The consistent action of 5 or 6 years ago has not been happening.
    Guys up in the Cape Cod Canal were fortunate that the bio-mass of large stripers decided that they wanted mackeral this summer. I’m sure that the bio-mass of big fish took a ‘big hit’ this season. If that is the only school of big fish; we are in serious trouble. And what Zeno says about local spots, rings true. There are exceptions to the rule; but overall, numbers are down, especially large.
    I rarely agree with Vito; but he makes alot of sense regarding why the bass don’t hit the suds and the seals are heading south. I’m afraid that it’s only going to get worse, if we don’t take action.
    I used to have a ‘GAMEFISH NOW!’ bumper sticker on my truck.
    I don’t know how we can accomplish that; but it’s needed. BJ

  10. Joe GaNun

    I subscribe to the theory Vito proposed. It makes perfect sense regarding any wild species in decline or expansion. I don’t keep an official detailed log but from early 2014 to current I keep notes when I do catch, anything at all. All I can say is that the drop off the last two years is progressive and dramatic. This year it’s unbelievable but I’m at least comforted by the fact that it’s been so warm I may still see a “run”. When I heard about the CCC situation I was reminded of the pre moratorium scenario many of the seasoned vets have mentioned. In the end there is nothing but spotty activity with big fish. 2011 is gone for the most part and resident fish in most places are reduced or non existent. Sad but still fixable. How I wish we could find some kind of PCB like boogeyman to kill the market for SB Meat.

  11. Johnp

    Z I understand your message and I agree with it. I ve been practicing it
    The days of ‘only surf fish’ and ‘only in the spots I keep honest and know well’ are long behind me.

    But it is ironic. The first 30 years of my Surfcasting career I was told, ‘fish only a few spots, and knew them well.’ And it worked.

    now the rules have changed. and the advise above we’ve received – or given to others – is no longer applicable. Hmmm

  12. JeremyO

    I would love to hear others thoughts on the repurcussions of the canal massacre that took place this summer/fall. Lots of fish were taken legally and illegally, these fish were mainly big breeders that helped drive the larger migratory schools. But, this is known.

    Lets discuss all of the bass that were fought on inproper gear. You know, the bass that were fought on loose drag or 4000 and 5000 sized reels or worse the Walmart Okuma 2000 on a white ugly stick bait rod (these bass caught were more than likely harvested). Think about it like this, the majority of us fight a 20 lb striper for less than 5 min in low current (compared to the canal), and yet we still have to take 2-5 minutes to properly revive and release a healthy striper of this size or greater. The hot bite at the canal left the folks fishing little time to consider the longevity of the bass they chose to release because they wanted more from the hot bite. If you think more than 50% of these bass that were fought for 10-15 minutes and then tossed back into that heavy 4 kt curreent survived, than you’re effing nuts. I think that was the breaking point into a moratorium. Bass fishing is screwed for the next 10 years.


    Thank you,
    A Disappointed NJ Angler

  13. B_Richards

    Two observations/opinions I have related to this is that:
    1) I do not like the direction the striped bass stocks are headed in
    2) I do not like what surfcasting is becoming/what our culture of angling is

    What’s more, the two things are devolving together, and they’re related.

    There are less fish. “Resident fish” is as non existent of a phenomenon as a bluefish blitz in most places. This is a dead horse that has been sufficiently beaten, so I will say no more. The result is, yes, there are hyper concentrated areas of fish with insane crowds but easy fishing.

    And, I don’t feel as if “you might have to move around a little” is accurate or realistic advice for most people. Most people “move around a little” all ready. To reach those hyper concentrated areas, many have to move around a lot. Sometimes driving three hours one way. Some guys do it all the time. I guess they’re grown men with a paper route or scoop ice cream or something. But for most of us, it’s not something you can do on the regular.

    I fish RI. Rhode Islanders love to complain and hate to drive so this is perhaps jading this post.

    But we also have 400 miles of coastline despite being the smallest state. Within that, every single striped bass environment from marshes to flats to inlets to pounding surf to bedrock cliffs is present several times over. When all 400 miles, more or less, equally suck at once, “moving around a little” is pretty worthless and is indicative of a substantial problem. They had a three fish night in the inlet as opposed to the skunk on the open beach. Whoopie.

    To “stay on it” all year, you have to be an I-95 nomad. And yanno, I just don’t care enough about just -catching- anymore to do that.

    Drive all over hell’s half acre to take a total shot in the dark at a place I don’t know, have never been, possibly hate to fish, because so and so got a few decent fish and I might too, is beyond a little sad.

    It wreaks of desperation, as the greater culture of surfcasting is doing more so all the time.

    And this is what we’ve become: obsessed with just catching. Doesn’t matter where or how, or the insane sacrifices to our personal lives, as long as we catch. And by “catch” I mean catch in such a manner that is consistent enough to be impressive to your instagram followers and rationalize your rod sponsorship.

    Because you can still catch in your local spots. It might only be for a few months, but they -will- go by. You’re not going to be top dog all year (who really is anyway but the delusional?) or be the darling of social media, but you’ll get your licks in.

    2018 will be my 20th season, and honestly, getting my licks in is good enough for me. I’ve got my fair share of big ones and lots of all other sizes with that approach. May not catch like a man on fire all year, but I don’t care about that anymore. The purely obsessive phase was over for me awhile ago. I’m not sure if the slow fishing forced it out of me, but it’s gone. It’s marked by desperation and the neurotic fear of missing out. Those in the grips of it never ask themselves “am I having fun?” I didn’t then, but I do now. The quality of the experience matters.

    And objectively when I see what’s going on at the canal or hear the mind numbingly tedious amount of hours some guys are putting in their wetsuits or driving up and down New England, “staying on the meat” looks less fun all the time.

    I didn’t fish any of the glamorous places in 2017. I didn’t have the most consistent season. I didn’t fish the most I ever did. But I caught a lot of fish and some pretty nice ones at that. And I had fun.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *