Surfcasting does not always mean you have the line in the water. It is a holistic experience where honing the details can help you achieve more success than simply wetting the line . You need lots of retying…and hook sharpening and line changing and general maintenance for the equipment. That can give you a sense of assurance when you do get a big line- sider making that first run. But there is more to surfcasting than that. The flatness of a high tide ocean seems to be uniform when staring out from a sandy beach……but under the surface……..It’s not uniform to the fish. So one of the biggies in my book is to be aware that tides change the bottom all the time and that it pays to “scope out your fishing grounds before approaching them when they are full of high tide water. Take it from me..it pays to review your “spot” at low tide…not only can the fishing be good then, but it gives you the nooks and crannies that will be subsurface when you carry out your gear later.
When I walk the beach, with a bounding bulldog at my side, all the while …. I am looking for that special spot that may hold the years big cow when I finally begin angling. This day was a misty August morning. I figured if I went on the walk now, the August sun would not be a factor for the bulldog. They tend to over heat easily. So off we went. The tide was going out and the unique designs of the ocean floor were beginning to show themselves.
Usually sandbars will peek out when the outgoing is in a flow…but on this day…we approached the exact opposite scenario. As the water receded it left a hundred foot perfect pond…. Surrounded by the sand bar. The ocean pond was about 3ft deep and getting shallower by the second. It was so neat to look at from a distance…..I wondered if it held an intriguing ocean life. A closer look could provide answers.
The first thing Rugby did, was run into the temporary pond. When he disturbed the water a school of almost trapped baitfish fluttered all over the surface, giving away their whereabouts’. I also notice a bigger swirl that was risking the receding waters………a nice striped bass, feeding on the corralled bait. At the end of the pond the ‘Pulling” tide had caused a trough to form that was sucking the water out that the ocean refused to leave behind. . The trough was about 2 feet wide and bubbled like a little brook. If the bait did not escape through this gauntlet……….they would not escape at all. What really caught my eye was the fact that the bigger striper was risking being trapped also…..If the trough stopped flowing the pond would be isolated…..and so would all the living things in its enclosed area.
I love natural drama like this. Would the striper continue to risk the receding waters for food?…He is a predator…..and when predators hunt…..they show a unique spirit….Predatory Persistence. So, here is how the striper did it.
After pushing through the school and grabbing a couple of shiners, the striper would go to the small opening that released the water back into the ocean. The striper would stay about three feet from the opening and then with a salmon mentality, would hurl itself through the 3-inch deep water and return to the ocean. It then gathered itself ….and would posture on the other side of the release point and then with the same salmon like fervor…would force itself back into the pond……eat some scattering shiners and return to the opening to push itself back into the sea. It knew it was risky behavior. It knew that if the water lowered much more…it would be trapped.!!! ……..The bulldog and I would wait this out…and observe the predator.
So the cycle went on….rush through the slew way…feed …rush back out…each time..with less water under neath its body. Each running of the gauntlet forced the fish out of the water more and more…..a totally un-natural and life threatening behavior. Out of the water means no oxygen for the gills………….hence……..Death. Is the striper such a simple creature that it cannot sense its own demise or is it such a great Persistent Predator that it is full y aware of the oceans cycles and knew exactly how much time was left to feed.
As it struggled through the mere ripples in the escape route, I felt sure that would be its last attempt at the bait school. It back finned outside the opening to the pond and appeared to be contemplating. A fish…contemplating…is there such a thing…isn’t their life ruled by stimulus and response……I mean …can a FISH THINK?.
Sure enough ..With almost no water trickling pout of the release channel, the 30 “ striper rushed the opening and nearly beached itself in order to get back to the trapped school. It fed furiously and the school exploded from its attacks After watching this predatory persistence…. I Realized that the outflow from the pond had ceased…The Striper was trapped!!!!
I have fished for salmon on occasion and have watched them build up momentum in order to climb up rapids. They swim in circles and build up power so that when they jump they can gain maximum speed and height. This striper must have gone to salmon school. It began its circles and bolted toward the little, dry, escape brook out to the deep blue sea.
Most great things are INSTANTANEOUS…………….many times. A precious second can be forever. It took only a sec for the striper to LEAVE THE WATER>>>>AND CLEAR the dry sand….landing in only a couple of inches of foam and then with a great thrust from the legendary linesider tail……..the fish propelled itself to freedom………….back to its natural domain. It knew exactly what it was doing…where it was…and how long it could stay.. I was stunned and waited to see if it would risk a return………it never cam back to the temporary low tide pond. I returned later in the incoming tide and used a variety of tins to hope that the feeding scene was still in motion. No bites…. No fish. But in surfcasting, that happens often.
My pre-fishing ..fishing…allowed me to be privy to the cunning and relentless actions of a true Predator…………. Don’t try and figure stripers out…..don’t waste your time “knowing all about them”…spend all your time learning about them…. A persistent predator is not predictable…they are opportunistic……but not fool hardy. Respect your quarry….When some ones says…”they are only dumb fish…they are not biting because they are not here now”…………remember this……….they are masters at their role in life. Can you say that about your fishing skills????? So I ask you, who is the teacher and who is the student when fishing for Stripers??
Please practice catch and release.