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Fishing Friday: Beach Buggyin' Bass Season

Slow start to striper fishing, but preparations are almost as fun!

Despite having growing up in Ocean County and, ironically, living on a street that is an official Beach Buggy ocean access block, I never owned a four wheel drive vehicle until last winter.

Taking cues from my father, I was always a small, sporty car kinda guy. But being the owner of a boat that needs to be trailed on occasion, an angler (and local news editor) who needs to keep tons of equipment in his vehicle, plus a resident of a very flood-prone area, an SUV was on tap to replace my Volkswagen last winter – after 155,000 reliable and fun miles on her, rest her soul!

The answer, for me, was to go "all in" and give into the commercials depicting drives through the jungles of Africa and the deserts of the middle east. My fishing equipment would be hauled onto our local beaches by the likes of a pre-owned (you know we can't just say "used" anymore) Land Rover.

Now that striper season is upon us, I deciced just yesterday that it was time to test out the machine that, at least from what the blokes in Britain tell us, is built for this sort of thing. Granted, I had some good off road practice this summer trekking through the pine barrens with oft-partner-in-crime, Toms River Patch editor Catherine Galioto, but the soft sand beaches of Long Beach Island have made me witness even the most capable Jeep Wranglers have to be towed out with the driver's tail between his legs on occasion.

Turns out, however, that some very basic tips made this Beach Buggy newbie have a pleasant start to his fall fishing season, even on the local, extremely soft sand and deep holes forged by heavy vehicular traffic. I'm crediting these tips to the Surf City Fishing Club (known locally as "Team Mullet"), the members of which held a fishing and 4WD driving clinic earlier this month.

If you want to take your four wheel drive vehicle on the beach this fall, there are some quick tips to follow, courtesy of our local experts:

  • Let some air out of your tires. If you don't, you will get stuck. For most passenger SUVs and pickups, 15psi is the sweet spot. It was for me!
  • Use the back of the "head" on your tire pressure gauge to press against the stem of the tire to let the air out. No need to crumple your finger tip before fishing.
  • If your vehicle is equipped with 4HI and 4LO, use 4HI. If you have, as mentioned, a Land Rover SUV, just click the dial to the "Sand" setting and turn off stability control (DSC). Some new vehicles turn off stability control automatically.
  • If your automatic transmission vehicle allows you to shift manually, use this setting for better control.
  • Maintain momentum. No need to tear it up on the sand - that's unsafe and, in most towns, illegal. But don't go so slow that your vehicle might bog down if it hits a small dune or ascent in the landscape.
  • Don't brake hard. Sand causes enough resistance where your vehicle will stop on its own in short order. Braking could cause you to dig in to the sand, getting you stuck. Let your vehicle roll to a near-stop, and only slightly ease onto the brake at the last second to switch into the Park position.
  • Riding in the tracks of other vehicles makes things easier. Ensure your turns and U-turns are wide in nature.
  • See the attached video (under the photo with this story, to your right) which explains the importance of airing down your tires.

But while getting to the fish might be half the fun (or half the headache, depending on how you look at it!) what counts is what you haul in once you start fishing.

I only had a short time to fish Thursday, but for my two hours' worth of effort, I hooked one bluefish and an odd crab that seemed to be enticed by a Hopkins lure. Weird.

In any event, the warm water temperatures are keeping striped bass fishing relatively slow. Sue from Surf City Bait and Tackle told me yesterday that blues are responsible for most of the action on the oceanfront. A few anglers have actually nabbed some late season kingfish in the LBI surf lately, she said.

The sporadic action seemed to ring true all over.

"Had a few hit the scale yesterday," wrote Ray from Grumpy's Tackle in Seaside Park on the shop's website, referencing some bass. "Got a couple reports again yesterday about a needlefish bite at night."

A few anglers got lucky fishing live eels at Island Beach State Park, according to the folks at The Dock Outfitters in Seaside Heights. Ryan Laughlin and Peter W. came in last night with three bass at 32″, 30″ and 30″, staff said.

Fishing to the north, in northern Monmouth County near Monmouth Beach, seemed good, at it was only a matter of time until Ocean County started to see some action as well, folks said.

Offshore, ling and cod were starting to bite, the crew from the Jamaica II party boat said. The Brielle-based boat had Mark Adamarek on board recently, who boated 37 ling. The pool winner was Carl Jones of Camden with a 12-pound cod. The boat is running 12-hour Mudhole wreck trips Saturday and Sunday.

Many folks continue to ask about crabbing this time of year. For what it's worth, my father and I were out two weekends ago and didn't do well on the keepers, but it seems as if things have improved over the past few days.

One of my neighbors, an avid recreational crabber, told me yesterday had a bushel earlier this week off Good Luck Point in Barnegat Bay near one of the local creek mouths.

The next few days should be interesting with Sandy in our midst. Hope everyone stays safe!

Next week should also be big on the fishing front. Look for some news (probably bad, I'll be honest) on sea bass fishing.

Catherine Galioto (Editor) October 26, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Thanks for the mention, partner-in-crime. Good times in a great place: Jersey Shore and nearby Pinelands.

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