June is an exciting time to fish the ocean for a variety of reasons ranging from fluke to striped bass, bluefish, scup (porgies) and any of the other species that either migrates into and other wise become active in this region. This year’s weather has been so fickle due to heavy rains, a warm winter, plus other weather and water conditions it’s again difficult to get a read on what will be expected to take place in the angling world a few weeks from this writing. (My crystal ball was (accidentally) cracked when it happen to bounce off a wall after providing a bold faced lie last season, before an important long distance trip to Canada.
Two of these events are what are sort of specialized, often short lived trips for striped bass, both of which are “misnomers” in common fisherman’s jargon; “the worm hatch” which is not a hatch at all, but rather a spawning orgy and “the squid bite”, where squid come in shore to mate and they themselves are bitten and eaten whole sale by bass, blues, fluke and anything else that can get their mouths or claws into or around their soft delicate bodies. Their only hard part is a horn like beak which they use to shred what ever they can grab and hold with their eight highly effective tentacles. (Which are essentially suction cups with hooks).
Squid have keen vision, are stealthy, fast sneaky predators in their own right. I would not want to ever swim with the larger members of this family, the Humboldt squid are the legendary bane of mariners in movies. This giant squid possesses the largest eyeball in the animal kingdom.
Once while waiting for a friend on a dock I watched a small school of squid hunting, ambush style. They would hide in the shadow or lee of a piling, dart out and with deadly accuracy and pick off silver sides that were moving past the area with the prevailing tide.
Small but impressive hunters, squid are themselves hunted mercilessly themselves by larger predators throughout their range. With speedy game fish species on the surface and fluke with their bottom matching camouflage coloration grab them from below. Two or three times when seeing bait fish breaking the surface and casting into them with swimming plugs, we’ve caught fluke; one time a four pounder two feet from the surface in forty feet of water.
Summer flounder are aggressive predators that are fun and challenging to catch consistently and well worth the effort when it comes to table fare.
When fluke fishing my favorite set up is what I refer to as a “double fluke sandwich rig”. A simple high low set up that is slightly different than most. Rather than a sinker, a jig that is heavy enough to reach and hold or lightly bounce along the bottom is the low portion, then eight inches to a foot up, tie in a three way swivel, with a mono leader about five or six feet back to either a smaller jig maybe about a quarter of the weight of the primary one or either a large “keel type fly or a plain size five to seven Lunker City Texposer Hook as a follow up “stinger hook or teaser”. A small plastic tail on this hook is optional.
Both the main jig and teaser are baited with a small Mario’s Plastic Squid strip, or other plastic teaser, a strip or two of real squid and if possible topped with a live mummichog or silver side. If there is sufficient time rather than whole small baits, catch and cut strips of menhaden. The oily scent trail they emit into the water is like a “fish whistle” everything comes to investigate, nip and or eat.
These rigs would also catch stripers, large scup, blackfish and sea bass when near structure, and if the leader is not cut, bluefish. If the choppers become a nuisance I look for another spot, sometimes in shallower water if the tide is coming in or near flood stage.
Though a pest at times, bluefish are long distance ocean predators, swimming hundreds if not thousands of miles during their annual migrations. They are hard fighting, fun to catch fish, pound for pound one of the hardest fighting contenders, certainly among inshore species.
Funny thing is when bluefish are out in the open ocean, they become prey themselves for larger predators such as sharks and tuna they compete with when there is not a large size differential. I’ve fished with tuna fishing pros that spend time catching live small bluefish or if possible mackerel to use as live hook baits for giant bluefin tuna.
Its a “fish eat fish world”, which people who read these words know and use to their advantage with myriad of lures, baits and rigging techniques that are available today.
Many anglers are specialists who are experts at catching a few species. I’m more of a generalist who enjoys fishing for and catching fish of all species in both fresh and saltwater. To maximize the individual fun of catching a given species I prefer to use tackle that is light, sensitive and tailored to the job at hand, yet powerful and fast enough to enjoy the battle they all put up but get them to hand or net quickly enough for a fast release with minimal trauma to the fish. If they are injured, legal size and in season, they come home for supper, even if I wasn’t necessarily fishing for a meal.
Any fish that is kept for consumption is bled by cutting the point of its gills, which is essentially its heart, which also kills them quickly. Larger more dangerous species are hit in the top of the head before bleeding and hook removal if they are destined for the ice chest, or put in the live well for that task to be done just prior to cleaning as soon as possible after arriving back at the dock.
As a result of this wide range of fishing interests, my only claim to fame is “I’ve been skunked fishing for everything!”
I hate “sniffing the skunk” but it does happen to the best of us and anyone who says they “never get skunked” is either a heck of allot better with a rod and reel than the rest of us or a liar who only went fishing once (probably with some one else) and caught something.
From late May into early June my two favorite techniques and site specific striped bass fisheries develop.
One is the” worm spawn” often erroneously called the “worm hatch” by many anglers. It is a natural occurrence, when generally smaller stripers go on a feeding binge on Neres succineata, the “yellow jawed clam worm” a small relative of the much larger sand and clam worms used for bait. At two to four inches in length, these multi legged worms ascend into the water column of bays, salt ponds and other shallow generally protected areas along the coast when temps reach 67-69 degrees F to spawn. Stripers, other species even crabs get in on the easy pickings and feed on the worms that at times are like a blizzard of small worms scooting around often in a narrow zone of open water above or around eel grass.
The other event, which I like better because in general much larger stripers can be targeted and caught, is also erroneously called “the squid bite”. The squid don’t do any biting but they themselves are gobbled up by stripers, blues and other predators as they chase down and crash into schools of squid as they are pushed and pulled around by the tides. This is my favorite striped bass fishery, because there is a reasonably good chance of hooking into large stripers. I’ve never caught a monster but have caught and almost always released many bass ranging between ten and thirty some pounds.
This is an exciting, fun, challenging and potentially productive but short lived fishery that takes place this time of year up and down the New England coast.
Slug’Go’s in the six or nine inch length and Yozuri Hydro Squid are the lures are my “lures of choice” but there are many squid clones on the market that will certainly catch “squid slurping” fish of all species.
Fishing this time of year is like opening a wrapped present, you never know what you might get but going through the process is always an enjoyable experience (unless of course the weather turns sour or something mechanical “craps out”).