Depending on how the hurricane season shapes up, in high winds and heavy rains that come from these monsters even after they are spent. However, if temperatures, winds and rain are more moderate, October can be the best time of year to be on the water, both fresh and salt. The reason being, everything with fur, feathers and scales is tanking up for the upcoming winter. Stores of fat help species with their migrations or reserve energy to simply get them through what can be some lean and hungry times, whether they live in the water or on land.
In the ocean this means anglers in the right place at the right time can find some very large concentrations of fish, both prey and the predatory species that provide fast, occasionally nearly constant action.
Over the years my friends and I have experienced situations when we came upon large concentrations of feeding fish, with the action especially easy when the bait is trapped in a cove, river mouth or some other place where they can’t make a run (or swim) for it without passing through a gauntlet of open mouths.
Last year, my long time fishing buddy Eric and I had a good day in a shallow bay off the mouth of a local river. Knowing I’d not done much that summer due to leg and foot injuries, he gave me a call the day after he located a large concentration of stripers. As predicted we saw surface feeding fish, predominantly smaller schoolie stripers feeding on peanut bunker and in some spots silver sides literally all day literally in all directions. All we had to do was occasionally run upwind around the larger concentrations of fish and drift back through the fray. It was among the fastest “catching action” we’ve ever experienced and all in shallow water which made it even more fun than bottom bouncing jigs. It was rare not to have some disruption, strike or follow on two or three casts in a row. I had one particularly aggressive little striper, swipe at the lure eight times, finally hooking itself less than half a rod length from the boat. (Short strikes after long follows are the kind of thrills often provided by the pike and muskellunge we’ve targeted many times.)
On two separate occasions while on the Ottawa River in Ontario Province, I had large muskellunge and pike overshoot the lure and bite four or five inches off my rod tip. Those species often strike late and experts recommend reeling up close, then making a circular or “figure eight” movement at boat side before lifting the lure from the water. For me that tactic has caught a few toothy critters and even a striper or bluefish on occasion.
The primary forage this time of year are menhaden of all sizes though silversides and anything that fits in a predator’s mouth may have a bad day. A big live bunker is practically irresistible to any predator. We’ve all had menhaden beheaded, betailed, and had cookie cutter bites taken out of every place except where the hook was seated. Bluefish are so aggressive and cooperative, misses really seldom matter because they generally feed in large packs with fish towards the back end doing a clean up on pieces and damaged prey.
Striped bass simply pull the bait off if the point of the hook doesn’t set into their mouths. It is all thrilling to me, the essence of fishing is that first contact whether it is a strike or sighting of your target species. Obviously it’s preferable to have that first sighting a solidly hooked fish at the end of the line.
Right now both bass and blues are out there “foraging” their way to their wintering grounds which may be deep channels, rivers or bays to the south. Depending on which population of stripers they come from. Blues go offshore and to the south, having spawned during the summer as evidenced by the runs of “snapper’ baby bluefish that inundate the shoreline late in the summer.
Years ago when I was living in an apartment with a view of eastern Long Island Sound, on a clear day I could see over Fishers Island and see a tiny strip of Long Island in the distance. I only had a small car top boat so I was pretty much relegated to casting the rocks from shore or around some of the bridges and trestles in the area.
Certain times of the season I could catch stripers off one of the spots, a trestle across the mouth of a good sized cove near home where I did a great deal of blue crabbing and striper fishing when they were around. That day I was killing time until supper, hoping I’d spot a crab slipping along the rocks with the tide which was rising, the worst possible conditions for the way I had to go about netting a few blue shells for supper, without any luck.
Snapper blues were everywhere and as the tide switched and started coming in I hooked one of many baby blues, all of which were released to grow and fight again, except this one, which was grabbed by a striper that was in the 25 to 30 pound range. It took off into the cove with the tide, running a good portion of the line off my light spinning out reel and rod, designed for largemouth bass, not stripers.
I followed the fish into the cove on foot, stinking up an already smelly pair of sneakers and noting the chill in the water as it splashed up my thighs. I caught up to the fish, got within maybe twenty feet when it turned around, obviously not liking the water depth that was decreasing with every few yards it covered and headed back towards the main river.
At that time the tide had changed and was ebbing out of rather than into the cove. The bass got to the bridge, probably not knowing it was hooked and naturally went out with the current, with me following as fast as I could swim with a rod in one hand and pushing off some rocks and the sides of the bridge with my feet to minimize damage from rough concrete and or barnacles
I was spent, the striper was not. It swam out into the river, ran the line over a rock or something on its way and it was gone. Could have been one of my best ever marine fish catches at that point in time. I was an “also ran” that time.
October, as noted earlier as long as the weather is not too nasty can produce some of the best fishing opportunities for stripers, bluefish, scup, blue crabs and anything else that is in season. On the ocean the conditions created by a spent hurricane can kill, in freshwater that large drop in barometric pressure and dark skies that accompany their approach has created some of the best freshwater catches I have ever experienced. If you can find bass and or blues in a safe harbor to fish, a large river somewhere the same applies. Though after heavy torrential rains hit, the conditions, changes in temperature and or salinity often moves them out. Pretty much ending marine action until things reverses in the spring. The exception being some small, discreet populations of overwintering stripers in larger rivers and harbors along the coast. Otherwise it’s time to oil the reels, check and replace worn guides and wait for spring.