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Thread: How to: Reading the water

  1. #21
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    A little something I try to look for, find the water that is different from the rest ie when the water is going out, find the water that is still coming in, or vice versa. This will reveal an area of stronger current. It's not always easy to spot for the newbie. Give it some practice in the sunlight, and you will soon get better at it.

  2. #22
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    If you want to learn the basics, go to one stretch of beach at low tide, study it, and learn that well. Do it as many times as you need to until you learn that area. It would help if it was near an inlet, you can then learn what happens near the inlet as the tide ebbs and floods. Look for eddies or pools of different water near the sides of the inlets. Concentrate on one thing at a time. Your confidence will build up that way.

  3. #23
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    Sandbars are pretty easy to see whats going on especially when you have waves.

    A wave only breaks over shallow water.

    Where it starts to form is the outer bar(deep water)

    When it starts to form it is going over the sandbar(lower water).

    Where it actually breaks is called the slough or trough. The wave dies down because it is coming back to deep water.

    Thats the area between the beach and where the wave broke. Most of the fish are going to be right in front of the inside of the bar.

    If you think about the least turbulent place for the fish to hold and feed on bait being washed over the bar, its where the wave just lifted and broke right over their heads.

    Its really important to try to cast over the outer bar and work it slowly over the bar. When it comes over the bar this is where you need to pay close attention to the plug.

    Keep it working but don't get caught up in the wave.

    Try to follow the backside of the wave so your plug doesn't tumble and you lose control of it.

    Waves usually come in sets.
    Try and count them to get some insight on how the sets are coming in.
    If you figure that you will have some time to work your plug w/o wave interference there should be nice foamy water. Always try to cast to the backside of an incoming wave.

    Then you have cuts in the bar.
    Watch the waves break. There will be areas where the wave is not breaking. This is a cut. This is the fishes hwy.

    From outside the bar to the inside is where they can search for food. It is basically just a deep pocket of water in the sandbar the fish use because they can't get over the shallow sandbar.

    Like I said most of the bait is being washed over the bar into the slough.I hope this made sense because I kind of got lost in my words.
    Last edited by DarkSkies; 01-07-2010 at 10:47 AM. Reason: This was so informative I put some punctuation breaks in it, excellent post!!

  4. #24
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    What he said.

  5. #25
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    no need to read the water, call Bob.

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by killie View Post
    no need to read the water, call Bob.

    What happens when your cell phone doesn't work one day and ya can't find Bob?

    Pssst - Word on the street has even odds that if ya don't get that special plug (you were given last year) painted in the next 30 days... ya might get lost in the shuffle and not be able to find the path to the promised land any more.

    Better fire up the compressor and the airbrush, dude.

  7. #27
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    Outer Bar & Cuts:

    Another way to identify cuts when the waves aren't around is to look for foamy water or just a difference in what the water looks like as it exits.

    This will be vertical to the beach.

    You need to look a little harder but you will learn to see it.

    I feel the larger fish stay on the outer bar right near the opening of the cut. As the water naturally comes in and recedes through the cut, there will be a current or eddy formed because of the surrounding sandbar on both sides of the cut.

    This forces the water and the bait to be washed in and out of the narrow opening. Easy pickings...big bass are lazy, and they didn't get big by being stupid.

    If you can reach the outer bar I like to fish my bucktails real close to the bottom in these cuts. Just my .02 cents
    Last edited by DarkSkies; 01-09-2010 at 02:47 AM. Reason: Added punctuation and spacing

  8. #28
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    Default Sloughs or troughs

    Sloughs or troughs:

    Another good holding spot is slough or trough.

    Like I mentioned in an earlier post, the fish use this to feed against the inside of the bar.

    Sometimes you have a situation when the wave is rolling over the bar into the trough, but flattens out all the way to the beach. This is when the trough in front of the inner bar has a rising hump in the bottom midway to the beach and a drop off in front of it.

    So you have:
    a) the sandbar,
    b) the trough in front of that(fish holding here)
    c) then the hump
    d) and a drop off between the beach and the hump.(fish holding real tight to the beach.)

    This is why you never lift your plug out of the water -- keep reeling until it is on the sand.



    Another thing... don't step in the water when you first get there because:
    #1- theres a drop off and you will take a swim
    #2- thats where some of the fish will be, and they will get spooked.

    You can only identify this at high tide by the wave action.

    At low tide you will see these humps as you walk the beach.

    If you can imagine what these humps look like at high tide you will see the uprising and a deeper depression between two of them.

    The bait and fish like to lay in the deeper spots between the two rising areas.

    You can feel these as you walk at the lower tidal stages at night if you can remember what they felt like when you walked on them at low tide during the day.

    I don't try to reach the outer bar too much in this situation, because the fish like to get inside the trough at night.

    I like to work the trough and bring it into the drop off right to the beach.

    Stay out of the water! Remember #1 and #2 at night.
    Last edited by DarkSkies; 01-09-2010 at 02:46 AM. Reason: Added punctuation & spacing

  9. #29
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    Default Inlets

    I'll just give a quickie on inlets because I cannot educate NJ jetty jockies. I may learn much from you guys.

    An inlet is basically a hwy from the bay to the ocean for bait and fish to get from one to the other.

    Current is the big factor in the inlets.

    It brings the bait to the fish where they lie to feed in the various structure...rocks, eddies, and rips.

    The fish will feed on the inside when the current is moving in and vice versa when going out.

    What you need to know tide and current are 2 different things.

    I don't know how many times someone has come up to me and asked why the tide is going in or out.

    It was supposed to be doing this at this time according to the tide charts.

    Well it is doing that, but the current continues until the bay water and the ocean water equalize or level out. The tide may be changing, but the current will still be running for another 1-2 hrs. Depending on the size of the bay it is filling or emptying.

    I think the best fishing for me is the 2 hrs. from tide change to the current change as the flow slows down

    I feel this is also when the fish are on the move opposite of where they were. I'll let the jetty guys fill in the spaces.
    Last edited by DarkSkies; 01-09-2010 at 02:53 AM. Reason: Added punctuation and spacing

  10. #30
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    OK gotta go my back is shot hope this helps you new guys out.

  11. #31
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    As a result of reading these threads I'm going to be spending a lot more time studying the water instead of throwing and hoping. When you fish an inlet do you always throw your plug/jig upcurrent and let it come down to the fish?

  12. #32
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    Default Reading the water: inlets

    Dreaminofishin, here's what I do when I fish an inlet. Other guys do it differently, it's all a matter of preference and what you're comfortable with:


    Flood tide...
    I generally like to be near the back of the inlet. If the inlet has a bridge or some kind of structure, I'll fish against the current and fish from whatever side allows me to do that. I don't want to confuse you by bringing bridges into the equation, but often there are car or train bridges near the back of inlets.

    Big predators hang around structure in wait to ambush smaller fish. Since I generally fish at night, I look for the shadow lines made by the lights, and try to throw out so my offering ends up in the darkness of the shadow line.

    Again, I'll try just to stay on the inlet topic here. All inlets are basic in their design. As Surfstix said, they are a highway for a water and the fish. There are many subtle differences for each inlet. That's why you should pick one inlet and learn those differences at different stages of the tide.

    The first thing I would do if I didn't know an inlet was to go there at extreme low tide, right before slack. Pay attention to the rocks on the sides and the variations. All sorts of little fish, and also seabass, tog, crabs, etc will be hiding in those rocks as the tide fills. It's also a good time to check any nuances in structure you can see near bottom. If you're bait fishin it will save you many lost rigs.

    As the tide fills in, you may have eddies, pockets, or areas in back of the inlet where the current is less. I think Surfstix, despite his modesty, did a fantastic job of explaining the difference between tide and current above.

    The current will become stronger or weaker at different stages of the tide. A lot of guys like to fish the middle areas of inlets. Fine, but know when to move from them. IMO the middle areas are best at the beginning and end of the tidal flow when current is weaker. That's a great time to toss out plugs because you can retreive across the current and still have your plug at a slow enough retrieval speed.

    Retrieving plugs when the current is too fast, like in the middle of a tide when current is at its strongest, can be a waste of time if you're targeting bass. What I usually dto is hit an inlet up to 2 hours before and 2 hours after high tide, as many have advised. That seems to be the best window.

    Ebb tide:
    Everybody's different. I like to be at the front of an inlet for the ebb. I try to figure out where the sweep is. The sweep is the direction the water is moving in the ocean. This depends on the moon stage, wind, offshore weather patterns which sometimes give rise to a swell, among other factors. Also the structure at the outer area of the inlet.

    Based on that sweep I'll decide whether I want to fish the N or S side of the inlet. I'll note here that right before a storm, I might concentrate on the front of the inlet for he ebb, depending on the wind and sweep. If fish are pulled out of the inlet by the tide, and there is a swell pushing the water in at the same time, there can be some big predators right in front, or to the sides of the rocks in front. This gets a little dicey, safety gear is an absolute must. More on that in a bit.

    When I work the front rocks of an inlet, I will take the bucktail and bounce it on the bottom as close as I can to the rocks without getting hung up. This is where you will lose the most jigs until you get the hang of it. Even after you get better, you'll still lose some jigs if you're fishin it right. I generally like to bounce the bucktail around the frong of the inlet, gradually working it around the structure WITH the tide.

    If you were a scuba diver, you would be amazed at all the bass that sit at the bottom near the safety of the rocks. The strong current just 20 feet above them is less intense as the current action is broken up by that bottom structure.


    Full/New moon tides:
    However my fishin rules are not set in stone. If there's a full or new moon tide, the current will be extremely strong. It's a waste to fish the fastest running water during the mid-tide.

    Does that mean ya go home? Nope, that's why ya need plan B, and C sometimes. I will bounce around an area and may come back to an inlet area 2 or 3 times in a night, fishing other spots until I feel the tide is optimal.

  13. #33
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    Default Reading the water: Inlets

    Should I stay or should I go?
    Also, if you're not doing anything at an inlet, how do you know if the fish are there? My guage is the bait. If there is a lot of bait around and popping, I know fish will usually be on them. That's not the whole picture. Many times you will see bait running in and out on the sides because the current is usually a little less intense there. You won't see anyting popping or on the surface at all. You have to train your eyes to look for them. Sometimes that's difficult in fast moving water. It's something I don't believe you can teach to someone. You have to learn to recognize it at your own pace to get good at it.

    My intensity and focus on fishing a place becomes more directed when I see lots of bait. However, there are times when you will see no bait and fish will still be holding.

    Jigging and bucktailing:
    That's where the bucktailing comes in, or throwing rubber jigs. A lot of guys will make a few casts at an inlet, move around once or twice, convince themselves because there are no fish busting on the surface that it ain't happenin that night. Sometimes they're right, but I always remember a simple rule an old-timer taught me years ago:

    "The fish are on the bottom"
    If you don't probe the bottom as part of your fishin that night, you will never know if you missed the fish by not being deep enough.

    As the current strengthens through the tide, it's an effort for a fish to not get swept in or out. So many bait fish will hold to the sides, and bigger fish hold on the bottom, away from the stronger.

    Another reality is that the bigger fish move with the current. Striped bass love current. You have a higher chance at catching a big bass in strong current than you do on the flats somewhere.

    The key is realizing that a bass will move during the tide stages up or down an inlet area to find the combination of water they can comfortably swim in, ambush food, and not get swept away.

    Current is less strong on the bottom, so that's where the big predators will sit during strong parts of the tide. Or they'll find a ledge, a seam, or crease in the bottom to sit and pop up once in awhile to nab a juicy enough baitfish.

    Bucktailing/fishing rubber:
    Your job bucktailing or throwing rubber is to find where those fish are sitting. Learning creases, ledges or seams is good if you have a boat with a depth finder. From shore you have to do your own prospecting.

    If you're jigging, you'll lose bucktails and jigs. Never buy expensive bucktails or rubber when starting out. Buy stuff in multi-packs, or at flea markets. If you have a friend who makes bucktails and likes to trade, that's golden.

    The functionality of a bucktail doesn't depend on how much you paid for it or how artistic it looks. It's all about how you work it in the water. I have seen old timers fishing next to other guys outfish them 3:1 with the same bucktail. At times I've been the one outfished 3:1 as well. When that happens to you, you will quickly try to learn the subtle differences.

    The best advice I can give you about beginning bucktailing or jigging is to:
    1. Read a good book on bucktailing (Skinner's comes to mind)
    2. Buy a lot of cheap or used bucktails at shows
    3. Learn to bounce the bottom.

    As you become more proficient and get into bigger fish, the quality of the bucktail hook becomes more important. You will tend to learn which ones to stay away from if you lose a big fish when a hook pulls. Big fish don't just break your line, they break your heart! You don't need to worry about that much in the beginning, just work on your technique.


    Fish with mono in the inlets first when learning. As you lose jigs it's not cool to put a lot of braid out there on the bottom. I can recommend sufix tritanium 17 or 20lbs for inlets. We have gotten jigs stuck on the bottom and been able to retrieve them with that line.

  14. #34
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    Good one DS very informative like you said when your losing your bucktails your in the target area at least then you just need to find where those fish are holding in that target area.To me the inlets are harder to get a read on unless you learn them upside down and backwards.One thing I like to do when the water is slowing down enough while I'm waiting for the turn around is to throw a live eel no weight and just let him swim around on his own my theory is the fish are starting to move to stage up for the turnaround and that eel is irresistable if they see it. This has gotten me two fish in the thirties(lbs.)and I just did it early one morning when the BT didn't produce I had some eels and just said What the hell threw on a bait rig and wham.So when in doubt try anything.

  15. #35
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    This is turning out to be a primo thread Surfstix. Good point about the eels. I was in the middle of editing my post and decided to send you a pm. Look for it. Thanks.

    What Surfstix said about eels is a killer piece of advice, guys and girls. Some huge bass have been taken on eels in inlets. The way to do it is wait until near slack, toss it out, and let it sit. Or ya can drag one in slowly if you know the bottom structure.

    Primo times are dawn and dusk. The problem with inlets is that boat traffic really hurts the bite for quality fish. That's why it's best fo fish at night or when the weather is bad and a lot of boats won't be going out.

    That being said, that magic hour before dawn in the morning is truly magic when there is bait around. Sometimes you may only get a 1/2 hr or 15 minutes of real action. And the action may not be consistent on a daily basis. That's part of the challenge. If you're there at the exact right time and you see it with your own eyes, you would agree.

  16. #36
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    Default Reading the water: Inlets

    Last but not least. Let's talk about safety...

    Safety is always the most important thing:
    No fish in the world is worth you jeopardizing your safety or your family's future on those rocks in front. I have friends who have pulled in trophy bass right before a noreaster.

    There are some mighty big bass to be had if you fish at or near inlets, at the right times. Tales of trophy sized bass bring guys out during every storm to give it a shot. And EVERY YEAR a guy is washed off or drowned from being washed off an inlet somewhere.

    Especially if you fish the fronts, you have extremely powerful current out there. The rip can wash you out to sea if you lose your footing, and you could drown before anyone gets to you.

    Some basic safety tips, feel free to add if anyone has any more:

    !. Korkers always. I have made a lot of fast friends fishin inlets in the dark of night. However if you've ever walked on the front of an inlet or jetty with sneakers or bare feet and had a guy ask you what the hell ya were doing and how your family would survive without ya that guy was probably me.
    (I know someone is gonna bust me about this sooner or later, so I might as well fess up now. In 2008 I fished the Spring bass season with old worn korkers. I got knocked down quite a few times as I procrastinated about buyin new ones. I was wrong. Some of my friends won't let me forget it. I make lots of mistakes. That was just one of a long list. Confession ever. Effumall! )


    2. Try to wear something other than waders. Raingear, pants, boots, drytop, etc. If you feel the need to wear them, you should have a wader belt. There is no reasonable way you're gettin your waters off if you get washed out in strong current. They could become your grave marker.

    3. Fishing plan. There's always one person who knows where I am when I'm on a jetty or inlet somewhere, or out in a kayak they know the general area I put in at. You night warriors would be well-advised to do the same.

    4. Escape plan in your head. I've taken a bunch of headers over my head fishin rocks, jetties, and lighthouses. I know what I'm getting into when I go out there. You can't always plan the sizes of the waves if you get a rogue set in there. So you should anticipate what your first survival moves will be when you eventually get knocked down, or in the water.

    Fishin with a buddy is good. I don't always do that, so I try to think what rock, what channel, what area I will try for if I do go swimming. Many bad experiences in life can be turned around by thoughtful planning ahead of time.

    With all the above lecturing done, please don't be the guy below. What he did is not cool, or smart. And I haven't seen any jetty world records reported in 2009, so I know he didn't get the world record the afternoon he set out to fish that noreaster.



    (As originally posted by Finchaser)
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ead.php?t=5327

  17. #37
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    Default Advice for the new guys

    Surfstix mentioned about there being some threads for the new guys to read and learn from. Don't feel intimidated by asking a question. That's the only way you're gonna learn.



    Search feature:
    The "Search" feature toward the right top of the user tool bar (under where the site lists your username) is also helpful for finding stuff. Type in a term, and you should find it if it's here. A little tip is to use " in front of the term if your search words are common or generic. That way your search will be targeted better. Do not use " at both ends of the search term or phrase because sometimes that will be too limiting. You might not find what you're looking for.

    Hope this helps, guys and girls. Feel free to click on and add to any of the threads below to help our new members.

    Some of your questions might be answered in the threads below.
    They were all found by typing in the word Techniques in the search key.


    Surf fishing 101.
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ead.php?t=1824

    We also have a lot of "New guy/Newbie/Just learning " threads:

    You can find these using "Techniques" as the search term:

    Bombers
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

    Jigging shallow water:
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

    Jigging deep water:
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

    Fishing a Mag darter:
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

    Fishing a Fin-S:
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

    Fishing a Danny:
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

    Fishing a Mambo minnow:
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

    Fishing a Needlefish:
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

    Fishing a Pencil popper:
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

    Fishing a Sea Dog or Saltwater Spook:
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

    Fishing a Shad or rubber swimbait:
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

    Fishing a Sluggo:
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

    Fishing Swimmers in the surf:
    http://stripersandanglers.com/Forum/...ght=Techniques

  18. #38
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    This is a great post guys. I have not been fishing that long and always get great advice here. This post is awesome. Thanks.

  19. #39
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    Great information!!! I have spent a lot of time throwing black bombers into an inlet current running full blast, thinking I was doing the right thing to get into some big fish and catching skunks instead. Time to fish smarter.

    One other question, is there anything that you just don't fish at inlets because it's a waste of time? I'm wondering about things like metals and even using bait.

    Thanks to everyone for the lessons.

  20. #40
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    Plugs:
    Anything that is considered a swimmimg plug I like to fish as slow as possible.
    If you think you're reeling too slow, slow down some more. Just keep the plug moving to keep slack out of the line.

    The only exception would be a needlefish you need to try different things w/these.Those posts DS put up are a great read.

    I like to throw bucktails and large rubber shads at night at an inlet.

    I don't fish inlets much during the day. Fall and early spring there can be some action w/ big blues when the fish are using the inlet for migration. This could be some quick good daytime action. Just bring some heavier tins and poppers. This is one of those "I was at the right place at the right time" things. It probably won't repeat itself daily.

    Bait:
    If your going to fish bait use eels at night. If you have never done it try and pick up some tips on it. Eel balls are a nightmare. I fish fresh bunker during the day.
    Bring lots of rigs because you will get hung up and lose them.

    I like a fishfinder rig so the bass doesn't feel the weight when they pick up the bait

    I use only circle hooks.
    I use gamakatsu 8/0 and mono line 30 lb test.

    This is one exception - on a jetty when I break out the 11 ft. Old Ugly Stik rod & a larger line capacity reel, a big bass will take quite a bit of line on its initial run. You need to try and get control w/o horsing the fish. They usually have a couple good runs in them before they wear down. You need to let the fish set the hook.

    w/ circles don't rear back when the fish takes off. "Bow to the cow" and when the line comes tight hold on. Just think of every strikeout as a lesson learned. You never stop learning. Hell we all get skunked. Doesn't matter how long you've been doing it, or how much you know.


    Family first:
    One last bit of advice. Take it any way you want. If your a family guy, remember you have a family. This addiction, like any other could drag you down to places you don't want to be.

    Been There Done That.
    Last edited by DarkSkies; 01-10-2010 at 02:41 PM. Reason: Added sentence breaks.

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