I’ve been surf fishing quite a bit lately and loving every minute of it. I love the beach, I love fishing – how could I not love surf fishing. My favorite location, up until this point, is a strip of beach about halfway between Ormond and Flagler – seems to be highly productive and not overly populated (with people) this time of year. And it’s an easy, no traffic 40 minute scenic back country drive
My routine is simple – I pick out the exact spot on the beach and then dig a load of sand fleas right at the surf line. I’ve never seen a beach so thick with sand fleas. I can catch enough in 5 minutes to last me a full day. For those not familiar with fleas, these are crab like hard shell critters, maybe half the size of your thumb. With a couple dozen legs, an orange colored egg sac on the underside, and a hard shell, they are an excellent, natural bait. By excellent I mean the fish love them and they stay on the hook well. And of course they’re free. The point I want you to understand is that they stay on the hook well. Some baits are soft and wash off the hook after a bit so you have to keep rebaiting. But fleas, in the absence of fish, will stay on all day. I fish with a rig that includes a weight and two hooks. The weight is at the bottom; one hook is attached about a foot above the weight; the second hook about 2′ above the bottom hook. The idea behind this rig is that you have two baits fishing at two different depths in the water. So theoretically you should more than double your catch because you are covering different depths and you still have a bait even if one gets taken off. I’m giving this much detail because this rig created a mystery for me yesterday.
It’s not unusual to get a bite, miss the fish, leave your bait out there and get a second bite and hopefully the fish. That’s a big advantage of the two hooks – you don’t have to reel in each time you get a bite. I noticed yesterday that I was getting a bite, leaving it out and not getting a second bite. I’d wait maybe 5-10 minutes and then reel in only to find both hooks bare. That’s frustrating because you don’t know how long you’ve been fishing with no bait. After experiencing the double empty hook phenomena a couple of times, I shortened the time between the first bite and reeling in. Two bare hooks. I keep shortening the time until I decided to just reel in after the first bite – two bare hooks. How is this possible? Surely the two fish arn’t biting synchronously – maybe that could happen once or twice but every time? I don’t think so. And even if that were the case, I would catch at least one, every now and again. When you are standing in the surf, up to your ankles in sand, watching the rollers, birds, waves – you have plenty of time for deep thoughts and the bare hook problem is as deep as my thoughts go these days. So I developed a theory. These are very stealthy fish and can strip a hook without you feeling a bite. I get that. My theory is that these very tricky fish would nibble away at the bait without ever tugging on the line until both hooks were bare. They would then grab the weight and give it a tug to request more bait. And it worked. After the tug, I’d promptly reel in and send them out two fresh, juicy sand fleas. Is that smart or what!!
One other thing I learned – you know how those little sand pipers can keep just out of the water as they grab sand fleas? No matter how large the wave, they have perfect timing. They don’t have to be facing the surf – an inner sense of exactly where the water is. Well it turns out, I don’t have that same inner sense. I was bent over, not facing the waves, scooping a handful of sand when whoosh, a wave knocked me off my feet. Talk about feeling stupid – and wet.