Last week Fred B and I went surf fishing at the National Seashore. It was the most frustrating trip I can recall. Not because we didn’t catch anything – that’s not all that unusual and not even frustrating if the weather’s nice. What made this so frustrating was that about a hundred feet from us a guy was catching fish like crazy. He got my attention after I watched him land about 6 fish and I’ve yet to get a bite. I start watching very close to see exactly what he’s doing differently than us. There are lots of variables – the bait, the rig, the distance fcast rom shore to name a few. As best I could tell he was using sand fleas, same as us; he was using four rods with 2 different types of rigs – two rigged with standard pompano rigs, same as us; the other two rigged slightly different but certainly duplicatable. For about 3 hours this guy caught fish, I’m guessing maybe 20 – we caught nothing. Mercifully he left. Fred suggested we move to his spot since clearly he was fishing a hole where we were fishing a desert. I thought to myself, the downside of that was that we would move there and catch nothing but at least we’d know. That’s what happened – we fished his spot for a half hour without a bite. Man was I bummed.
Fred left and I went to Flagler a few days later. I cast and caught a fish almost immediately. Interestingly on two previous trips with Fred, one of us caught a fish almost immediately. Then I went dry again – but this time nobody seemed to be catching anything. I reeled in to check my bait and it was gone. This was again reminiscent – every time we reeled in before, our bait was gone. I started thinking that very small fish were maybe nibbling away at the bait and decided to bait up with smaller sandfleas and smaller hooks. When I started reeling in I noticed that the line seemed to be angled a little different than I remembered casting. I also noticed that it seemed heavy, like the weight had dug into the sand. I reeled in very slowly and the weight seemed constant rather than pulling out of the sand. When I got it to the surf, there was a large blue crab hanging on to the flea. I went over to the second rod and repeated the slow retrieval. Same heavy feel and same end result – a big crab. I started casting and then retrieving a few minutes later and each time either my bait was already half eaten or there was a crab attached. I did manage to catch 6 fish but in each case the fish bit within a minute of the cast – meaning a fish got to the bait before the crabs. This totally explained what the other guy was doing, He was fishing with 4 rods and basically cast them in sequence and then retrieved in sequence. By that I mean he would go back and reel in his first rod shortly after casting his forth. So his bait was not in the water more than a few minutes. He either got a bite on one rod while reeling in another or reeled in with no bait. We had been leaving our bait out there alone for 20 to 30 minutes – as it turns out with no bait. He was rebaiting and recasting every few minutes. I had assumed he was getting bites but in reality he was just maiking sure he had bait in the water.
Sounds unbelieveable but in the fishing section of Friday’s paper the surf report said fishing was poor because of the large number of crabs eating the bait. I sure felt relieved to break the code and also amazed that there could possibly be that many crabs from Flagler to way south of New Symrna – a stretch of at least 40 miles. Big Red’s and tarpon feed heavily on crabs so I’m expecting to start seeing that kind of action soon!!!