“Don’t over cast!” is a line we say very often in our tackle stores, especially in the summertime.
So many anglers think that the fish are “way out there!”, but sometimes they are, shhh…“right there…”. In the Florida Keys, the water is crystal clear much of the time and you can see the fish. I slip outside quietly in the mornings and look down into the water and see the fish swimming around the pilings by the bulkhead. You can see five and six pounders cruising by the gas pumps at the marina. When I fish the Long Key Bridge, I look straight down into the water and see the larger fish hanging close to the underwater cement pylons that hold up the bridge. Fish like structure!
In the surf there is natural structure. Just beyond the crest of the first crashing wave is usually a natural dip in the ocean floor. This is where the little baby clams, sand crabs, worms and other good things for fish to eat are naturally being stirred up. In the summer, when surfcasters usually catch panfish such as kingfish, spot and croaker, this is where you want to concentrate on casting. Don’t over cast! Often times the fish are right at your feet!
Using a quality medium-weight graphite rod, no heavier than 2 to 6 ounces and no longer than 8 to 9 foot in length, you can have an absolute ball flipping out with a kingfish rig baited with Fishbite Bloodworms or real bloodworms, combined with a little strip of cut bait such as box squid, bunker fillet or a strip of fresh spot you can catch in the surf. Use a sinker that barely holds the bottom such as a two or three ounce pyramid sinker.
The surf is not the only place where you don’t want to overcast. The bulkhead between 2nd and 4th Street is a popular area to fish because it is easy to get to. It is also a free fishing zone, meaning that you do not have to buy a fishing license to fish this area. You just have to call the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and get a free registry number: 1-855-855-3906.
The problem most vacationers have with the bulkhead area is snags. The bottom just off the bulkhead has rocks, cement slabs, riprap and a huge drop off. All this structure attracts fish! Just look at the boats fishing this area trying to get close to the bulkhead!
The first thing many vacationers do when they get to the bulkhead is to bait up and cast out. No! Don’t do it unless the tide is slacking, which only happens for about 45 minutes every six hours. If you cast out during a hard running tide, the current will take your rig up current and get you hung up in the underwater drop off. What you have at the bulkhead is this. Straight down is fairly deep water, 10 to 15 feet deep. About 8 to 10 feet out is a drop off to the main channel that is 30 feet deep. This huge “drop off” is just full of fishing debris that just increases the chances of getting snagged. If you just flip out your rig just a little, and keep your bait stationary on the bottom, you will catch fish and not get hung up very often.
The Ocean Pier is another place where you sometimes don’t have to cast! Most anglers go to the end of the Pier, bait up and cast out as far as they can. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that and sometimes you may get into some really good fishing with croaker, trout or blues. You may also tangle with some pretty good-sized sharks and rays. Unlike the Bulkhead, there’s not too many snags or hard current to make this tactic not worth trying. BUT, if you are only catching sharks and skates, and the casting off the end of the pier isn’t working for you, try walking back towards the shore break and flipping your rig just beyond the crest of the waves. You can cast a little bit or even a lot, but you’re not necessarily casting way out into the ocean. You’re casting towards the crest of the waves. Try different places along the pier till you find a spot where the fish are biting. Sometimes the fish are hanging straight down by the pilings. I fished there one day last year and caught dozens of pompano fishing straight down by the pilings, about ¾ of the way out on the pier with just small hooks and Fishbite bloodworms.
You can catch anything on the Ocean Pier that you can from the surf. Use a kingfish rig and bloodworms or FishBite Bloodworms with a little strip of cut bait, just like you would from the surf. Use a pyramid sinker as well.
The Route 50 Bridge is another place you don’t have to cast way out to catch fish. Sometimes it works, but other times it doesn’t. If you watch really good flounder fishermen, they float their rigs out with bobbers, or they cast sideways (as opposed to straight out) and work their rigs back in. I’ve had good luck jigging Spec Rigs with a 2-ounce sinker attached, baited with strip baits close to the pilings of the bridge! I also like to cast towards the underwater sandbars and let the baited rig fall off the bar and into the deeper water. That’s usually a sideways cast.
Sometimes casting out as far as you can is a good thing to do. The 9th Street Pier can produce some good flounder fishing for anglers casting off the left hand corner as far as they can and slowly retrieving in. Other times, you can cast too far and over cast the fish like in the surf in the summer time. Some locations, you can cast too far and get yourself into ugly snags, especially when the tide takes your rigs where you don’t want them to go. Never be afraid to try casting as far as you can. BUT, if it’s not working, try fishing in close. Sometimes, the fish are… RIGHT THERE!