August 17, 2002

When it Comes to Fishing, Surfcasting has it All

Frank G. Dwyer
August 17, 2002

There are many methods of fishing, and many who practice just one form or another, becoming somewhat of a purist if you will. You have fly fishermen, boat fishermen and bait fishermen to name just a few. Within these groups, there can be sub-groups, like your catch and release only type of fishermen, or perhaps those that are targeting fish for the table. If I were forced into one type of fishing for the foreseeable future, it would be surfcasting from the beach.

Surfcasting is fishing at its best. I may not be completely objective here, having started fishing as a boy from the beaches of the Long Island Sound, and having rekindled my interest in fishing 15 years ago fishing for monster stripers off the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard. Even so, there is something magical and even primal, in the art of surfcasting.

Without fail, my heart races as any given surfcasting excursion approaches. With adrenaline pumping through my veins, thoughts of large fish and bent rods typically fill my mind as the event approaches. These days, the anticipation typically begins as I leave the downtown Newburyport area in my rear view mirror and make my way down Water Street. Glimpsing Joppa Flats for birds working the water or any other indications of the presence of fish only adds to the now building anticipation.

Crossing over the Plum Island River, the familiar hum of the drawbridge greets me as I get closer to my selected destination. Once again, I survey the waters below the bridge for any signs of a fishy evening to come. Soon, I’m unloading the truck and trudging in the soft sand with rods, sand spikes and tackle bag in tow.

One of two things happens next. Either I calmly set up my gear and begin fishing, or I walk upon actively feeding and visible fish, and fumble nervously to rig up. On several of these occasions when fish were present, Murphy’s Law has been the norm as I suffer any number of difficulties from tangled lines to hooks in the thumb.

More often than not though, the surfcasting experience is one filled with innumerable pleasures. Wading into the surf on a starlit night to cast a line into the vast ocean, I often ponder the wonder of it all. It’s a big ocean, and to think that I’m lucky enough to catch fish more often than not is nothing short of amazing. Just think how much beachfront we have right here along Plum Island and the other surrounding beaches.

Even those evenings when the fish are not cooperative, the surfcasting experience can be a great way to unwind after a busy day in the “real” world. Beyond offering an excellent place for contemplative thought, the beach offers many wildlife shows that can sometimes rival the fishing. Whatever your pleasure, be it casting plugs into the breaking waves, or sending out a baited hook and relaxing in your beach chair, surfcasting has many rewards for the taking.
I love summer, but this heat is starting to get to me. It seems it has also gotten to the fish, as finding and catching fish has become more of a chore over the last 10 days.

Bluefish have arrived in more numbers, mostly at the mouth of the Merrimack and along the beachfront. Both shore and boat anglers have reported getting in on the action, with fish in the three to five pound range. Low tide seems to be the best for these toothy fish.

Joppa Flats has produced some fish lately, but more often than not finicky fish are the typical find these days. Large fish have been seen lazing on the flats, ignoring all offerings put in front of them. Time to take inventory of your tackle and dust off some of those lures and flies you have not tried in awhile.

The jetty on Plum Island is attracting more fishermen these days as both the ocean and river facing sides are now accessible via walking along the base in the sand. This may be presenting better fishing opportunities for shore bound anglers but it may also create a false sense of security. The current is still swift, the rocks are still slippery and a rising tide can surprise a fisherman, so be careful.

Parking lot #1 at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island remains closed due to nesting Piping Plovers. Parking lot #5 is now open; joining lots #6 and #7, which remain open.

Kay Moulton, purveyor of fine tackle at Plum Island’s Surfland Bait and Tackle reports that there are fish to be had from shore, however many fish have headed for deeper water. Striped bass have been reported offshore at Speckled Apron, along with bluefish in 40 to 50 feet of water.

Closer to shore, Rich Brown landed a 14-pound striper off the beach at the Parker River NWR on August 11, using sea worms. Paige Stokes tallied a 13-pound striped bass while fishing the Merrimack from a boat.

Kay suggests trying the Parker River NWR on the incoming tide with sea worms for bait.


Jay and Robert at the Captain’s Fishing Parties on Plum Island report good fishing over the last week. 22 and 16-pound cod won the pools earlier this week and an 18-pound bluefish and 18-pound wolf fish were also caught. Pollock, Haddock and a 175-pound blue dog shark were also caught this week. Captain’s Fishing Parties offers ½ and full day trips as well as night trips.

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