Fish the Jetties?
by Tim Surgent
a question, huh? Why surf fish from jetties? Is that even surf fishing? Or
is it jetty fishing? It's certainly striped bass fishing! One could write
a book...no, a novel as to why or why not jetties. I'll try not to....
First, proper jetty tackle is very rarely proper beach tackle. It's tough to get an outfit that will do both very well...at least that's the reason why I've walked past guys on the beach when going from jetty to jetty...mind you, they weren't bailing fish when I did, I'd have "investigated" in that case! There are some outfits that will be tolerable on both the beach and from the jetty, but they won't be perfect for either, compromises will have to be made. I'd rather have an outfit that's overkill for the beaches than to have one that leave you undergunned on the rocks. To be honest, I'd rather just have two separate outfits, each one perfect for their specified task...but bringing two rods fishing amounts to nothing more than head aches and should be avoided. If you can drive on the sand where you are fishing, that's a different story, but being forced to put on rod down to fish the other is never a good idea, a multitude of things could happen to the rod. Not a good idea.
Jetties are fish holding structure...sometimes. Cuts and bars hold fish....sometimes. Sometimes nothing holds the fish and they are constantly cruising around. When you are on the jetty, you are not limited by distance of your cast as to how far out in the ocean you will fish...you are limited now by the length of the jetty. This can, but not always, put you nearer deeper water. It was always that way until the ACOE destroyed 95% of the jetties in NJ, now some once deep jetty fronts are dry at low tide...some still have water near them, but none are the same, none are better, they are all worse off than before the beach "replenishment" project - they are all negatively affected in some way. Having cut my striper teeth haunting these rockpiles in the dark, it's very much a personal tragedy. Even in the few areas they haven't buried yet, the additional sand from nearby has shifted and settled, changing the jetties forever. Filling in their valuable nooks and crannies, taking precious feet of saltwater cover away from the rocks at high tide. But I'm getting off on a tangent, I'll stop there!
Why fish jetties? It's just what I felt like doing last night. I like the jetties when the waters kickin'. Why the fronts? I don't know, guess it's physically as far from the beach as your feet can take you without actually getting in the water. The waters usually moving the best out there, the never ending cycle of the rocks doing their best to churn the water into foamy mess that gives every advantage to the striped bass or weakfish that may be snooping around for an easy meal. Why not the beaches last night? I took two casts from the sand, it didn't feel right with the tackle I was using and with the aforementioned lightning, I figured why fish the wrong tackle in a possibly correct location and not be able to pay attention with the specter of the looming electrical storm? It's possible with the right tackle and no lightning, the fish could have been all over the very beach I took my two casts on, concentrating and paying attention to every turn of the handle is important for me to fish the way I like, if I can't do that - lightning, waves towering over my head, weather that would keep sane folks indoors - than I'd rather be home.
Jetties aren't magic. I've tortured myself on dangerous fronts and precarious perches only to fire a cast into the jetty pocket as I was leaving to find fish piled up inside, starving for my lures. I've also fished the beaches all night only to walk out on a jetty with a rod that's too light and lose 3 big fish in 4 casts by being undergunned. It's just another way to fish, nothing more. With the loss of all the jetties and the imminent loss of the few remaining one, I try to get out on the few left when possible. That way I can recount to my grand children one day what fishing New Jersey jetties was like.
Tonight, it's likely beaches...but I'll have my jetty cleats on, you know, just in case.
**Note: This article was written in response to the main page of StripersOnline dated 8/2/00. It can be seen in the archives. This is important as the article refers to lightning and big waves...all a part of the night that main page was referring to!