Wampire

Question on how to read a beach

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I just got more seriously into surf fishing and plugging this past year. I mostly fish from brigantine down to cape may. I've noticed that cape may area has a much different beach than others and there is not the classic visible breakers on the 2nd bar out 40 yards or so. It's deeper and just kind of crashes close to shore. The slope off the wash is very steep and drops off quickly. All in all, I'm wondering how to read this water and how fishing that type of deeper water compares to say, brigantine which is more shallow but easier to read due to the visible bars. 

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Without the bars creating waves down there it's easier to see if there is any kind of rip around. Just like anywhere else you will want to go during low tide and check as many spots as possible. Being right on the bay there is a different kind of inflow/outflow that usually runs along the beach. Try looking for surface water that seems to running different than everything else around it, might appear to have more ripples and moving faster, or glass smooth when everything else is stirred up. Usually means a different bottom structure. Definitely some more work involved down there, especially with the amount beach replenishment that place has seen. 

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Try throwing a 1 or 2 ounce sinker in with a light sensitive rod. See how the current takes it and feel for bottom. Then pick somewhere to fish based on that.  The bottom will change if it’s sand. The only way to know is to have a map of what the bottom is in your mind and an idea of how the water moves. Knowing where the fish will be and when? And then what to use? Good luck. That’s what’ll determine how good the fisherman is. 

Edited by AxBeetle

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I have fished most of the areas in that range. Cape May is different in a number of ways. First, it’s not a barrier reef island. It’s part of the mainland. Second, it’s at the confluence of the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Tidal movements are different than in other places. There are depth maps available on the web that show specifics, but the water does get deeper than in many if not most of the other SJ beaches  The Cape May Rips are nearby, so there’s supposed to be great inshore bottom structure but replenishment messes with much of that. When I was a teenager, swimming in the Cape May surf could get hairy much more quickly than in WWd NWWd Sea Isle, etc. But I don’t think it’s quite as bad nowadays. If the rips are not as apparent, it’s my opinion to just fish & move and go light with gear to stay mobile. Depth is an asset to fishing CM. On the beaches with less depth, I’m moving around looking for a hole, or a bar to wade out to, etc. The fish I’ve caught in the surf, however, are typically in the wash. So, best to not worry so much about it. CM is great mid summer sharking location from what I’ve heard but I haven’t had time to try that out with family in the way!

 

If you’re looking for less spot specific advice and more about the general art of reading the beach, try searching the site for the threads with tips. There are several and some are replete with pics. I reread that stuff every few years!

 

Dont forget to fish parallel to the beach sometimes - all the time. If you’re at a spot with a bar you can wade out to and get your offering past the bar, go for it. Also, turn around and cast back into the deep trough in between you and the beach - retrieving away from the beach. Sometimes it’s the direction of the retrieve. 

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Do what Eric said and look behind you. One day we were down near the end of Wildwood Crest in early fall. Tide was coming in and when we arrived there were already about five guys out on an outer bar fishing. water was rising and a gully behind the outer bar was filling fast. A big school of mullet found their way into the gully and the stripers were right behind them. All hell broke loose while the guys on the outer bar didn't have a clue that the action was behind them.

A great way to read the beach is on a big windy moon blowout tide. Get down to the beach on one of those days at low tide and you will see bars and contour most never get a chance to see. 

Want to get real serious then try this. I did about twenty five years ago and it was so cool and gave me so much information that I still use today. Went to the Cape May county airport about an hour before low tide and rented a single engine airplane to fly me around. Guy was cheap and I think he was just looking for gas money to feed his need for flying. Had my camera and we flew all along the back bays where I took a few rolls of film covering the areas I fish. It was low tide and I came away with so many pics of narrow channels and some deeper holes on the flats that put many more fish in my cooler. Then had him fly along the beach and did the same and all done at low tide. Want to see some great sights of beach contour, slots, bars and holes then get up high and click away. 

Going back to what Eric said about looking behind you. Was fishing Hereford inlet one morning in my old 16 foot aluminum boat. I was in a narrow cut running out to the ocean that had a channel about twelve feet deep at high tide. It was early morning and I was the first boat out. Had to sneak across some real shallow areas to get into this cut but with aluminum it was easy. Made a perfect drift right down the channel and not a touch. Made one or two more and still nothing but I did notice some small bait action like shiners right along one of the sand bars. there was no way to get the boat close enough because the bait was about two feet off the bar where the water was about a foot deep. I had a very light spinning rod weighted with a split shot. I will fish two rods occasionally but I hate when the dead stick bounces on the hard bottom so by using a small split my offering is usually near the bottom but just not dragging across it. I took this rod and made a cast right up on the bar and minnow and split shot landed on the sand. Then I just slowly pulled it back so it slid into the water. Instantly a flounder whacked it and for the next forty five minutes or so thats all I did and the flounder were going crazy. When the sun came up the flounder slid back down into the deeper channel for protection. the way I figured it was as long as there was very low light the flounder were comfortable in that very shallow water and they were just lined up on the sloped bottom facing the edge of the bar where the shiners were hugging for protection. flounder just needed one to make a mistake and they jumped on it. then when the sun came up the flounder could become targets for the Osprey so they slid down into the deeper channel. I had made a drift or two close to the bar but they must have been facing the bar and never gave me a second look. First time I ever made a cast up on the beach to catch flounder but it worked and worked many more times after that. When bait is schooled up and predators are zoned in on them the most important tactic you may use is have you offering moving in the right direction and that could just be in the opposite direction you think. 

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Google Rich Troxler, aka RichTrox. He may even be on here. He did a series of really good videos on the subject.

Walk or run the beach at dead low and check it out at mid tide to see how what you saw sets up. I'll bet you will figure it out instantly.

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