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A few years back I wrote that saltwater shore fishermen never get any respect. Since the price of a gallon of gas is now rivaling the price of the Hope Diamond, things may be changing. Hauling a boat down to the ramp and launching for a day of fishing is still great fun, unless you have to do certain things like eating. So, fishing from the sand or pier may be making a comeback even among those who have those pretty boats sitting in the front yard. Don’t worry, if you’re on dry land or wading into the water, you can still catch fish.
Check out any fishing Web site and you’ll get a sense of the problem quickly. Boat anglers are caught in a tight squeeze while filling up their cars and their boats. Many fishing guides are being forced to charge a pretty decent gas surcharge on trips. The gas problems come at a bad time, since guides report Spanish mackerel are basically jumping into the boat not far off the beach. Also, inside flounder drifting is still going well.
Meanwhile, despite water temperatures reaching into the 80s, there are still fish that shore anglers can catch.
Brunswick piers continue to have strong runs of speckled trout in the mornings, although inshore the speck action is waning a bit and I wouldn’t go hunting them in the heat of the day. The best action continues to be on flounder, which can be caught from shore just fine, thank you, although both red and black drum are still hitting around the creeks and bridges as well. Just remember, right now early morning and night are the best times for any kind of fishing.
If you are in the gas-saving mood (or don’t own a boat) shore fishing is a quick and easy option. Access to the waterways and beaches is not what it once was, but there are still places to fish.
The number one key is not to overlook the obvious: fish gravitate to structure, and that’s where you should start. Hard structures like piers, bridges and docks are holding fish right now. Anything with pilings holds opportunities.
All of the fish currently active like hanging around places with such pilings, since that’s where the smaller critters they eat hang around. Some fish, like black drum and sheepshead may be right up against or within feet of the pilings, whereas roamers like specks and red drum swim around hard structure often switching feeding areas as the tide changes and bait drifts in different directions. Flounder can often be found beside the pilings or a little bit downstream.
Right now live bait fished from shore around hard structures are hard to beat, although during the right time and tides the creeks will produce well, too. Live shrimp work best from the piers, since inshore the ever-opportunistic pinfish love to dine on your shrimp before the larger trout can get to them. Black drum respond to cut shrimp, but if you want to avoid the pinfish you’ll probably have to fish it around midnight.
The best inshore bait right now is probably live minnows, fished around pilings while looking for those gamefish seeking their breakfast or dinner.
If you catch your bait in a cast net, then finger mullet, pogeys or tiger minnows (you’ll know them if you see them) are terrific for flounder or cruising red drum. If throwing a cast net in 120-degree temperatures doesn’t sound like fun to you, you can buy mud minnows at the bait store, and they work just fine. Minnows die faster in the hotter water, so you may have to change bait often. Keep your rod in your hands and give the bait a little movement of your own.
When shore fishing, you need to get decent casting distance, but don’t use more weight than you need to get your rig to the bottom. Trout anglers on piers use float rigs, but most folks inshore will be throwing bottom rigs.
Simple rigs with egg sinkers of about an ounce are what you want if the current is not too rough where you are fishing. You can also throw lures at trout, drum, bluefish and flounder, but if you do, it is time to start fishing them pretty slowly, as the water begins boiling. Tossing lures after 10 in the morning will probably not be worth the work, unless you wait until things cool again close to sunset.
No matter what fuel costs, people will still be out fishing in boats, because it is so much fun. But shore fishing is a viable option. Thank goodness fish don’t run on gas, or no one would be catching anything.
Jeffrey Weeks is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.