The time is right for surf fishing


In a couple of weeks I hope to join a group of pals for an annual surf-fishing trip to Assateague Island.

Beginning now and continuing through mid to late November is sort of a heaven on beach for Atlantic surfcasters. If you want to really touch nature's elements, nothing quite tops a deserted fall beach with a long, powerful fishing rod battling a big bluefish or striped bass (rockfish) in a cold, heavy surf.

I'm just now getting back into surf fishing. In the early '70s I did quite a bit during the summer in the Cape May, N.J., area. That was the era of jumbo weakfish. Then, my brother borrowed my surf gear for a family vacation in Cape Hatteras. That was the last I saw of my surf outfit, and I moved on to other activities.

Living on the shores of the Chesapeake -- within easy driving range of such hot spots as Cape Henlopen, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and the Indian River Inlet in Delaware, Ocean City and Assateague, plus Cape May -- practically demands that you give this sport a try.

Right now, for instance, North Ocean City beach is really turning on, as is Assateague Island. Last week, for example, an Assateague surfer pulled in a 28-pound red drum, while all up and down the Ocean City beaches, anglers were nailing snapper blues, flounder hitting 5 pounds. and, from the jetties, lots of tautog. Kingfish also were being hooked and even some nice 28-inch rockfish.

To get started, you need a rod capable of casting a plug or bait rig beyond the breaker line, anywhere from 50 to 150 yards. Most surf rods measure between 10 and 14 feet, but 11 or 11 1/2 feet is right for most situations and anglers.

Surf rods come in three basic actions. A medium action rod is designed to toss 1 to 3 ounces of weight and a 12- to 20-pound test mono line. A medium-heavy outfit, which probably is the most popular, handles 2 to 5 ounces of casting weight and a 15- to 25-pound test line. A heavy action is right for 3 to 6 ounces of weight and 20- to 50-pound test mono.

Traditionalists lean toward one-piece rods (either fiberglass or graphite), but I favor the two-piece models. I've used both and can't tell the difference between the two. The breakdown rods are also a lot easier to carry to the beach in your car or truck and won't take up the entire garage when stored. I prefer my two-piece rod to be a graphite or composite and fitted with cork grips for extra sensitivity.

I like for the face of my surf reels (I favor spinning reels) to be about the same diameter as the first, or gathering guide on my reel so that line slap when casting is kept at a minimum. Pick a quality reel that will hold 300 to 350 yards of 17- to 20-pound test mono and be sure the drag system is well sealed.

I use 17-pound mono most of the time and believe that 15 to 20 will handle just about any situation you may encounter. I recommend the use of a 12- to 15-foot shock leader made from 40-pound test mono.

In addition to a rod and reel, you'll need a couple of other items to set yourself up in the surf-fishing business.

A 3-foot sandspike will hold your rod after the cast and latch onto a long gaff for landing fish from the jetties. Insulated chest waders are a must. Carry a selection of 1/0 to 5/0 hooks, pyramid sinkers and quality ball-bearing swivels. you will want quality snap swivels that can handle 60- to 100-pound test line. Carry an assortment of plugs, spoons and poppers when not baitfishing.

Hunter safety classes

First-time Maryland hunters are required to complete and pass a certified hunter safety course before being eligible to purchase a hunting license. Classes are scheduled Oct. 19-23 at Anne Arundel Fish and Game, (410) 757-1945; Oct. 18 and 23 at Stoney Creek Club, (410) 360-0872; Oct. 26 and 28 at Fort Meade, (410) 761-2089; and Nov. 2, 4 and 6 at Anne Arundel Fish and Game, (410) 757-1945.

Deer hunt at Gunpowder

Last year 250 hunters bagged 139 deer during a managed hunt at Baltimore County's Gunpowder Falls State Park. A similar permit-only managed hunt is set in the park's Sweet Air section Jan. 10-14 and Jan. 17-21. Applications, which must be picked up, may be obtained at Gunpowder Falls State Park Headquarters, 10805 Harford Road, Glen Arm or the Bel Air Regional Service Center at 2 S. Bond St., beginning Oct. 13. The permit fee is $25. Call (410) 592-2897.

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