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 the 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 and lots of them. 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 about 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. The breakdown rods are easier to carry to the beach in your car or truck and won't take up the entire garage. 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 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 do 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.
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 for fall surfing. 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 pass a certified hunter safety course before being eligible to purchase a hunting license. Two Carroll County classes are scheduled for this month. Hap Baker's course is set to begin Oct. 12 at the Dug Hill Rod and Gun Club, near Manchester. Call (410) 374-4360 for details. Call Mr. Rothgeb at (301) 829-2475 to sign up for class at the Mount Airy IWLA, which begins Oct. 15.
Piney Run tournament set
Register now for next Saturday's Fall Fishing Tournament at Piney Run Park. The cost to enter is $10 per person plus the regular park entrance fee. Contestants will be fishing for $900 in cash prizes.
Fishing will be limited to 6 a.m. to noon, and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. The park is at 30 Martz Road, Sykesville.