Skip to main content

Fishing - At sundown, the action heats up

Instead of being a prisoner to weekend angling, consider some midweek relief with an evening on the water

Instead of being a prisoner to weekend angling, consider some midweek relief with an evening on the water

The usual highway traffic quagmire isn’t too bad, so you’re picking up a little speed and beginning to focus on more than just your brake pedal. Up ahead is the exit for the marina. Your boat is setting quietly, awaiting orders. It’s finally time to take a detour for a few hours fishing.

Heading out after work is one of the simple joys of living near the coast and owning a boat. You have the option of grabbing some time away from the tedium and toil inside the briefcase, which can be left in the trunk for the time being. A couple of hours on a quiet Long Island Sound or Northeast waters might work wonders for the disposition, not to mention a chance at catching the biggest striper of the season.

Striped bass are after-dark feeders during the summer. At that time they move into shallower water looking for crabs, lobsters or other munchies they need to sustain life. This is a proven fact, just as certain as your property taxes going up.

There are many ways to go about catching striped bass after work, but if you want to combine relaxation with fishing, my money is on anchoring up off some rocky point to await results. Long Island Sound has any numbers of such places as does both sides of Fishers Island off the eastern end of Connecticut. The Rhode Island coast also offers lots of options, as does the rocky shore of Massachusetts all the way up past Cape Ann.

To help make the fishing expedition more relaxing, I recommend a thorough check of the weather that day. Light winds and calm seas are best; leave the 10- to 20-mph winds for another day and consider watching a ballgame instead.

But, if conditions arise, a night on quiet waters is good for the soul. And, if you have a full moon, so much the better, easy to see the pot buoys on your way home, easier to navigate, and the fish usually bite better in spots like the south side of Fishers Island during those nights.

High and low

You can double your chances for something tugging at the end of the line with, well, a second line. With a spinning rod, you can cast the hot lure of the moment — maybe a small popper, small plastic shad or live eel into the shoreline rocks — after anchoring up a close, but safe distance from the rocks.

With a second rod, toss out a hunk of bunker or other frozen bait available from the local bait shop. With bait on the bottom put that rod in the holder and cast with the other. Take off the popper once it gets dark and replace it with a shad or live eel, and continue casting.

If you tire, take a break, have a bite or a soda, and enjoy the surroundings. Usually as the evening closes into darkness, boat traffic eases greatly, leaving one alone with one’s thoughts and hopefully a fish or two. Schoolie bass will likely hit the lures cast into the rocks, though be ready for bass up to and over 30 pounds if you use a live eel.

Down on the bottom where the chunk is resting, you find interest from bass of all sizes, right up to some true trophies, bluefish that wander in, unwanted sand sharks and even fluke, the latter very welcome for a fish dinner later in the week (providing it’s big enough to keep).

Conventional rods are usually used for the bottom fishing part because it sometimes requires a bit of lead to keep the bait down on the bottom of a moving tide. A second spinning rod used to dunk the chunk will work if that’s all you have on board.

To land numerous bluefish that sometimes appear, you’ll be better served with a wire leader but if you don’t care about the blues, it’s been said you get more bites from stripers with a mono leader right to the hook that holds the bait.

Sound advice

If this sounds good so far to you, but you feel you’re a little rusty on some of the finer points, a stop by the local bait shop beforehand should iron out any problems (and probably provide some good locations to set up shop).

Just be sure you can navigate after dark, though a bright full moon will certainly help guide you home. I’ve heard some boaters say getting out on a flat calm, bright night is worth the price of admission on its own — the fishing was extra.

Personally, I like both aspects — that 38-inch bass pulling hard on my spinning rod and watching the illuminated wake of the boat heading past North Dumpling Island at a little past 1 a.m.

Another method to increasing the fishing score a bit is to buy extra bait to use as chum. After anchored with the first bait on the bottom, cut some of the remaining bait into small pieces and toss it over the side in a moving tide. The small pieces will drift down-current, drawing fish of all kinds to the hooked bait or lure/eel casts into the rocks.

As you retrieve, keep the lure in the water right up to the back of the boat. Many a fine bass grabbed the deal just before it was pulled out of the water. It’s exciting to see the flash of silver just below the prop, so be ready.

Pleasure loves company

Taking a son or daughter out for such an evening is often good times or maybe just a good deed for the week if you take out a few kids that don’t get the opportunity to go boating or fishing.

I used to know a well-to-do retired gent that made a good buck in the Big Apple, leaving every day from a nice home in Great Neck. He packed up shop, bought a house on Nantucket, enjoyed great striper fishing but also donated lots of his time to Meals On Wheels, delivering food to the elderly and shut-ins. You might consider something similarly charitable with your boat and a few hours after work.

If you do have kids aboard, keep the time moving. If one spot is dry, try another, then maybe a third if time allows. Don’t let your crew get bored with fishing or they may not be around for the next trip.

The casting rods come in handy here, letting them use their limitless energy casting away, just make sure they work the lure at the slower pace favored by striped bass.

A few hours on the water until midnight or so is often a nice break in the week, letting one use his or her boat, but still get enough sleep for chasing the buck the following morning.

Sprinkle trips like this liberally throughout the summer and you have the makings of a happier Joe or Jane. Instead of looking all the l-o-n-g way to next weekend, maybe it’s only a short time to a quiet Wednesday.

Tim Coleman has been fishing New England waters for more than 30 years. He was managing editor of The Fisherman magazine’s New England edition until 2001, and is now a freelance writer based in Rhode Island.