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Fishing - Double the action with combination trips

With scheduling and an eye on the sun and tides, weekend anglers can bag a variety of fish in a day

With scheduling and an eye on the sun and tides, weekend anglers can bag a variety of fish in a day

Looking for a way to make your next fishing outing more fun and interesting both for captain and crew? Consider a trip that targets more than one species, with a game plan already set in place before leaving the dock and a timetable influenced by tides and time of day. Here are a few possibilities.

If your fishing crewmembers are early risers, try casting for bluefish and striped bass along some shoreline structure at the crack of dawn. The best time for fooling wary striped bass feeding in shoal water with an artificial lure is usually the two hours around sunrise.

If the sun is scheduled to arise around 5:30 a.m., then you want to make plans to arrive at the spot by 4:15 a.m. with lines in the water shortly thereafter. This might mean trucking around, picking up your charges, stopping for coffee and donuts, arriving at the boat in the dark — but the dividends are often worth it. Bass and blues usually feed aggressively during that time, the low light aiding anglers casting lures into their rocky feeding stations.

Two lures for this type of fishing, easily handled by the 7-foot spinning rods most people keep on board even a weekend fishing machine, are the 5- to 6-inch plastic shads or a half- to 1-ounce bucktail with a strip of 5-inch pork rind. Both are easily obtained at local tackle shops the night before. You don’t have to deal with a bucket of squirmy eels, which are a turnoff for some.

Just clip one to the end of a mono leader and toss into jetty fronts along the New Jersey coast, the outer bars on the south side of Long Island, all the rocky points on the north side of the same island or along the Connecticut coast, all the way up into rocky Maine.

If your guests aren’t the best anglers, they can still catch some fish by merely winding the handle of the reel. The built-in action of the plastic shads or the supple movement of the pork rind on the bucktail will do the rest.

Just make sure over-eager kids don’t clip someone’s ear after they see the first blue or bass flopping in the boat. They want in on the catching, sometimes casting without looking.

Round two

During the summer and early fall, chances for casting success fall off as the sun climbs higher and it becomes harder and harder to fool fish in shoal water with an artificial. That is a natural time to call a halt and head out for other game, the heart of a combo trip. In Long Island Sound this might mean a short run off to a hump out in the middle for blue fishing, drifting for fluke or anchoring up and catching porgies or sea bass. You might be able to add even more variety by timing your fishing around the tide. Blues atop a hump in 60 to 100 feet of water might grab a diamond jig when the tide is at its peak but the sea bass on the wreck off Norwalk will be at their best just before slack water, making it easy to drift near the structure, putting yet another species in the cooler.

Down off New Jersey, it’s very possible to fish the front of jetties for stripers early in the day then head off for fluke, drifting for those. Up in Massachusetts, you can easily fish for bass along the rocks from Plymouth on up through Gloucester, casting for stripers then trying your hand at cod from the Fishing Ledge in Cape Cod Bay to just off Rockport.

On a recent trip off the latter spot with Capt. Pete Shea, we tried unsuccessfully for bass on our first stop then ended up with half a cooler of codfish and two wolffish of 18 and 25 pounds only four miles off the beach in roughly 160 feet of water. Some might say there aren’t cod along the beach in the heat of the summer, but Pete proved them wrong that day and subsequent others.

Given the high price of fuel, you will appreciate fishing close to shore and still producing an interesting day for your guests.

If arising at the crack of dawn isn’t your deal, you can still try combination fishing, though you may find that fluke bite better in the early morning, fitting in well with chasing them around 7 or 8 a.m. after casting for stripers at dawn’s early light. This type of planning allows for calling an end to the day sooner so you can beat the traffic.

If fluke aren’t biting well at noon, or you caught your limit, porgies will bite readily on a near-shore rock pile, delighting kids with their appetite for constant action. In the early fall, a gathering of birds squawking over the water might signal some blues on the feed, easy pickings for poppers cast into the edges of the school after approaching quietly from the upwind side or dropping a diamond jig under the birds then reeling it rapidly upward. The idea is to keep the day moving if one fish type peters out.

On your way out

During the late fall, when waters cool down, game fish can often be caught on the same shallow rock piles you cast into during an August sunrise — only now it’s during the middle of the day. You can stop on your way out to catch blackfish and spend 20 minutes casting for stripers and blues. Many a trip for tautog started with figuring out how to put a 25-pound striper in a small cooler.

I’ve written newspaper columns about two old gents or a husband and wife starting a bottom fishing trip this way, sometimes landing a trophy striper right in the middle of a beautiful November morning. One particular column comes to mind about a fellow heading out for winter flounder, but he first tossed a lure into the rocks at Napatree Point to catch a 40-plus pound striper. A pack of plastic shads or couple of bucktails with a jar of pork rinds don’t take up much room, do not require a live bait well or other preparations. They are always ready to go at a moment’s notice.

If you start cogitating about ways to catch different fish in short running time you’ll likely come up with more possibilities, including arriving inshore at the striper spot at sunset after spending a late afternoon on the fluke grounds, reversing the daybreak option. The list might go on and on, limited only by the time to your next day off. Try a combo trip, save a buck on gas and maybe provide a more interesting day on the water for your guests.

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.