After some back and forth, we finally got the directions and were on the road at 7am. But the GPS lead us to a restricted Coast Guard training station. So using my best knowledge of the area, we went to Cape May Lighthouse hoping that was the jetty to meet. Upon arrival, we found out it was 1) the wrong jetty and 2) Pat and Matt were over at Townsends Inlet since there was a triathlon at their intended fishing location. So Michael and I back tracked to Townsends Inlet...
Upon arrival, Pat and Matt reported some steady bites, but nothing had been landed thus far. It was already 10am and Matt said they were considering going back to Cape May. Since we had just arrived, they decided to give us some fishing time before moving on.
Michael was fishing the sabiki while I was fishing the dropper loop like Pat was fishing at the moment. It didn't take long before I felt some bites and had a chewed up piece of squid. The bites were not consistent, but they did come once in a while. Finally, I was able to set the hook into a fish and had it on the line for a short while before it came off.
Another while later, I felt some bites and set the hook, but only to snagged on bottom. Did the fish took me into the rocks? Or was it just one of the hooks on my double hooks dropper loop that was stuck? I wouldn't know since I snapped off that rig.
I was chatting with Pat and we commented on the lack of bites when suddenly I felt a few deliberate taps. I gave the fish just a little line before setting the hook. The fish definitely hooked and fighting quite well...until it ran me into a rock and I was stuck. I tried to free it and finally felt the line broke. I was disappointed that the only fish I hooked this morning had broken off, when all of a sudden, the line tightened again and I still felt the fish on the line. It had this characteristic bounce on the rod that I almost knew which species it might be. When I finally saw colour, I was a nervous wreck again. It's a Grey Triggerfish! I've lost toothy or "beaky" fish before like parrotfish, filefish and pufferfish before when the fish's teeth sliced through the line as I tried to lift them up. I had to lift this fish a few feet up the jetty rock so it was definitely a scary moment. Alas, it was mine!
Grey Triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) - Species #401
Pat had really wanted a triggerfish too. And he suspected that the hits he was missing were also triggerfish. But the conditions were a bit snotty with the wind in our face, some rain, and the waves crashing over the jetty once in a while. So in the end, we decided to try the more sheltered jetty in Cape May.
Matt said he'll wait for us at the parking to hike out together. However, Michael and I missed the entrance to the park, then ended up getting stuck in traffic on a bridge...so it took us a bit of time before we arrived. Matt and Pat had already left, but thankfully there was a map of the area and we figured out the trail to the jetty.
The area looked prime for surf fishing. In fact, the area where the trail met the beach had a very nice hole out front. I bet some fish would be sitting in there. But since beach fishing was prohibited from March to October, in order to protect the nesting Piping Plover, we could not check it out. After about 3/4 mile hike to the jetty, we found Pat and Matt hooking up consistently with small Black Sea Bass.
It was well after 12pm by now. It was the last hours before high tide and fish were biting. In no time, I was hooking up Black Sea Bass on every cast. They were mostly relating to the jetty rocks, but I caught some far out in the inlet channel as well. It got a bit silly when they were coming up two at a time on some casts. Not too far away, an older gentleman was fishing for Tautog using green crabs. We saw him catch a keeper (18"+) and a few shorts. Michael wanted to catch a Tautog but we had no green crabs. It's almost impossible to catch a big Tautog on anything other than green crabs, although I've caught smaller juveniles using live bloodworms in Woods Hole. But I do know that they can be caught on fresh clams sometimes, so I suggested to Michael to try some of the clams we bought. He didn't catch any Tautog on this day, but he did snagged one in the belly.
In the meantime, I decided to switch to clams as well. The squid was simply getting torn up by the Black Sea Bass. I could not let the bait sit for too long before it was ripped apart. As the current got stronger, I wanted to slowly bounce the rig along bottom to search for a searobin. Using clams, I wasn't getting bit by Black Sea Bass often. However, I also wasn't getting any substantial hits. Still, I continued to search out in the inlet hoping to find a searobin in the haystack.
Just as I fell into the monotony of bottom bouncing, I felt a solid tap on the rod. I gave the fish a bit of line and it was already pulling away. The fish was struggling, but I wouldn't say it was fighting hard. When I saw the long shape, I initially thought it was a Lizardfish. However, once I lifted the fish onto the jetty, I saw the characteristic shape of a shark. It was a little Dusky Smooth-hound!
Dusky Smooth-hound (Mustelus canis) - Species #402
Not surprisingly, this little shark was caught when high tide had slacked. Once the water reversed, the current got stronger and I was no longer about to drift slowly on bottom using 1oz. Although I switched to a heavier 2oz sinker, the rig was still moving at a quicker pace in the current. Eventually, the outgoing tide was carrying too much weeds and fouled the line often. By this time, it was already 2pm so Matt and Pat decided to call it a day. Pat had a train to catch at 6pm.
Michael and I decided to kept trying at the inlet, since we only have a couple of hours left before we had to leave. I tried on the surf side of the jetty since there were a few nice troughs and holes as the water dropped. I was excited to get a few bites immediately, and really hoping it was Northern Kingcroaker biting my bait. Alas, it was the typical Snapper Blues.
Fishing was pretty slow for Michael and I, and eventually, we decided to call it a day at 3:30pm. I had arranged to have dinner with my friends Shane and Chelsea that night at 6pm, but it took until 7pm before I arrived at their place. Luckily, Chelsea's friends who were also visiting arrived late as well.
Since we started dinner late, we didn't finish until 10pm. Michael and I talked about fishing the pier again for smoothhound, searobin and Oyster Toadfish. It was a late start at 10:30pm, but we decided to put every effort into the fishing so we would not regret it later. Unfortunately, I put the wrong address into the GPS which lead us to Barnegat Inlet instead. I was sleeping on the way there so I was completely unaware until we arrived. Michael wanted to start fishing there right then, but if we're in the wrong spot, we could simply waste our time. Instead, we drove another 40 minutes back to Beach Haven to fish the pier.
By the time we arrived it was already 12am. The tide had already slacked, so my chance at the searobin, if my theory was correct, would be slim to none. Indeed, although the slack, calm water was great to look at, it was completely dead for any smaller fish bites. Perhaps that meant some sharks were around?
Michael tossed out two rods with clams to fish for Smoothhound, while I concentrated with two light rods for searobin. When nothing was happening, Michael tossed a light rod with a light dropper loop into the deeper channel and found a Black Sea Bass after a long wait.
I said perhaps the Smoothhound was inside the marina area, so Michael went to fish inside. He found nothing there, but made a comment that there were some goby looking fish on the bottom in between the weeds. I took my tenkara rod to explore the micros...but they were merely Mummichog.
I only had a couple of bites thus far, both of which tapped at the bait violently a couple of times but the hook did not set. Michael caught one more Black Sea Bass and a long wait later I caught one too.
Then, one of Michael's rod started to bounce. He had a small fish on the line which turned out to be a small Oyster Toadfish. It took the line that was baited with clams. Since nothing was really going on, time flew really quickly and soon we found out it was already 3am! We were scheduled to drive back to Toronto the next day, so we quickly packed up and drove back to the hotel. By the time we arrived, it was already 4:30am.