I've found a new tradition. An annual, 9th inning keeper hunt from the sand and rocks.
Hurricane Florence had come and gone. We had powerful surf and northeast wind for days, but thankfully, the Jersey Shore was largely spared.
The idea came to me while surfing.
I found myself in the lineup checking my watch. I had to get home. Waiting for one last ride wasn't happening. I ended up bodyboarding in and got off on the sandbar. The water on the bar was waist deep. With my hand on my board floating next to me, I waded towards the sand. Eventually, I stepped off the sandbar and into the nearshore trough. That step put me in almost neck-deep water. Keeping my chin up, I slogged west and finally stepped up the soft beach lip and onto the sand.
My fish brain activated. It was clear that a lot of sand had been moved by the recent swell. The ocean had carved out new, deep holes and drops. Holes that would hold fluke.
I knew the upcoming week was the last week of fluke season. I also knew that dead high tide fell in the afternoon or evening all week long.
Think of it, I was looking at a week filled with warm air and water, a deep trough running right next to the beach, and afternoon flood tides. This would be prime time to stick a late-season keeper fluke from the beach. And all I'd have to wear on my bottom half were boardies.
I ended up fishing three different days. On average, each trip was 90 minutes or less. There was swell running every trip which made for a lot of current and whitewater to fish.
On the first day, a small bass ate my Tinman Wobble Jig and Gulp! Mullet in an out-suck. I also caught a few short fluke and they coughed up the summer menu.
The menu consisted of calico and mole crabs. The mole crab pictured had spent some time in a fluke belly.
I did stick that keeper fluke. It came on the second trip. This fish ate the jig and the teaser. This was a first for me. When I landed the fish, I unhooked the teaser and looked for my jig. Then I realized the jig was down his throat. Luckily, he was 18.5 inches long. At the end of my third trip, I found myself at a local inlet. The wind was honking out of the south. I watched as a fisherman, standing on the south jetty, fought and landed a false albacore. They were popping up here and there and a handful of guys were on them.
As I walked back to my car, it was the perfect ending to the summer. It was a clear signal. The fall is here.