If you are really targeting big fish you have to think like a big game hunter. Big fish are fairly lazy. They do not want to expend a lot of energy to feed. They also like a certain water temperature and will look for that level in the ocean. So your task is to find those locations where the fish do not have to work hard to feed and the water temperature where they will feel comfortable.
Where can they feed without having to move much? They want to be where the bait fish flush in and out with the tide and where there are holes in which they can hide. Some of the best bets are at the mouth of a river, a place where the current sweeps around a point of land, or where there is a depth change and current.
River mouths are prime locations. There are two great places on the North Shore. The first is the mouth of the Merrimack River. Just out beyond the jetties there are a number of spots that are great fishing. Look for bottom variations on your fish locator. The problem there is that there are nine million boats out there on a weekend. Try fishing out just a little deeper than most and put you live bait out on balloons. In addition, the number of boats drop as night comes. Try out there after dark.
The second great river mouth is the Parker/Ipswich in front of Crane Beach. Right in next to the shoreline there is a deep hole that holds big fish. It is best reach by boat, but it can be fished from shore. At low tide the spot is obvious, so a little skinny water scouting may be in order.
Where the current sweeps around the shore line is also a great spot. Try Halibut Point. Here the current that sweeps down along the shoreline (see last weeks article) and brings with it a ton of bait. Both shoreline and boat fishing can be very productive here.
The rocks that stick out at Norman Woe can hide some really big fish. They seem to love this spot on an outgoing tide. The many small islands and shoals in Salem Harbor are also prime spots.
For a change in depth line, go out to the groaner and then go East a bit until you get to the 150 line on your chart. Here the bottom changes depth and there seems to be a line which the big fish follow.
In all of these spots, you have to be aware of tide and current and how they affect the flow of the bait. And, of course, the best tip of all... fish these spots at night during the hot days of summer.
The Sabiki Rig can bring up live bait that, when used for fishing, often means the difference between catching big stripers or going home empty handed. They are relatively inexpensive and are easy to use. They consist of a long central line with several droppers with tiny hooks. Often these hooks have tiny flashers attached. You can find them at any bait shop ranging in price from $1 to $4 depending on size.
You can make your own pretty easily. Just take a 20 lb. test line of about six feet and tie a loop at one end. This will be the loop to which you attach your sinker. At the other end tie on a swivel to tie to your main line. From the bottom you go up a few inches and tie on a dropper loop. Add about eight droppers to your line. To these dropper lines add a small hook on the end. Try placing a bright bead or flasher ahead of each hook for an attractor.
Finding the bait fish is again fairly easy. You will find them most often around some kind of structure. Places like channel markers and buoys usually hold bait. Look for diving birds. They are often working bait fish schools. Of course the best method is to find a big cloud of them on your fish finder.
Using them in the surf requires a little bit of modification. Using a light tackle rig, you will need to add a bit of weight to the end for casting. Almost all of them have a clip on the end for that purpose. Use a small round or oval sinker in the one to three ounce range. Do not use pyramid sinkers as they will jerk and catch on the bottom. You want a sinker that will just roll along as you reel the rig back to you.
Try to keep your rod tip up high as you retrieve. Jerk the tip up and let the weight bring it back to the bottom. This movement will keep the jigs flopping about in the water as if they were swimming erratically along in the surf. The jigs work even better if you tip them with a bit of clam or worm. It puts a little smell in the water. I know a couple of guys who drop the sabiki rig in the clam bucket to soak in the juice on the way to the beach.
Mike showed me a neat trick the other day for storing Sabiki rigs. I don't know about you, but every time I use a rig, I have to haul it out of some container and spend the next ten minutes trying to untangle it. Try this. Buy an eight inch section of hot water heater pipe black insulation. It is like a tube with a slit the length of it that slides over the pipe to insulate it. This covering is soft on the outside. Simply stick the tiny hooks in the covering and toss it in the tackle box. It works slick.