August Crabs, Clams and Snappers
Surf fishing gets tough in August.
Many surfcasters give up on the open ocean beaches and instead
concentrate on the mosquito-infested back bays deep into the
darkness of late night tides. However, if you don't like getting
up at 2 a.m. to be used as a living blood bank by mosquitos (or
if you just love the open surf), then "crab plugging"
is a little-known tactic that you should try during August. It
works if you believe in it. I can fondly recall Augusts when I
crab-plugged a bunch of bass each daybreak on the calendar - from
the first to the thirty-first!
Many beach bass eat crabs and sand fleas during
August. They are not particular either, eating
whatever crusty critters they come across - blue claws,
green crabs, calico (or lady crabs). Many of the crabs are
growing rapidly this time of year, carrying eggs, and have or
will pop their shells.
Use medium to deep diving wooden metal lip
swimmers in close around deeper side sections on
inlet and ocean jetties, bulkheads, etc. Focus on spots where a
few extra rocks or bulkhead pilings stick out into the water from
the side of the structure, or anything else that juts out, even
just slightly. For whatever reason, these are the best crab
plugging spots. Try metal lip plugs that are more football-shaped
than bottle-shaped. The correctly-shaped plug will taper on both
ends, causing it to swim by swinging on their wider centers,
rather than roll and wobble. The football shape and swinging
action is more crab-like as opposed to the appearance and action
of "bottle"-shaped swimmers that roll a lot (crabs
swing but don't roll).
Tune the lip and eye of the plug
in order to get the widest possible swing out of it. Have you
seen swimming crabs quickly perform a series of evasive movements
whereby they veer to the side and down? That's the trigger you're
trying to duplicate with your retrieve.
Any plug back color will do as
long as it is vaguley crab-colored; which can be almost any dark
color. I've caught on a variety of blue, black, purple, green
backs as long as the belly is white. Oh yeah, paint a pronounced
triangle of bright red or orange under the lure's chin, thereby
signalling a hen crab's egg clutch. Although the chin's at the
front of your plug, it will be perceived as the butt of your plug
as you reel it in trying to imitate a backward-scooting crab. And
use an extra long white bucktail tail hook, thereby signalling a
Try false dawn. It's most
productive. Key is if the fish can come up from a channel or
deeper water right nearby to the jetty or breakwater you are on.
Change up constantly. Whatever the
reason, changing up works whereas repeatedly casting the same
lure back at them is a waste of time when they are scrounging the
rocks and pilings for crabs. I work with five varied colors and
models of "crab plugs", including two medium swimmers,
two deeps and one surface swimmer. I fan cast the structure,
parallel-right, parallel-left, and lob a short one out dead
center...then change the plug before repeating again. I have
frequently caught five fish on five casts with five different
crab plugs. The feeding period doesn't last long but the fish
will be concentrated into small areas (often the irregular or
protruding parts of the structure) and willing to bite
quickly. Try it. It's a unique way to get them.
If there's an early storm in late August, use
clams as soon as the storm passes. Fish
the very same locations where you were crab plugging. Use a
"three by three" rig, which is a single hook on a three
foot leader tied to a three way swivel three feet above
your line. The storm will have broken up incredible numbers of
surf clams, and there will be incredible numbers of small to
medium bass in the surf eating these clams for a day or two.
Often, nothing else will get a strike after an early storm in
Now, here's a tip for the big bass.
It is not widely known that one of the very first visible forage
fish migration in the fall is made by snappers. Start to look in
the mouths of inlets within the 3rd or 4th week of August,
depending on the year. The snapper schools will be mustering
there in order to collect into waves leaving every inlet. These
waves are likely to include larger proportions of the southern
strain of snappers, who arrive inshore earlier in the spring and
also depart earlier in the fall thando the northern sub-species
of snappers. They will often be blasting like popcorn as they
frenzy out feeding on small baitfish before this snapper wave
departs. The first fall movement of gamefish - often bass as
opposed to blues or weaks - will be drawn into the inlet mouths
and adjacent bay flats by this snapper activity. Use large white
surface swimmers or powder blue-backed ones during the last hour
of golden light at dusk. You'll get some big fish from this
"snapper run". It will surely make you wonder where
these large bass were lurking all summer. Never known to last
long, the hiatus of this snapper wave lasts about a week.
Within a few days or the next weather system change after
these snappers depart, the mullet will instinctively know it is
now safe enough for them to come out from hiding in the back of
the salt hay marshes. The mullet will begin staging in the inlet
mouths and adjacent flats next, and you can plug the flats
extending a mile or two into the inlet with small swimmers
resembling mullet at dusk and into the darkness. This staging in
the inlet mouths is also short-lived but also productive with
both quantity and quality-sized fish.
Soon the blue and silver hordes of mullet will
begin their eternal journey through the surf,
coloring it with dense brown fields of nervous water, the air
will feel cooler, days shorter, and rods bent as the fall run
commences during September.