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Amazing Sand Eels…

“Get your butt down here, and bring your fly rod!”

The phone call was from John Bushell at Betty and Nick’s Bait & Tackle just up the road from Island Beach State Park. “There’s a sand eel invasion down at the jetty and this morning the bass were biting like mad dogs.” His call came in around noon on a mid-November day in 1974. It took only a few moments to grab my Fenwick FF9010 and waders, fill the Thermos with coffee, lock the office, fire up my Jeep Wagoneer and head south. An hour-and-a-half later, I was at the end of the beach road, dropping the Jeep’s tire pressure and switching into four-wheel-drive to rumble along through the sand to the jetty.

John’s camouflage-painted Blazer, along with a dozen or so other beach buggies and surf guys, was parked 50 yards from the North Jetty. I had fished with him before, but with spinning gear, and had told him that I really wanted a bass on the fly in the surf. “I think you’ll get your wish,” John said, as we waited for the sun to get lower in the west. At 4:30 p.m., the bite started. The edge of the surf came alive with slithering sand eels trying to burrow into the sand while schoolie-size striped bass attacked from every angle, their backs often completely out of the foaming water.


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