June 20 – Sand Eels, Tinkers, and Bass

June 20 – Sand Eels, Tinkers, and Bass

Sand Eels and Sluggos

Yesterday morning I went out a dawn to see what was popping. I live on the Basin of Plum Island and have a center console boat fit for long rides out in the sea. But yesterday I barely got out of the basin before the action started. About 100 yards west of the Captain’s Ladies docks, just at the beach corner that leads into the Basin, I came across diving SEAGULLS!

Now you know there’s something happening if even the Seagulls are diving. Most of the time they’re pretty lazy and opportunistic, so when they’re active it’s usually for an easy meal. Sure enough, beneath the gulls was a school of bass working some sort of bait. The bass were whacking the surface, and they seemed bigger than the normal schoolies I sometimes see at this spot.

I threw on a trusty Arkansas Shiner colored Sluggo and hooked up quickly to a pretty, clean, and strong 32″ bass. It was a great moment with the sun just peeking over the horizon and the air calm as a sleeping baby. Best fish of the season for me so far.

ArkansasShinerArkansas Shiner Sluggo

Further along in my excursion, I puttered out of the river mouth and chased the small terns who were diving in groups of 30 or so, just North of the North Jetty. There I picked up a few small schoolie bass who also were hopping out of the surface in little frenzied groups. The sluggo worked there as well.

And no wonder! The ocean just outside the mouth is simply packed with Sand Eels. Despite their name, Sand Eels are actually a long skinny fish. In the mouth there are clouds of them right now. Most of the ones I saw were small, about 2″ long, and the bass war hammering them. Ah, the frightened life of a bait fish.



sand_eel_shorecatch_560I cruised South down the beach to check out the shore action along the Parker River Wildlife Refuge, but didn’t see much of any activity. But in the mouth of the Parker River, there they were again. These sand eels were much bigger though, and I snagged a few just casting the sluggo into the schools.[divider]


Tinker Mackerel

You probably know that Mackerel are a favorite food of our friends the Bass. Seems like there are plenty of small, or tinker, macs around right now. Go jig some up (Breaking Rocks off Salisbury Beach is a favored location for grabbing them). Throw them on a simple hook and let it swim around on in the Merrimack mouth, and you’re likely to bring in a good-sized bass.

For instance, Brett Z sent us this picture today. “Here’s┬áKaitlyn with a nice 34 inch striper caught in the mouth on live macs, it will swim to fight another day.” They’re heading to the Keys this week for some tarpon and mahi mahi fishing and promise to forward some pictures.


There are lots of ways to jig for mackerel. Personally, I like to use Sabiki Rigs. Some use simple diamond jigs, but I usually find the Sabiki method a bit more productive. But with Sabiki’s, and their 6 or so hooks, you can make a big mess. I tend to trim the rig down to 3 hooks instead of 6. That way I’m, or especially kids, less likely to foul up the rig.

SabikiSabiki Rig and My Sabiki Disaster




Stickman is the resident web design guy at Surfland. We pay him in eels.

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