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Flaptail 10-01-2004 01:06 PM

Fishing the "Shadow Line"
Most, not all but most, surf fishermen despise the moon after it hits the half full stage. Fishing the full 1/2 full to full then to the last 1/2 can be pretty discouraging. Bluefish tend to feed all night under the light of the silvery moon and bass tend to get really wary. Some guys go to minimal hardware or none for that matter and light Fluorocarbon leaders. Yellow plugs will catch sometimes but usually in the early spring and late fall when the feed bag is on.

There is good fishing to be had while the moon radiates down and makes it un-nescesary to use your headlamp or pocket flashlight. The key is patience. Rather than consult your Eldridge Tide and Pilot for high or low tide, go to the lunar tables for moon rise and set for your area. Along the outer beach in areas where the dunes are high, like Truro and Wellfleet, the moon as it travels across the sky from east to west with the earth's rotation will settle slowly in the sky until ultimately it falls behind the crest of the dunes and a shadow line grows from the base of the dunes out a 1/4 mile or so from the beach. Usually this happens in the wee hours of the night so you have to be prepared to be able to spend the night on the beach.

This is the Shadow line. To me it's a proven fact that as soon as that shadow line starts to broaden out from the beach the bass will, 9 times out of 10, come in under the cover of the darkened conditions to feed. Some nights, most nights for that matter, it's like someone flipped a switch in the bass making them go from ultra-wary to the attack mode in a matter of minutes. Low tide or High, halfway up or halfway down, it makes no difference the game is on.

We have these conditions now and until the moon goes to the last quarter this is the time when you are most apt to hook-up.
It not only applies to the outer beach but I have seen this phenomena produce the same results in the canal when eel fshing late at night and the rocky shores of Sagamore north to Plymouth. Dark plugs seem to work better in the shadow line too. Black Bombers', Yo-zuri black/blue Mag-Darters, black Mag-minnows and of course eels. The fish will tend to be right in the wash so long casts are not nescesary. Also, you want to position yourself well back up on the slope, at least 30 feet or more from the wash edge of the foam. Fish that hit powerfully and right in the first wave, with no stretch braid will tear off in that first furious moment of the battle when they hit and roll and thrash before taking off. The line parts with a shot and they are gone. Give yourself some cushion space and make sure your drag is set a touch looser than normal. Experiment with this and I am sure your results while fishing the fuller moon phases will ramp up. Flap:D

Mike P 10-01-2004 01:39 PM

If you can find a west facing beach with dunes or cliffs behind it, you don't have to wait for the wee hours I've used the moon shadow line very effectively at Gay Head. ;)

Should work just as well at the Block.

reelecstasy 10-01-2004 01:41 PM

That was a great thread Flap.. Very informative, and as usual I learned something...Tip up and tight lines to you:btu:

justplugit 10-16-2004 08:34 PM

Thanks Flap,i never knew that. Ya keep me learnin:)
Why do you think the bass are wary under the light,because they are more easily seen or the fact that their eyes are sensitive to the light and can't see the bait as well,or other?

Raven 02-02-2005 07:30 AM

very informative
thankyou Flap.... i think it has to do with "stealth" in hunting prey and in the light they have lost their edge....but thats just my guess... in an experiment i read about...a fish was placed in a solid white tank....ok....and in that situation the fish swam round and round and round forever....then they painted a single | black line on the edge of the tank and the fish stopped swimming in circles and stayed next to the line as if it were structure. so shadow lines can be both i.m.h.o. but if someone shines a light in your eyes you turn away and or squint holding up your hand to sheild your eyes from the torment....and since a fish has no eyelids they simply avoid it altogether.

Bronko 02-02-2005 09:08 AM

Great stuff. Thanks Flap!

FishermanTim 02-04-2005 01:38 PM

Although this isn't exactly the same, I have always been fortunate when fishing the moon shadows cast from a particular bridge in Duxbury. I would have more luck casting into the moonlit areas and retreive into the shadow.
On some nights, the action was easily discernable along the shadow line: moonlit side - nothing, the shadow side - erupting.

Raven 02-04-2005 04:00 PM

bending light
thats an interesting observation Tim.... and it made me ponder how shadow..... disperses in water.... or if it bends...
for example: like when you are try to spear a fish standing up, the fish you see is actually in a different spot.... if you get my drift... so the "shadow" from the bridge you see -> on top of the water and perhaps even further down.... is it ....actually entering the water at a particular angle caused by the moon's postion or the light source position? or ? ...."Facinating" as MR. Spock would say ......Live Long and Power pro.... i mean prosper ... :D

FishermanTim 02-04-2005 06:48 PM

Just to add an interesting point to my observations,
If there is considerable "fire" in the water, looking down can actually feel like you're looking at stars in the sky. The "glow in the dark" plankton can resemble twinkling stars. The only distraction is the light trail from stripers or blues racing through the water.

bart 03-20-2005 11:01 AM

very informative read, thanks....

FeedMeSilence 11-22-2005 09:55 PM

That was great about the moon and the bass.

basswipe 11-24-2005 08:40 AM

One of my favorite places is an east facing area.I don't have dunes but I do have a sloped beach with many trees and houses behind me.Another east facing spot has a high shear eroded bank where after just a few hours after moonrise the moon is no longer a factor.As Flap said its like flipping a switch when them shadows creep out across the water.

UpChunk 06-07-2006 03:16 PM

Last night in Wickford, just before the rain, was fishing the shadow line at a marina, major amounts of action, right up close to the rock where the shore starts.All stripers were under 24" but i have seen them cruise the "line" with 40-50 lbs within 4" of the surface, in an out of the dock lights!I was using freshwater lures, grasshoppers,bumblebees, and shrimp lures! Very Effective.stephen
The big ones run right under the dock , and know what to do.They like the Dark side!

riarcher 06-09-2006 12:58 AM

Besides the docks, I've noticed the same sort of thing around the breakwaters in Point Jude and Stonington.
Nice part is, like a coin there are 2 sides (or more). And a running tide going from light to dark on the edges of the breakwalls are often hot spots. Often making one side of the "gap' more productive than the other too.
Reefs (like PJ light house, Watchhill, and the Block) are like underwater breakwalls and find the same strategy holds true much of the time (but it's NOT cast in stone - pardon the pun).

NIB 07-04-2006 12:39 PM

Here in NJ i have made a living offa shadow lines.Boardwalk lights, bridges, streetlamps,lighthouse lamps(not the beacon) It puts em where they are supposed to be.Fish will stage in the dark side nose into the current an ambush's pretty simple really but often overlooked.I have noticed this At PJ as well as the big candle at montauk.There is a big light there that cast's a shadow on the water my buddie was hooking up an I was not.I moved over to see what was going on an I could see the shadowline he was unknowingly working.We worked together an beat on em till the light went out. :C The Moon is light.It makes more sense in land structures I have not considered it much but i will now.I don't mind the moon.I don't like moon no moon conditions.I have had times that I was scoring well in moonlit nights when the moon got covered by clouds my success went with the light.To add to this.It is important not to cast ur shadow into the line as the fish will spook.Ur best off working the area from a angle after taking current or any sweep into consideration.To determine the best line of attack.

Swimmer 04-05-2007 11:06 AM

I just read Flaptails for the second time to get it all in and the article really is important/informative.

EarnedStripes44 07-10-2007 03:31 PM

the same applies to pier lights

Rob Rockcrawler 10-23-2010 12:43 PM

Nice read, will put some it to use this week if the conditions apply.

saltydog 10-26-2010 09:25 PM

the MAN new what he was talking about, if you FLY FISH you also new this to be true,one night I fished with a friend that never been to this beach befor, only 2 outher townies were on the outher side. mad a cast an, this big fish beached himself an rolled back out on the next wave snaping my fly on the way.

bassfranky 03-04-2011 08:57 PM

Great post Flap, i really didn't know that and i will try to test that the next time i'm out fishing

Nebe 03-04-2011 09:46 PM

I miss Flaptail. :(
Posted from my iPhone/Mobile device

Raven 03-27-2011 06:02 AM

you're not alone

CaptRich 02-13-2012 12:52 PM

This is an awesome thread! The posts by Flaptail, FishermanTim, & NIB have a lot of interesting observations! I donít fish for strippers, but rather snook & tarpon down in South Florida. These fish make their living whacking baits from ambush points including shadowlines at night. My fishing more closely resembles FishermanTimís fishing the shadowlines of bridges & docks but I found Flaptailís post fascinating. We donít have many dunes in South Florida, but rather plenty of high rises. I am not sure the moon hiding behind a condo will have the same effect due to the lighting from the structure, but it does remind me of an interesting technique I learned down in Key West, FL. Most of my fishing is done at night, but I saw a local fishing with rather specific tackle and immediately knew what he was targeting (itís not too difficult to discern between the out of townerís and the local salts). With the sun high in the sky I walked up the fisherman and asked, ďIsnít the sun a little high in the sky to be snook fishing?Ē Well, in life & fishing you are always learning and the friendly gentleman recognized me as a fellow snook-fisherman from up the coast and proceeded to tell me how when the wind blows head-on into the shore it stirs up the bottom (The keys are sheltered and have very little wave activity). The resulting silt up & down the shore line gets sucked into the trough and provides a nice 5 to 10 foot wide area of reduced visibility where the snook sit with their nose into the current. I have heard of this technique fishing mud bars, but it was fascinating to see someone pulling snook out (a notoriously finicky eater) with artificials on a white bottom beach in the middle of the day!

Though this isnít quite the same as shadowline fishing, it is another interesting concept to keep in mind when fishing for strippers on your shorelines. I imagine the wind conditions & current will need to be different in an area with big surf, but you never know when a technique in the back of your mind will spring into action when you observe the described conditions!

Slipknot 02-13-2012 01:50 PM

welcome to the site rich
you are right, this thread is a classic
good luck with the snook and tarpon

Joe 03-03-2012 10:38 AM

The same thing Tim Coleman stressed at his CT lecture last month, any kind of edge. Whether it be from light, a drop-off, or the tail-out of a rip.
I miss Flap too. He had a brain full of striper knowledge and really contributed substantial information to threads. Too bad he never did a book.
You can't take things for granted. A cheap folding chair lasts longer than a person. That's the biggest lesson of aging: how tenuous and fragile we are.

Mike P 11-15-2012 01:54 PM

RIP bump for this thread.

ProfessorM 11-15-2012 07:13 PM


JohnR 11-15-2012 10:20 PM


Backbeach Jake 11-16-2012 07:13 PM


Slobapotamus 02-09-2013 09:38 PM

Very detailed and informative. I use these strategies and he laid them out really clear for others to view. Worth the read : )
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