Like many avid sport anglers, I have a bad habit of getting consumed with one target species or style of fishing for a period of time, and then suddenly getting bored once I think I’ve got everything sussed out. A few months ago, after having caught hundreds of sea bass from small boats in Tokyo Bay, I began learning the ropes of shoreline fishing for the same quarry.
My buddy Chuck has been running and gunning the shorelines of a few shallow estuaries, rivers and lakes around Kanto for several years. Before a recent trip to Hinuma Lake in Ibaraki, he advised me to be ready to pull an all-nighter standing in hip deep water waiting for the bite to start. It took until daybreak before we saw any action, but in the end we found ourselves standing in a frenzy of feeding activity, with sea bass exploding non-stop on the surface for about 40 minutes.
“Hurry up and wait” is a good way to describe the logic of saltwater shoreline angling in Japan. It’s a matter of getting out to where you think the fish are likely to show up and being ready for them to start feeding for what’s usually an hour window of time. This is generally when the tide is falling or rising rapidly, but sea bass will strike at other times if fishermen know how to present their lures.
The odds were against us, as there were thousands of juvenile mullet (bora) hugging the weed line for safety. These bait fish are easy pickings for the sea bass, so they gorged on them while ignoring our “top water pencils” and “minnow” lures.
Mullet often mass in tight pods and flutter around violently at the surface just before a sea bass strikes. A skilled angler can cast a lure of the same size right on top of—or next to—the baitfish and twitch it, enticing the approaching sea bass to bite it.
Chuck made a near-perfect cast in front of some boiling mullet and hooked up a decent sea bass on a seven-centimeter minnow (lure). When it was my turn, I had huge fish lunge out of the water but completely miss my lure. Thoroughly disappointed, I kept casting but, before I knew it, the mullet began swimming about more freely, and surface strikes all but ceased, signaling the bite was over.
In the end I struck out but learned a lot about wading on flats in Japan and am doubly motivated to get revenge. Next time I’m breaking 80 cms.
Hinuma Lake is a popular locale for lure fishing, but prospective shoreline anglers need only look at the waterfront nearest their house to find a suitable point. Sea bass reside in nearly every coastal watershed in Japan except Hokkaido and the northernmost reaches of Honshu. For details on shoreline gear, tackle and fishing tactics, visit www.japanangler.com.