NOTE: The Cape May County Herald is offering full coverage of the COVID-19 / coronavirus emergency to all, with no payment required. We are committed to ensuring our readers can make critical decisions for themselves and their families during this ongoing situation. To continue supporting this vital reporting, please consider a digital subscription or contribution. For more coverage, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

It seems fishing, for the most part, has ceased on the Cape. 

The communication line has been frozen or blown away with a direct correlation made to our recent weather. That’s to be expected when January turns to February.  

A few murmurs of trips developing if favorable conditions allow have occurred, but if they don't happen, let's consider some fishing activities you may want to ponder. Hopefully, these will get you through the slow times and allow you to be ready when fishing opportunities return. Who knows, maybe you will have the chance to head south soon and fish there. 

One activity that is, unfortunately, hurt this year is the popular winter release of going to outdoor shows featuring fishing and hunting exhibits. Boat shows also fall into that list of casualties.  

We can hope that maybe some can transpire later in the winter, but due to the planning involved and the time needed to set up a show, it’s not looking too promising, but we need to turn this negative into a positive.  

Instead of purchasing pre-snelled hooks and already constructed rigs, you may want to use this opportunity to make your own. There's no better feeling than catching a fish on a rig or lure you made.  

Having your knots withstand a big fish's fight or that lure that you’ve constructed from a kit fool a fish and endure the battle is fulfilling.  

Snelling hooks yourself is probably the easiest way to begin. It requires minimal knowledge of knot tying, some bare hooks, and a spool of leader material. A workbench with a vise helps but is not a necessity. I like to use the vise if I have time while I’m snelling hooks because it holds the hook while acting as a third hand.  

You also should learn to tie them without the vise since that is more realistic to a fishing situation. I’ve never seen a vise on a boat, kayak or sod bank. A pair of pliers and scissors or a pair of fishing pliers with built-in line cutters also come in handy for tightening knots and trimming tag ends.  

After snelling (more on learning knots later) your leader line to the hook, cut the line from the spool. Twelve to fifteen inches is a reasonable length to start at. You can make it shorter or longer if needed - I like to tie a Surgeon's End Loop at the end of the line. This hook is now ready for use.  

If you want to make your hook more attractive, slip a bucktail skirt down the line before tying your Surgeon’s Loop. You could also add some beads or a spinner blade to your creation. These add flash that could entice a fish you're chasing to bite.  

Remember to add extra items before you tie your final knot. All isn’t lost if you do forget or change your mind and want to add them later. Just cut the loop off at the knot, add your items, then re-tie your knot. The worst part is that your line will be a little shorter.  

Now, you are ready to tie a rig so you have a place to put your hooks.  

You can make a rig that has one dropper loop and keeps everything simple, or you can tie a highthe-low rig, which has two dropper loops, each to hold a hook, and a loop at the end for your dipsey.  

At the top, you can either tie on a swivel that will attach to your main line, or tie another loop that can then be attached to your line. I also recommend a length of shock leader that would attach to your braid if you are using a brand of braid. You can tie a loop in the end of the shock leader before attaching the rig by looping both ends together. 

By doing this, you can cut down on extra hardware that could snag on something or alert the fish you're hunting - less is more.  

It’s now at the point where all you have to do is loop your hook to the dropper-loop - or both loops if you tied a high-low style - throw on the lightest weight dipsey that will allow you to feel the bottom, bait your hook, and go fishing. You can stay on the bottom or jig your bait by raising it from the bottom and easing it back down. A lot of your strikes will occur while the bait rises and falls.  

Another option is to loop a bare hook on to the dropper-loops. I like to use this type of rig (the one hook style) during flounder season, when I head to the reefs in late summer 

A big Gulp bait on that single hook is all you need. The weight of the leader material you use will depend on where you're fishing and what you're targeting.  

Spring and fall blackfish call for a heavier test of line, such as a 50-to 60-pound test, due to the heavy structure and wrecks you are fishing. Those late-season flounder around the reefs require a stronger line than if you are fishing in the back bay waters earlier in the spring.  

For knot tying, I recommend searching “tying fishing knots” or something similar online. You can find useful how-to videos and diagrams. 

As reminders, remember to wash your rods and reels well before storing them for the offseason. You should take your reels off the poles and wash them down individually, which will remove salt from those hard-to-reach places.  If your outside water is off, you can use an indoor shower.  

Secondly, remember to back down on your drag when storing your reels away. For those who have been blackfishing, your drag should have been locked down during use. Releasing it when not in use will help preserve your drag system, whether it’s made of carbon fiber discs or washers, or oiled-felt. Keeping the drag tight will compress the felt and lead to needing replacements.  

Prevention now will extend your reel's life and spare you costly repairs.  

Hopefully, I've inspired you to snell hooks and tie rigs yourself, which is an interesting, rewarding and cost-saving aspect of fishing. 

I haven’t even discussed tying your own teasers. If you get into those, you can keep everything basic or get adventuresome and can try some different color combinations. 

I don’t forget those maintenance suggestions either.  

Take care and I’ll see you around. 

Submit your fishing news and photos to 

Get 'The Wrap', a new way to get the news.

We wrap up the news from the Shore you love, and deliver it to your inbox, weekly.