As the surf becomes barren, and boats are stored away for the winter, party/charter boats remain one of the only viable options for saltwater fishing. Luckily, the fishing this past week on those boats was outstanding. With cooler temps settling in, bigger cod (to 30 pounds) and double digit blackfish have been chewing well out in Montauk. Other bottom species such as pollock, jumbo sea bass, weakfish and big porgies are the main fish making it to the dinner table.
Land lubbers have just a few options, mainly in the fresh and brackish water. White perch have been biting all around the island, with some schools absolutely ravenous. 100 fish days can be easily attained. I’ve seen a few guys get their first perch this past week, and become addicted. Holdover striped bass can be found in many of the white perch waters, and they are (to my knowledge) the only stripers currently feeding on the eastern half of the island. I get a strong feeling that the last of the striped travellers have come and gone. If you’re on the western half of the island, make sure you get your last licks in!
Herring are in, and becoming more numerous by the day.
Frank from Bernie’s Bait and Tackle in Brooklyn says the west end of the island is down to the end of the migration. The main body of local fish is essentially cookie cutter rats under twenty inches. There have been fewer as the week’s progressed, making them harder to find. One customer hit Canarsie Pier for nothing, then Manhattan Beach for nothing, and finally came upon a school with a friend by the Verrazano. Together, they tallied up about 30 short bass from shore, none larger than 20 inches.
The boat guys have a shot at something slightly bigger, but still under the slot limit. Granted, a keeper fish could be pulled from the mix, but that’s a moot point now that the season is closed. Most fish get up to about 26 inches for the boat guys.
Bluefish have high-tailed it out of here.
The blackfish grounds saw a quick upsurge of action this past Friday, putting up a good number of fish and a handful of keepers. It was inconsistent though, as it only lasted the day. The mostly-poor blackfish season this year has caused a lot of anglers’ interest in them to wane.
Herring are in now, and they have been getting quite a bit of attention. Guys are buying lots of rigs and getting out. The favorite rig over there is a blinking-light rig, and the shop routinely sells out of them. They are an absolute killer, and should only improve as the temperature continues to drop.
Josh at Gypsea Charters in the Rockaways reports:
We concluded our striped bass season with a bang, ending one of the best bass seasons in recent memory. Hundreds of fish were caught and released throughout each trip, with plenty of slot-sized fish making it to the table.
We saw an improvement of blackfishing the last week. JP hooked the biggest tog of the week, coming in at just over nine pounds. Their last tog trips aboard the Star will occur this weekend. There is some availability on both Saturday and Sunday.
Paul at River Bay Outfitters in Baldwin says that there were still fish in the surf right before the snowfall. One customer had a striper measure about 30 inches the other day. Paul’s thinks that this snowstorm will send the stripers scurrying southward.
He fished the Connetquot on Tuesday, and it was very cold. The water level was high, and clarity was poor, due to the rain the night before. Paul had a tough time, landing only two fish, one on a nymph and one on a streamer. The fish were very lethargic, and were hardly moving. Pauls says they’d nip at his feet as he stood still in the water. A few more fish ate, but it was a tough session.
All the small streams in Connecticut are open, so if you’re looking to bend the rod you might want to head across the Sound.
The Capt Lou Fleet in Freeport is sending their Atlantic Pearl on a bunch of super offshore wreck fishing trips the next couple weeks. They’ll be sailing to wrecks 60-90 miles out, targeting jumbo seabass, big porgies, cod pollock and hake.
Recent trips have put up good numbers of seabass and porgies, with some weakfish in the mix. Cod and pollock also came over the rails, as did a huge monkfish taken by Russ Howe. That monkfish won a boat pool. Russ also took the boat’s seabass pool that trip. Most of the boat caught a ton, making it a very successful meat trip.
They are also running seal watching trips throughout the winter, beginning December 27.
Bill at Chasing Tails Bait and Tackle in Oakdale reports:
Striper fishing was good off the beach until season’s end. Bill reckons those fish can still be caught. Otherwise, salty folks are heading to the docks to run offshore aboard charters.
Locally, it’s all about the perch now. White and yellow perch are the apples of many anglers’ eyes, and some decent ones of both species are coming to hand. Bill himself has been catching a ton of short whites, narrowly missing the landing opportunity of a 2+ pounder.
Trout are also a primary target, and that fishery rarely fails to impress. Head to the Connetquot, or any one of the many stocked ponds/creeks for some electric rod-bending action.
Captree’s Laura Lee provided some solid reports after an awesome week of fishing. They got out almost every day until Wednesday. The week started with a boatload of big Black Sea bass to 6.5 pounds. A mixed bag ensued, comprised primarily of porgies. Red hake, cunner, pout and silver eels also came up quite frequently. One triggerfish came over the rails that day.
Friday was even better, as they doubled the quantity of sea bass, and quintupled their porgies. They even broke off a 400 pound Mako shark at one point. One flounder came up. The rest of the weekend was more of the same, with 9 pinfish mixing up the bag.
Come Monday, the good fishing continued with more of the same species. Some pollock and cod entered the scene at the beginning of this work week. Tuesday’s trip was primarily a blackfish outing, and they were able to keep 26 out of the 150 they caught. The largest was 6.8 pounds.
Montauk’s Viking Fleet saw some outstanding fish this week. On Friday, Joe Novello from East Moriches pulled a 7.5 pound blackfish over the rails, along with his pool winning 2.5. pound seabass. Alex Koch from Mattituck won the cod pool with a 29.5 pounder. Trips later in the day came upon some double digit togs.
Saturday saw blackfish to 10.5 pounds, 20 keeper sea bass, a dozen keeper cod and a bunch of boston mackerel. That was a great final trip for the Viking Starlite. The quality cod and blackfishing continued through the rest of the weekend.
The best fishing took place on long runs offshore. There were fish near land, but bigger fish required a little trip away from safe harbor.
They’re running a mixed bag trip daily through the end of the year. It goes from 5am-3pm, and costs $120. Cod, sea bass, porgies, blackfish, and other bottom dwellers are on the radar for these trips.
Surf guide Bill Wetzel of the Surf Rats Ball took Damien on a couple guided trips these past two weeks looking for a herring bite. Bill was not interested in small fish, and threw bigger plugs to try to cull a larger striper feeding on herring. He fished from the east end to Smith’s Point. It was slim pickings, especially in regards to the large. They each had a couple smaller fish hit their plugs the first night on 12/2. Fast forward to 12/12 at Smith’s Point, where nothing would chew the larger presentations. 12/14 was the last ditch effort in Montauk. They fished Shag and the light, for not even a bite.
That’s all she wrote for Bill this year. He is booking trips for next year, and prime dates are going quite fast. Be sure to book soon if you want to fish an optimal moon with an optimal guide. Details at www.longislandsurffishing.com
Long Island Fishing Forecast
Lord knows what’s going to occur after this snowstorm. Winds are going to drop down, the sun will shine, but temps will remain freezing. I can see more stripers migrating through, but I’m not exactly optimistic about that.
My focus shifted to the brackish waters this week. I took a hard skunk four days in a row, as the ocean surf cleaned up throughout the week. The surf water was so perfect, it felt like there had to be fish there… but even when the detritus and silt settled and the water was gin clear, no fish would bite. The ocean picked back up, putting some current and waves on the beach – a comfortable situation for a striper – but still they eluded me.
So I’m officially in perch mode now. I will check the beaches, but I don’t expect those surveys to be fruitful.
The perching has been extremely fruitful, on a happier note. The first day was tough, with maybe a dozen fish taken on unique retrieves. Then it just turned on, and I’ve had a few 40-, 50-, 60-fish days. You can catch that many fish in an hour or two if you work quickly. It’s a great way to start or end the day. My boss Evan and I used to end the work day a half hour before sunset for “Perch O’Clock.” It’s about that time again.
My friend Greg Scherer was swinging flies in an outflow the other day when he hooked an atlantic herring on the fly. I’ve seen a few other herring caught in other spots, such as Andrea Caruana’s, which was taken on a marabou jig while perching the other day. I don’t typically target herring, but after Frank from Bernie’s told me about the blinking light rigs, I’m incredibly intrigued. I have some glow-in-the-dark Flashabou that I’ll be tying onto tiny dry fly hooks and to create some Sabikis. There are so many spots to catch herring, that I can’t just avoid them this year.
Holdover stripers bit very well this week too. I had one on my ultralight (4-pound-test line) while targeting perch. I got the fish to my feet, grabbed the line, and it broke off. I grabbed the fish’s tail as it swam between my legs, but it was too slippery and the fish escaped successfully. I brought a few shorts to hand after that. If I couldn’t close out my season with some migrating bass in the surf, at least I was able to find some in the back bays. I’ll miss my striped friends dearly.
If you’re done with your fishing for the winter, you’ll probably kickstart the typical postseason activities. Now it’s time to read up, watch videos, practice tying flies, etc.
I’d recommend subscribing to Bill Wetzel’s Surf Rats Ball if you’re, indeed, a surf rat. The amount of surfcasting knowledge on that site is pretty much unparalleled.
Another route I’d highly recommend, especially since the prospect of “show season” grows grimmer as the number or covid cases grows higher, is subscribing to Jerry Audet’s “Surf Scenarios” seminar series. He held his first seminar last night, and did an outstanding job of presenting. All posed questions were thoroughly answered, and a wealth of information was offered up to those attending. Part of this seminar series is a number of interviews Jerry will conduct with die-hard anglers in the Northeast. I’m humbled to be one of those anglers he’ll interview, and he’ll have an enlightening conversation with my editor Jimmy Fee, which I eagerly anticipate. The other interviews will be with anglers I hold in extremely high regard. Find info here: https://www.indeepoutdoors.com/seminar-series.
Christmas is next week. The most important sportfish in our region has all but left the building. I could tell you about white perch, trout, and pickerel (and maybe some herring!) all winter long. I’ll be posting plenty of youtube videos throughout the winter, including some highly educational ones regarding striped bass and fly fishing the surf. Some of the drone footage I’ll post, and the accompanying explanations of striper behavior may completely change your views on surfcasting. Don’t miss them! Find me on YouTube at “South Fork Salt.”
Tightest of lines, and happiest/healthiest of holidays. Thank you for reading.