The western half of the south shore was far more productive than the eastern half this week. Strong winds built the seas and muddied them, making the surf fishing difficult, and keeping most boats at the docks. Party boats found good bottom fishing on the few days they could sail. Long Island freshwater and brackish water fishing remained very productive. Herring have moved in all around the island. Bluefish and weakfish are still in the area. However, the size of striped bass is decreasing daily.
Long Island Fishing Report
Josh, at Gypsea Charters in Rockaway, says bass fishing continues to produce endless action throughout each trip. Countless fish get released, and some slots have been taken for the table. The abundance of bait in the area suggests that the striper bite is going to remain strong through the end of the season. Tautog fishing continues to be up and down, sometimes providing bounty when the weather cooperates. Most drops find action, but the bite seems to never really materialize. The dogfish have been relentless, hopping on the hooks after a couple of keeper tog. With the recent cold weather, the last two weeks of the season should show a big improvement. They’re running open boat accommodations aboard the Star for tautog the next two weekends, and still have some space available.
Frank, at Bernie’s Bait and Tackle in Brooklyn, says the fishing hasn’t changed too much since last week. There are still stripers early in the morning off of Breezy Point, just outside the Tin Can Grounds. Birds have mostly been feeding well in the mornings too, giving away the location of the predatory stripers feeding upon the same bait. There are a ton of smaller fish around, and the lack of birds somewhere does not mean there aren’t fish there. Sand eels are still the name of the game, although some herring moved in recently. Although they are not in thick schools, the herring could potentially become the primary bait for the remaining stripers. The general size of the local stripers is decreasing by the day, especially for the surf guys. Some bigger fish are off in deeper water, likely chasing herring and bunker where there is less competition. Shad are around as well; they can be found in the harbor and Ambrose Channel. Bluefish remain in the mix and as temperatures drop, they should be the first fish to move out of the area. The stripers will continue to decrease in size, and eventually, fade out. Nonetheless, there are still boats trolling for larger stripers. Other boat fishermen have been coming into the shop for bloodworms, to target the remaining porgies in deeper holes outside the bay. Tautog season is near the end and hasn’t improved much. There are still lots of fish around, but they’re mostly small. There aren’t many reports of large ones coming up, and they’ve become quite finicky over the last few weeks. Frank says there should be some major action in the future.
Paul, at River Bay Outfitters in Baldwin, says he hit the Farmington River this Tuesday with a two-handed fly rod. The weather was brutally cold, the water was in the low-40s, their guides iced up quickly, and the fish didn’t cooperate. A few anglers participating in Project Healing Waters’ monthly outing on the Connetquot told Paul the fishing on Long Island was outstanding this Monday. Each angler had about 15 fish. Don’t put away the saltwater gear yet, as Paul got a report of a large striped bass taken near the Robert Moses area this week.
Kathy, at Freeport Bait & Tackle, says the reports have been on the quieter side, but she knows a few anglers are keeping their boats in the water for the last hurrah this coming weekend. The weather forecast for the weekend is looking nice and the fish should be biting. Kathy says some anglers are still targeting stripers in the surf and tautog on the boat, but they’ve been tight lipped with information.
Bay Park Fishing Station in Oceanside, says Capt. Tim, Vince, and Cory set sail on the “Margarita” in pursuit of a ghost bluefin. They trolled a blue and white Joe Shute rigged with ballyhoo in 60-feet of water southeast of Jones Inlet. A 69-inch bluefin tuna came up and ate their offering. The fish weighed in at 180-pounds.
Bill at Chasing Tails Bait and Tackle in Oakdale, says winter is almost here, as indicated by the recent stretch of cold weather. Bill says the striper migration of large fish is well past us, but there are schoolies still around. The smaller bass should be around for a bit longer before they find an area to call home for the winter. Bottom fishing is the name of the game for the coming months. Tautog fishing is solid outside on the wrecks, reefs, and rock piles. Big fish are still coming over the rails consistently, and they’re all over the jigs. Black sea bass action is great right now, with 6-pound fish coming up regularly. They’re being caught on big jigs and slow-pitch lures. Cod, pollack, haddock, and other deepwater fish are providing good action. On the freshwater side of things, white perch, yellow perch, pickerel, and trout are all very active and eager to eat. They provide lots of fun on light and ultralight tackle.
Captree’s Laura Lee in Babylon, says they had quite a few cancelations this past week due to forecasted rough seas. On Monday they finally got out to hit the sea bass grounds. Their clients caught over 100 jumbo black sea bass. Furthermore, they also caught a mix of red hake, cod, weakfish, porgies, and dozens of big dogfish. The Tuesday morning tog trip went very well; they caught many big fish and released nearly 100.
Mark, at Cow Harbor Bait & Tackle in Northport, says the wind kept most people off the water this week. If we haven’t seen the end of the striper run, we’re very close to it. There are some herring around that people are getting after, but that’s about it on the saltwater side. Fly guys are starting to switch over to trout fishing in the stocked rivers, lakes, and creeks.
The Viking Fleet of Montauk, says they caught a bunch of porgies and black sea bass just before the bad weather over the weekend. Anglers also caught some cod, but the dirty water made for tough fishing. Black sea bass went to 4.25-pounds, and Harlem’s Claude Watson won the with an 8-pound cod. They caught a mixed bag on Wednesday, including tautog, ling, cod, and black sea bass. Ma Xubin of Long Island took the cod pool with an 8-pounder. Matt Neuwirth of Bayport took the sea bass pool with a 2.5-pound fish. The tog pool went to Jason Talmage of Eastport, who landed a 6.5-pounder.
Long Island Fishing Forecast
It was a painfully slow week in the surf, and it was equally slow for the tackle shop owners with whom I spoke. There was very little angling effort this week because of the cold temps, murky water, and low catching potential. Most people are in a winter state of mind after those cold, cold, days. If you were able to get on a party boat, you probably got into some fish, and the western half of the island still seems to be producing quite well. However, there’s no question we’re nearing the end of the saltwater fishing season.
Just because it’s slow, though, doesn’t mean there’s not excellent potential. If you read my story about the Dec. 15 herring bite about 6-or-so years ago, then you know what I’m talking about. I’ve got some great news pertaining to that.
That herring bite, when I caught 14 keeper bass on the night of Dec. 15 using chunks, keeps me curious about the surf long after the season ends. If conditions are favorable, I’ve got my eyes out front on the ocean, whether it’s June or January. I’m forever an optimist. Maybe there’s stripers or cod within casting range. “You gotta go to know.”
The experience I had on Monday evening mandated that I fish at all possible times this week while the water is fishable. I drove the beach on Monday afternoon looking for bait. The glassy water made it easy to notice a huge mass of it, in what I figured was “sand eel water.” It was a gentle texture on the water that could easily be confused with a light breeze. I watched for 10-minutes though, and eventually started to see some tiny ripples. The amount of ripples grew rapidly around sunset and the scene went from calm to frantic. Then the bigger ripples began to appear. I’d seen this before, about six years ago when the herring came to my feet. Even larger ripples began to occur right along the beach lip, indicating the presence of stripers. I casted a crab fly to those beach lip bass for nothing. Smaller ripples that sent the bait fleeing for their lives indicated the presence of herring. I casted a diamond jig with a teaser, to no avail. I even saw a few hickory shad breach a bit farther outside the surf zone. V-wakes followed the tiny waves in, just over the beach lip. I had so much adrenaline, so much to process, and so little time to figure out the solution.
I didn’t catch any fish. I had ling wash up at my feet, but that’s the only fish I got to hold. The water was dirty, the bait was tiny, and the experience was short-lived. I failed at the catching, but I see it as a success because now I know what won’t work in that situation. I figured out some other tactics to implement next time I see that.
I kept my eyes on the ocean the next few days. Not much doing. I’ll be throwing some casts in the surf later today, and throughout the weekend, searching for my final stripes.
My main priority quickly became white perch when I stumbled upon some pre-spawn fish willing to chew on Tuesday. The first day was very tough fishing. I caught 10 fish, each of which required a unique retrieve. The next day ended up being super productive, and it has remained so ever since. My friends and I must’ve had 50 fish each, to about 2-pounds. It was great fishing. The water was icing over, and the larger perch threatened to cut us off when they’d run underneath the sharp-edged slabs. I’ll be hunting perch for the rest of the winter, along with trout.
In my experience, back bay perch waters will be one of the most productive areas to target stripers at this point in the season. So I’ll keep tabs on those, but my main concern is the ocean surf. There is a big fish that’s going to pass by at a certain moment. I hope to be there, as we all do.