A New Long Island Fishing Forecast will be posted January 14.
Captree’s Laura Lee has been sailing regularly as long as the seas are moderate. Sea bass fishing is closed, but the boat is sailing for cod, ling, and porgies. The fishing was slow on Monday, but improved Tuesday as sea conditions improved, with pollock, cod, and porgies being caught. Bycatch in recent trips has included barrelfish, bluefish, pinfish, weakfish, and porgies.
Warm December temperatures have kept shorebound anglers occupied with bent rods.
Herring are in.
Holdover striped bass are elusive, but present. Same story with the white perch.
Carp, yellow perch, and pickerel are all biting on the sweetwater side.
Big sea bass, porgies, pollock, and cod for those salty folks heading out on party boats. Bycatch varies greatly; some very interesting catches have hit the decks in the past couple weeks.
This week’s report is meant to clue you into productive fishing methods implemented by year-round anglers on Long Island. The anglers mentioned below are guys I respect for their diligence and do-it-yourself approach. Google them, and/or check out their social media pages to see what kinds of tactics these successful winter anglers are implementing.
Jerry Ruff of the “Fish Your Way” YouTube channel has been hammering the herring on the western half of the island. His recent videos showcase some of his insights on how to become the high hook on the piers around New York City. He takes a couple of those fish home to create the “world’s best herring hoagie.” That video will surely make you salivate. Jerry’s a die-hard surf guy who is wholesome and hard-fishing; I always learn something new when I watch his videos, and he’s ALWAYS on the fish!
When Anthony Savino isn’t crushing ultramarathons on his bike, he’s usually putting a hurtin’ on the fish. No species is safe from his ultralight gear. This morning he caught a bunch of trout that were recently stocked by the DEC. There are plenty of ponds/creeks where these stockers will bite throughout the winter. Tiny black jigs did the trick today, but you never know what’s going to fool them (usually something small). He heard the white perch bite has been pretty slow along the south shore, but there are plenty of areas that could produce and he’ll be poking around aplenty come 2021.
I don’t have any reports from this angler, but he’s been one of the most influential anglers to me in the past few years. Captain John Paduano encouraged me to scale my winter tackle down to an ultralight rod, and either 2 or 4 pound line. This is how winter fishing is properly done. It took me a few years to fully trust him on that, as I was scared of losing big fish on light line; but I made all the mistakes necessary to realize that 4 pounds is plenty of strength; if you’re fishing line heavier than that, you won’t be able to effectively deliver the tiny jigs that those winter fish prefer. I’ve lost a few fish here and there as a result of the weak line (moreso due to my poor landing habits), but I hook into so many more fish now. I catch more of every species now that I’ve scaled down my tackle.
James Schlick tends to fish areas in the central portion of the island, and he does a good job of getting bites during the winter. His recent YouTube video shows him targeting perch and crappie in a large LI lake and outflow, using one of the best winter fishing methods: hanging a jig under a bobber. The suspending, unmoving lure in the middle of the water column can be tough for predator fish to refuse, even in frigid waters. He caught a bunch of quality yellow perch the other day utilizing this method.
One thing I like to do with the bobber-jig method is give a hard POP with the bobber to draw the attention of any fish in the vicinity. That little trick has brought me from guaranteed skunks to multiple-fish days.
Bill Falco runs Chasing Tails Bait & Tackle in Oakdale with his dad Frank. The Falcos are some of the most avid anglers I’ve met on Long Island, and their bank of fishing knowledge is extremely rich. Bill has put a lot of time into the upstate NY trout fishery the past couple years. He’s not running to the Salmon River to stand shoulder-to-shoulder targeting those huge steelhead, but rather seeking out wild trout in isolated waters where he won’t run into other anglers. The trout he’s been posting from the Catskills and Connecticut streams are stunningly gorgeous, and some of the fish are pretty darn big! From Bill:
“Low and slow euro nymphing has been my game. Lots of snow runoff means high flows, and the fish are tucked into their spots. If it’s possible to get to them safely, you have a solid shot at catching. White Perch are all over the island, literally anywhere there’s brackish water. They’re in heavy this year, and some big ones are already showing face.”
It is no surprise to me that the Falcos are on the meat when many other anglers are driving hours to chase reports. They are a testament to the efficacy of mastering your local waters.
Derek Monfort has been hitting the eastern half of the island daily in search of all the potential bounty winter waters can offer. Whether it’s carp, white perch, pickerel, or holdovers, he’s getting them all to bite some small jigs this time of year. He tells me a keeper bass narrowly escaped his grasp this past week, after a number of shorts came to hand.
One more avid angler I’d like to highlight is Mike Ozkaya, of “LI Flies Mike.” He’s a commercial fly-tyer from Hampton Bays, who spends more time focused on the art of fishing than just about anybody I know. His abilities to fly cast and tie flies are second to none. I haven’t been in touch with Mike about any fishing reports, but if he’s getting out these days, I can guarantee he’s catching. He live-streams a lot of his fishing and fly tying on the Twitch App, and sells his beautiful multi-species flies on his website: www.LIFliesMike.com. I’d highly recommend giving him a follow on social media and purchasing some of his flies for this upcoming season.
Montauk’s Viking Fleet experienced a tough couple weeks, having to stay docked a bunch due to inclement weather. They’re finding some fish when they get out, but it’s been a slow pick. The most recent highlight was just before Christmas, when Brendan Farrell of Springs pulled a 7.5 pound cod over the rails.
LONG ISLAND FISHING FORECAST
Winter is the best time to fish.
To be honest, I would say the same thing about every season. Winter waters typically experience the least effort, though, and solace is easily found. Hardly anybody will brave the cold temperatures, unless they have some carrot to chase. This year the white perch seems to be in particularly high demand. Who knows if that will last; I’m hoping some harsh cold will sober up report chasers and put them back on the couch for the winter. The temps are warm, though, and I’m expecting another mild winter. Whatever we get weather-wise is fine by me.
I embrace the cold though. It hardens me, and makes me mentally tougher. I’m putting in 5-6 hour fishing days/nights right now, every single day. The water I fished last night froze in front of my eyes, and I took a good skunking after a 3 hour session. I got home at midnight, and woke back up at 7am to get skunked again. The cold penetrated down to my bones, and I swore I was going to be gangrenous when I called it quits. I loved every second of it.
I remember back when I was starting out, my friends and I would spend much of our winter downtime hunting for John Skinner’s rocks on the north shore. We scoured Google Maps, studied the rocky shoreline, and walked for miles on fishless beaches. If we could just find his rocks, we would know exactly where to cast, and then we would catch big fish. What a crock of baloney. That’s the biggest waste of time I’ve ever spent in regards to fishing.
It’s a very good idea to study maps, walk beaches, and explore new areas. To hunt down somebody else’s spot, however, is cheap. It is an admission that “I can’t do it myself, and I would be better off if I copied this person verbatim.” Hunting for successful anglers (versus hunting for experience) is a surefire way to make sure you never learn anything valuable about fishing. It is unoriginal and unfulfilling.
Sure, I saved a cold-shocked turtle in my hunt for Skinner’s rock; I saw a few pretty sunsets, and I got some cardio. It was a nice time, but it was a waste of time. I never found the rock, and I learned nothing more about fishing.
Nowadays, I focus on creating my own experiences, with the goal of understanding all that I see. I spend my non-fishing time looking for birds of prey. It’s exhilarating to get as close as you can to a spooky raptor and take a photo without it noticing you. It’s like hunting, without the death. One day I was stalking a Cooper’s Hawk in an area I had never visited. It was an exploratory mission, taken to survey seldom-visited waters and see what kind of life was present. The hawk had my full attention when I heard a splash. The hawk suddenly disappeared and I was left alone, baffled by a large, inexplicable ripple on the water. Another couple minutes passed, and I saw another ripple. That wasn’t a duck.
I sprinted back to my truck for my light tackle rod. Upon my return, I noticed another ripple and casted to it immediately. I hooked something and lost it quickly. Another quick cast produced another hit. The hook stuck, and I fought the fish until it rose 20 feet away and spit the hook. I saw the spiky dorsal and stripes of a quality bass. Ten minutes later, I got another hit, set the hook, and brought a striped bass to hand. It was the biggest fish I’ve had in a while.
I found those fish by dumb luck, by doing nothing other than just getting outside for some fresh air. I explore new spots every day, looking for new furry or fishy friends. Most of the time, I’m not catching, or even fishing. I’m walking slowly, listening intently and observing. I’ll stand completely still and silent for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, looking for movement amongst the trees, or ripples in the water that the wind just can’t explain. Observation and luck are the two most important tools in my fishing arsenal these days.
I don’t know if these fish I found were holdover bass, or the final migrators who were trailing the herring. I have a very good feeling they’re herring-run fish though, and that this is not an isolated thing. I think that striped bass could be caught all over the island right now. Thing is, it took me 5 years of actively targeting these winter bass to finally bring one to hand. Don’t expect to just go out, cast a lure for 20 minutes and get into them. You need to be throwing the right thing, on the right tide, under the correct conditions, and you have to be able to work that lure to make it look like a living/dying creature. Good luck and kama will help…. but mostly, it’s going to take a lot of hard work and uncomfortable outings if you want to catch winter stripers.
In my experience, it is far easier to catch a carp on the fly in the winter.
For me, it’s not about the catching. It’s about the education I’m giving myself, and the beautiful, natural sights that are feeding my soul. To me, THAT is what makes all of the skunks worth it, not the eventual catching of fish.
If you don’t want to put in the work, or you just can’t, give any one of the guys I mentioned above a follow on social media. Even though I’m fishing about 350 days a year, I still find myself living vicariously through some of those dudes. Much can be learned from them.
Do them all a favor, though, and don’t ask “where.” That’s the worst. Exert some effort to find your own “where.”
Tight lines, and happy new year!
BE GONE 2020!!