Gannets galore! Whale and seal watching was stellar this week. The sun has more saltwater anglers out than there probably are fish to catch. Resident keeper stripers have woken up. One more week until you can harvest one. Tautog are hitting the decks. Wreck fishing has been productive. Tuna bite in the canyon. Frank’s tips for flounder fishing below.
Long Island Fishing Report
Frank, from Bernie’s Bait and Tackle in Brooklyn, says the picture has not changed much, but striper reports are gradually improving. Shorts are being caught in the Red Hook and N.Y. Harbor area. There are reports of a large number of gannets diving off Breezy Point. There is a huge amount of bunker all over the area, inside, and outside the bay. Guys are starting to buy trolling equipment. People are anxious to get out. Most of them don’t even have their boat in the water yet, but cabin fever has been hitting hard since the sun came out! The trolling boats are looking to get on those bigger bass when they arrive. The herring fishing has been spotty, but productive nonetheless. Head to a pier in the late afternoon or evening. You can find them in open water near Canarsie and Coney Island. The Verrazano wouldn’t be a bad bet either. The improving temperature should be directly correlated to an improving bite. There hasn’t been a lot of talk about flounder fishing, but Frank offered me some friendly tips on how to best target them. Typically you want to target the slower parts of the tide around slack. They leave their hiding spots behind obstructions and move to a different position, looking for a new sanctuary from the transitioning currents. Their movement provides opportunity for anglers. The tide runners (big fish) will hit when the water is moving faster, but it’s a lower percentage game.
Paul, at River Bay Outfitters in Baldwin is feeling confident that the migratory stripers are going to make their way into local water this week. He’s heard chatter from various areas of hungry fish, but nothing substantial. This warm weather should start kicking off the bass fishing. Paul guided at Connetquot River yesterday, and put his client on some decent trout. They noticed ants walking around upon their arrival, so that’s what they tried to imitate. Success! Paul himself had three fish on his ant fly. Soft hackles were also on the menu for the trout. Paul was up in Westchester recently and noted that the streams are very high but very clear. These could be good enough conditions to take the short trip upstate.
Kathy from Freeport Bait & Tackle is busy-busy on these warm days! Everybody is coming in to get their gear tuned up for the spring run. The shop is loaded up with everything you could need. They have more tackle than they’ve ever had before. A huge load of bunker just came in the door, so much so that she’s going to be freezing a bunch. She’s loaded up with bloodworms, green crabs, and fresh clams as well. If you need some bait or gear, Freeport B&T is your place. On the fishing front, all Kathy’s been hearing about lately is a schoolie striper bite in Jamaica Bay.
The Capt Lou Fleet in Freeport is running their final seal watching trip of the year this weekend. People have been able to take some outstanding photos during these trips. You can find their schedule on LIWhaleAndSealWatching.com.
Point Lookout’s Super Hawk sailed special wreck trips this weekend, wherein anglers caught a bunch of fish and some sweet tans. Cod and tautog were the primary targets, and they were able to bring home some meat. Jumbo porgies, ling, and some other species ended up coming over the rail as well. Call Capt. Steve today to make a reservation: 516-607-3004.
Captree’s Laura Lee found the fish this weekend, keeping a consistent bend in anglers rods. Here’s a quick rundown: Friday – 19 anglers caught 4 cod and 65 giant porgies. Saturday – 20 anglers caught 12 cod and 44 giant porgies.
Bill, at Chasing Tails Bait and Tackle in Oakdale reports:
Striper season is right around the corner and it’s looking like a solid start to a great season. New Jersey is loaded with big fish, so they’ll be here in no time. The local guys are hitting some good preseason fish out west. It’s definitely worth travelling if you know where to go. The local fish are roaming around and lots of fun on light tackle and fly gear. Small swimbaits (or baitfish imitation flies) are the key to picking off a local fish.
Flounder season opened with a bang, and the few anglers that are out there targeting them are doing well. Blood worms and plenty of mussel chum has been the way to go. Spring tautog season is off to a great start as well, lots of nice fish being caught out on the local reefs and wrecks. In the freshwater, the bass are entering prespawn so they are crushing swimbaits, jigs, and lipless cranks. This is a great time to get on them before they bed up. Trout have been stocked in all of the local waters, and this year the DEC put in some really high quality two-year browns.
Mark, at Cow Harbor Bait & Tackle in Northport, says the water is still cold, but there are some schoolies being caught. Most local guys are actually targeting the trout though. If you’re from the area and you want to get on a bite, you’d probably be best off heading west as of now. Pick a warm day for your best chance at catching. There are no reports of squid or herring, although the bunker is in pretty thick. Killies abound as well. Eel pots and crab pots are both coming up empty so far. Mark says when the commercial guys start getting what they’re after, we can expect the fish to chew. Catching flounder is a possibility, but the effort level is very low. Mark himself hasn’t targeted them in years (at least during this time of year.) He’s found them later on, in May and June (I believe he said), in deeper water outside the harbor. We had a long conversation about water quality and its pertinence to shellfish. Apparently, clams are getting more expensive, and harder to come by. Our surf/skimmer clams serve a huge market in China, and their population seems to be in a down spell. Shellfish in the bays, especially the scallops in the Peconics, are suffering immensely due to reasons not entirely understood. Warming waters could be the culprit. Increased development is definitely a big part of the problem, as it results in higher concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water, allowing harmful algal blooms to occur with ease. Our conversation on topic was a lot of doom and gloom, but we both remarked on the cleanliness of the water in Long Island Sound, and the ocean as of late. I chalked it up to east swells/winds pushing clean ocean water into the shore. Mark chimed in with the idea that bunker are filter feeders, and are assisting in the detox. Whatever it is, we are seeing a greater abundance and variety of fish life on these two fronts. Unfortunately, the higher up you go into the estuaries, the grosser the water gets, especially after some rain washes all the crud from lawns and streets into our local water bodies.
Jeff, at Whitewater Outfitters in Hampton Bays, says a couple of holdover bass are being caught here and there, typically in the back bays. A local bayman caught a striper in his seine net that had a striper riddled with sea lice. The canyon has been producing some small bluefin tuna lately. One guy had a few small ones, around 30 pounds maybe, and he brought another boatside that would’ve tipped the scale past 100 pounds. A flounder bite has not materialized, but it’s not out of the question.
Surf Guide Bill Wetzel of Surf Rats Ball received a few member reports from this week. Robert Yacoub broke the ice on the 5th while targeting the western Sound. Three fish hit that night, from 20-30 inches. A Sebile Magic Swimmer fooled the smaller one, and his 25 and 30 incher took a Fishaholic Swim Shad on a 3/4 ounce jig. Robert fished the same general area the following night through a twilight high tide. The place was packed with anglers, and rods were a’bending. Jon Auerbach confirmed that area’s bite just yesterday, pulling a chunky 25-inch bass on a black/silver hydro minnow. The fish were finicky.
Chris Albronda compiled some reports in Montauk, and they paint a much different picture than last week. The gannet/whale/tuna action is dissipating. There hasn’t been a lot of effort on the fishing front. There aren’t many boats in the water, and the surf fishing has been less than optimal. This is no surprise for so early in the season, and we’re all looking forward to big changes coming in the next two weeks!
Long Island Forecast
The great migration is underway! Gannets provided the main show. They gathered by the thousands all across the south shore of Long Island. I went to Montauk to observe a giant body of gannets dive-bombing the water from Camp Hero, all the way around the lighthouse, to Shagwong Point. Depending on when you were on the water, you stood a chance of witnessing whales on the move. If you spent enough time at the coast, you might have even seen some feeding not too far from shore. I caught a glimpse of one jumping clear out of the water two days ago. Later that day my boss hit me up, urging me to get my drone above a giant thresher shark that was using its scythe-like tail to slice and dice a big school of bunker on the outer bar. Whispers of tuna sightings rang westward across the south fork beaches.
The fishing front has really not changed much since last week. I started seeing some tog pictures, which is a new development. Flounder reports are lacking, and the main striper reports seem to be coming from New Jersey. Surf and kayak guys are hammering big bass down there. The western part of the Sound is also putting up some numbers of bass, although nothing serious size-wise has come up during my scuttlebutt.
Freshwater fishing has ramped up a bit. For some reason, I can’t buy a bite on the bigger baits anymore. I’m seeing big bass chase small creatures into the bank. Sometimes it’s a pretty lazy attack. I really don’t know what’s going on with that, but my luck changes tremendously when I opt for a smaller presentation. I have a ¾ inch Rapala that has caught some fun panfish; I even had a larger fish bend out the hook on that. Bluegill were especially hungry this past week, and man they are thick! I know I said last week that largemouth is my main game currently, but I’m not going to lament catching trophy gills! Carp have also been on the feed, but I just haven’t been able to convince them with anything artificial. Times are hard on the carp boulevard.
With the warm weather, we’re going to have a lot more creatures sprouting from the lake bottoms, and perhaps a higher variety of foods to emulate as a result. Hopefully, that’ll make the fish less scrutinizing.
I’ve been seeing a lot of keeper size fish in the saltwater lately. They all appear to be resident fish, as evidenced by their lack of sea lice. I expect the migrators to move in this week though. It’s possible I said the same thing last week, so take that with a grain of salt.
Fish choke points. I’m sure you know the drill: nighttime outgoing in the back bays. You want the sun to heat up the mudflats and mussel beds all day. When the incoming seawater lays upon that heated land, the water can jump up ten degrees or more! The fish we target will turn on once they’re warmed up.