(Above) An April weakfish I caught during a night on the water this week.
Long Island Fishing Report
This is the earliest spring migration I’ve experienced. Surf 40s out east and out west. Slot stripers caught all over the island in the bays and surf.
Big/giant weakfish arrive early. Slab porgy bite begins.
April bluefish arrive on the east end.
Bay Park Fishing Station in Oceanside reports:
Lloyd Malsin of “Nansea II” got into some great bassing to the west with a 6 pack last Thursday. They kept six stripers and released six. Mojos culled the larger fish, with some shorts more partial towards the flutter spoons. They left the dock around noon and got back by 4pm. Lloyd and crew got back out a few days later on Saturday morning. Another great morning of striper fishing produced another limit, with 4 fish released. We also picked a dozen ling before the wind arose. Targeting blackfish afterwards resulted in a bunch of short tog and a couple cod.
The Captain Lou Fleet in Freeport will be running their first whale watching trip on May 22. This weekend they’re targeting golden tilefish at the canyons; the trip leaves Friday night at 10pm, and returns about 24 hours later on Saturday night. Their first fluke trip will be May 4th, when the season opens. Book with them at their website: www.captloufleet.com.
Point Lookout’s Superhawk is sailing some of their final trips for blackfish this weekend. Trips leave at 6am and return at about 4:30pm. Spring tog season closes on May 1, so get it in while you can! They’ve been biting well lately. Call today to make a reservation: 516-607-3004.
The Celtic Quest Fishing Fleet of Jamesport will be sailing their first trip this Saturday to target big porgies. They’re already sold out for that trip and Sunday, but have plenty of room available during the week to get on the water.
Captree’s Laura Lee begins running night striper trips this Friday. They stayed off the water for most of this week due to high winds. Solid fishing preceded the weekend on Thursday, with 15 anglers catching 38 cod, 12 tog, 91 dogfish and 44 cunner. The next day saw a similar catch, with 32 cod, 13 tog, 140 dogfish, 24 cunner and 1 silver eel coming over the rail. Fishing tapered off as the weekend progressed. Saturday’s trip saw 8 cod, 4 rod, 3 ling, 52 dogfish, 21 cunner and three sea bass. Sunday was the slowest day, producing two tog, 17 cod, one flounder and 50 dogfish.
Chris Albronda gave me the goods on Montauk: The micro-sized striped bass have invaded the south shore of Montauk. Surf anglers from town to Ditch are hooking up on teaser rigs. There’s a ton of bait in the water, but we still have a ways to go before the fishing really starts heating up out here. Out in the deep, tautog and cod are on the feed. If you get a day without strong winds, you can put a decent catch together if you head in the right direction.
On Tuesday, Chris got out on the “Reel Addiction” and pulled an eight pound bluefish from 12 feet of water. The bluefish gave its all to spit the hook, but the Deadly Dick held fast. That is the first time in 25 years of fishing Montauk that Chris caught a bluefish before May!
Bill Wetzel of the Surf Rats Ball fished Friday after some hard winds subsided. He and Steven hopped around he north shore looking for stripes, but only managed one hit. The next night he and Rob hit the same area for a total different situation. Right off the bat, Rob picked a nice mid-teen bass on a Mantis plug. 8 or 9 more fish followed after that, mostly on darters. Once they ditched that spot, the bite stopped. A few nights ago, Bill returned to the western north shore with Andrew S. The water was a bit cold, and filled with grass shrimp and spearing. Darters enticed a half dozen bass, and a green SP minnow picked another. Just like the other two nights, they had to hop around. Despite the handful of fish at one spot, the guys weren’t able to find any consistency and called it at midnight.
Bruce sent in a report after hitting his favorite estuary over the weekend. He skunked there, but ran towards the inlet hoping for redemption. After working the strike zone, he began to sprint his whip-it fish in from the deeper water; a 30 inch bass broken the silence and exploded on his jig a rod’s length from him. Besides that, Bruce has been getting into a lot of short bass on the south shore between 14-18 inches.
Chris hit a backbay on western LI last Thursday on the outgoing tide. Despite the dirty water, Chris picked about 10 fish from 20-26 inches on a chicken scratch minnow plug. One larger-feeling fish bent his treble hook out.
Robert fished the western north shore this Monday night, for the beginning of the drop. A light wind and clear water had the fish biting. Robert picked one bass in the slot about an hour in; the fish took a blurple mag darter. Jon was with him, and picked a slightly smaller fish on a black darter. They saw no bait, which surprised Rob given the abundance of local bunker last year.
Steven F. targeted the waters between Oyster Bay and Huntington on Tuesday night during sunset. The incoming tide had a bit of weed in it, but not enough to deter him or the fish. After two miles of hiking, he tallied 5 short stripers to 24 inches on bucktails and soft plastics. Subscribe today at www.longislandsurffishing.com.
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Long Island Fishing Forecast
Oh what a week it was!
The striper migration is a tough topic to understand. Even after ten years of diligently following this migration, I can never accurately guess who will show up and where and when.
There’s a bunch of “early season spots” where we all tend to target and catch our first migratory striper of the season. The spots are very reliable to do just that. Many anglers head to the backbay estuaries to find shorts in April. Fishermen in Nassau run quick trips to the north shore to target large bass; other guys travel many miles to catch what may be their biggest bass of the season there. Being totally averse to travel and a big fan of ample rest, I target my local waters and take skunks until I either find bass or they show up. Intercepting the first wave of migrants to reach my waters was always a primary concern, probably some misguided pride thing. I definitely wanted to beat my friends to it; and there’s this everlasting uncertainty that’s impossible for a striper addict to ignore, an irresistible urge suggesting “there could be something huge waiting there for me.”
You go so often and you learn so much that you develop these “laws,” for lack of a better word. It’s impossible not to come up with these algorithms, expectations and truths when we’ve experienced them firsthand, year in and year out. Then, once you think you have it figured out, the fish change it up for you. Stripers defy expectations like clockwork.
Over the years, most of my first migratory bass have been short, silvery fish pulled from the suds. They don’t always show in the ocean first though, so I’ll head to the backbays where the water’s a bit warmer and the bait’s more abundant. My most reliable spot is just that for many people, so I can expect to have company when I go. Therefore, I typically opt for the spaciousness and solitude that the sand beach surf supplies.
Sometimes I find the hot stuff right out of the gates. Sometimes a friend points me in the right direction. Luckily, I have some very good friends who are very good surfcasters. They’ve been on bass for a couple weeks now. This year’s start was unlike any other I’ve experienced.
On their first day in the surf, my friends were catching good bass up to and over 35 inches. The bite remained somewhat consistent after that, although a wave of smaller fish moved in and took over. We imagined these were the first migratory fish to arrive. The bigger fish on day one gave way to hordes of smaller bass the following week, still in the keeper class.
Then, one day this week, my friend Orson was fishing some sweet structure on the open beach. The session was solid, resulting in a number of stripers to about keeper size. As he was dragging his mag darter through the whitewater, a large tail appeared and slapped his lure right at the beach lip. Orson barely saw the smack, but set the hook instinctively when he felt it. Something huge took off. The fish was fighting very abnormally, and it felt more like a shark than a bass… a big shark. That’d be weird for this early, though, no?
After a quick tug of war, he had a 40+ pound striper laying at his feet. The fish hooked itself in the tail when it smacked Orson’s lure. A bystander snapped a quick pic before Orson sent her on her way, and many minds were blown by the report.
I have never heard of an ocean-caught striper anywhere NEAR that size in April.
What does it even mean?! Is a bigger class of fish migrating early? Had some larger holdovers already made their way to the oceanfront?
Lord knows. When an anomaly occurs, I look for signs to explain it. All the signs I’ve seen suggest we’re experiencing an early migration this year. The fish seem to be arriving approximately one moon phase early this year.
The signs I’m talking about are the early arrivals of other fish. Weakfish have been getting caught in a variety of spots this week, in the bays and in the surf. I even heard whispers of one weakfish in the low teens, a true tiderunner. I picked one myself in the bay, only about 7 pounds. That fish would’ve blown my mind the last couple years, but I’ve grown accustomed to these larger squeteague. What was weird to me is the fact that they’re here chewing in April. I’ve never seen one earlier than the first week of May, so that’s a pleasant surprise.
Furthermore, the first few bluefish I heard of were caught this week on the east end. I am used to seeing those yellow eyed demons in mid-May! Carl Nigro picked one from shore somewhere on the eastern forks, and Chris Albronda picked one from the roiling waters off Montauk Point.
I’m a little excited and a little nervous about this. I usually get to pluck some bass from the flats before any blues arrive. Once the gators are in, they threaten to chop off my crab and shrimp flies if they’re too visible. It’s always fun to pick bigger bass from shallow water, and it’s never fun losing flies that take way too much time to tie. That being said, bluefish are one of my favorite fish, so I’m happy to see them back in my water. I’ll deal with the cut-offs.
Again, Lord knows why these fish species are showing up so early in our waters. Perhaps the bait got an early move-on. The weather hasn’t been very nice, and the water isn’t unseasonably warm. There is only one other anomaly I’m seeing, and I feel it may be relevant. So, here comes a hypothesis. Take it with a grain of salt, because it feels like I’m making 2+2=5.
There’s been a prevalent east wind this week, and an east swell accompanying it. Water is being pushed into our shore from the open ocean, creating long-period swells that saturate the local structure. The result is deep bowls on the shore getting filled to over-capacity. The resulting rip currents look phenomenal. On my beaches, which were seemingly devoid of great structure 2-3 weeks ago, every single trough and bowl looks unbelievably fishy. Granted, the structure isn’t always holding fish; but the surf bite has remained pretty consistent, more so than years past.
Perhaps any fish migrating offshore understand this. Stripers love big currents, so maybe they pushed the migrating bait into the surf to capitalize on big currents creating a feeding opportunity. Maybe the east swell was pushing some warmer water into the coast; that typically happens in the summer when the Gulf Stream is nearer our shores.
The reason I think the swell direction is actually relevant is because of my summer experiences. When the east swells occur, clear water comes in from offshore. The coast often becomes riddled with a variety of jellyfish species. These conditions regularly produce the coolest action I see throughout the year. First off, the water is so clear that I can see probably 15-20 feet underwater from my drone, making for some great filming opportunities. That, coupled with the fact that east swells push pelagic species inshore, provide me with the coolest footage I get annually. Tunas come close to the beach on east swells. I see offshore species like marlin, king macks, bluefin and yellowfin tunas, and sharks make appearances inside the outer bar.
One time, I was watching my brother surf as I casted huge poppers into the gin-clear, mountainous waves. I was seeing schools of bluefish run excitedly through the wave faces. I didn’t hook any, but I’d consider it a success if I even landed my lure near them. When my brother got out of the water, he described some giant fish he was seeing in the water chasing those bluefish. It sounded to me like he had been surfing with some Allison yellowfin tuna.
East swells make weird stuff happen. It’s been the prevailing conditions all week, and all this weird stuff is happening. So that’s why I’m connecting the two.
Who the heck knows? I’m just happy there’s some excellent fishing to be had right now. Right around this moon, I guarantee you some big stripers are going to come from the bays. We’ve got about 5 more nights for that to happen: 2 days til the new moon, and then the three days following will have the most intense tides. Should the east swell subside, those tides will be slightly less substantial.
This week, I’m hoping for the swell to remain, especially for the moon tides. More swell = more current = better chance for bigger bass. If the swell stops, I’ll make sure I’m out there if there’s any storm swell. The next week is looking somewhat tame though. I see some rain forecasted for Monday. There’s strong northwest winds going into the weekend, but the temperature stays in the 40s and 50s apparently.
I’d keep my eyes on the tides. Right now I want a sunny day to heat the flats at low tide. I’d love a rising tide to cap out around sunset. You bet your butt I’ll be fishing that outgoing at night. A warm influx of water might cause some hatches, like worms or crabs, that will be sucked from the mud flats into the inescapable outgoing currents. The fish will be there waiting.
I had a solid striper in these circumstances last year, and I think it was during the same week. It was about 25 pounds. I’m looking for a repeat!
Make sure you get out for this moon phase. If you can’t, worry not. This season is going extremely well for most people I keep in touch with. I’d say it’s going pretty well for me too! I expect the great fishing to continue this week.