Long Island and NYC Fishing Report- February 23, 2023

A few boats are going out for cod, but most anglers are finding good fishing for bass, crappie, perch and carp in the freshwater ponds and brackish estuaries.

It’s been a while! How goes it Long Islanders? Winter is always a tough time to find reliable fishing, but there are still plenty of anglers out there prying the ponds between the East and West ends to keep things interesting, and if nothing else, remain active.

Winter fishing isn’t really about finding trophy fish or getting on a ridiculous bite, but is moreso about keeping the juices flowing. Personally, I can’t imagine not making a cast for 3 months of the year. I’ve done it before, and I don’t want to do it again. Maybe you need a month or two to rest and focus on other things after 8 to 9 months of fishing, but if making that first cast for spring stripers feels foreign after months of not fishing, I implore you to just take a drive to your local pond and toss around a spoon or a spinner. You might pick up a new winter hobby.

There’s a fair amount of ground to cover in this report, considering we took a month hiatus; and despite the slow fishing that is often associated with winter on Long Island, lot’s has happened over the course of nearly 4 weeks.

For starters, in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Lake, where urban anglers catch some surprisingly nice largemouth bass during the spring and summer months, a 4 and a half-foot-long alligator was pulled from the water last weekend. I wouldn’t say the gator was emaciated, but it was certainly not in good health, and was likely cold shocked. If you’ve got exotic fish or other pets that are not native to the area, find another way to release them without endangering the animal, the public and (not to be selfish), a good bass fishery!

Speaking of largemouth bass, there’s been an uptick in bass activity for freshwater anglers across the island. Even smallmouth bass have been chewing on occasion through these mild temperatures. On top of bass fishing, there’s good trout fishing in the rivers and holdover trout biting well in the ponds, decent walleye fishing at night, and whispers of holdover stripers being caught to the west. Here’s what some of our local shops— and some of my actively angling friends— have to report on Long Island fishing this month:

Bill Falco at Chasing Tails Bait and Tackle in Oakdale reports:

“Fishing here on the island is starting to slowly shift from winter mode to spring mode. Fish are hungry and starting to get active! The lakes are alive with largemouth bass, yellow perch, pickerel, smallmouth bass, walleye, and trout in the few lakes that are stocked.

The largemouth and smallmouth bass are feeding a little more actively; they love slow-moving stuff on the bottom but will attack a pesky baitfish imitation when presented higher in the water column. The pickerel are chasing anything shiny around ravenously. Yellow perch are schooled up tight, and they can be caught easily with a small in-line spinner or soft-plastic jig. Trout will hit those same lures, as they will be hunting the banks for easy meals. If you want to catch some walters (walleye), head out late with something white on the end of your line and hold on! Some mondo fish have been creeping around at night already.

In the saltwater, most anglers are happy targeting white perch and resident schoolie striped bass, all on ultralight gear, with small paddletail and split-tail jigs being the go-to. Spring is right around the corner and things are looking real good!”

Bill Falco caught this beautiful rainbow trout during a short road trip north of Long Island last week. (@fishlongisland)
Trout by day, bass by night. Bill Falco shared this picture of a nighttime largemouth he caught on the fly after a few days of warm weather heated up the local pond. (@fishlongisland)

From the east end in Montauk, Captain Chris Albronda (@montauk_fishing) reports:

“February has been an interesting month. The walleye have been very cooperative out here, with jerkbaits being the key to success. On small deer hair jigs, you can find white perch, yellow perch, largemouth and walleye. On the warmest days, the bass fishing has been great. There were even a few smallmouth to be caught this month.”

Chris Albronda caught this walleye on a jerkbait after dusk. They come in shallow at night to feed by pinning small schools of baitfish against the shoreline. (@montauk_fishing)

A good walleye bite is a good time, because honestly, what isn’t fun about fishing at night? These guys will entertain eager surfcasters all spring before the bass arrive.

Chris Albronda caught this white perch on a sparsely-tied lightweight hair jig. These little panfish are a ton of fun with ultralight tackle. (@montauk_fishing)

White perch are the best. They are prolific spawners, they move in schools, they’re typically pretty aggressive, they taste great, and they can be found in freshwater or brackish water. Bring a tackle box of goodies if you plan to target them this winter or spring, because they’ll hit a wide variety of lures including: inline spinners, marabou hair jigs, small bucktail jigs, small lipless crankbaits, floating jerkbaits, curly-tail grubs, 2- to 3-inch paddletails, flies and more.

From wherever the fish are biting, Derek Monfort (@derek_sucks_at_fishing) reports some great fishing across central and eastern Long Island ponds. Derek has seen steady action from black crappie, walleye, largemouth bass, pickerel, and more recently, smallmouth bass. Although at times he’s been driving long distances to find good fishing, Derek reported the most consistent action during warm and sunny conditions, especially when throwing Rapala Shadow Rap Shad jerkbaits. These slow-rising, long-casting jerkbaits excel at diving deep in open water environments and easily rip through whisps of winter vegetation to bring fish out of the weeds.

Under sunny skies, Derek Monfort (@derek_sucks_at_fishing) caught quality back to back smallmouth bass last week. These fish are becoming more active with each passing week.

When the bass aren’t crushing his jerkbaits, Derek has been met with some slab black crappie on the end of his line. It’s good to see healthy crappie of this size remaining active through the winter months.

Slow-rising and suspending jerkbaits are cold-water killers for a multitude of other freshwater species, including bass, pickerel and walleye. (@derek_sucks_at_fishing)

Find some open water with a little bit of depth, ideally 5 to 10 feet, and cast around weeds, grasses, timber and areas of changing bottom composition to boost your chances at hooking up to bass or crappie.

Fishing along the north shore and between western/central Long Island, my buddy Sean Conway (@long_island_fishing_guy) has dialed into a holdover brown trout bite during the day. Sean, too has been fishing primarily with jerkbaits, and the browns have been taking a liking to them in the ponds and select rivers where they are stocked.

This holdover brown trout was likely stocked in the fall, or even the spring of 2022. Sean reported that he had them slamming both jerkbaits and Kastmasters. (@long_island_fishing_guy)

When the daytime bite hasn’t produced, Sean has been our searching for walleye in shallow water at night. For weeks, he reported painfully slow nights in chilly conditions with nothing to show for the time and effort, but after last week’s mild weather, the feeding flip switched. Sean hooked into a few surprisingly fat walleye while casting a yellow perch-colored Shadow Rap Shad jerkbait. During the same outing, he tried throwing a 3.5-inch Slam Shady Z-Man paddletail onto a Z-Man Willow Vibe bladed jighead and ended up with a surprise smallmouth bass.

Sean Conway caught this fat walleye while casting Rapala jerkbaits over rocky structure from shore.(@long_island_fishing_guy)

As if fishing with jerkbaits wasn’t already the ticket to successful fishing in February, I received a unique report from Anthony Bjelke (@anthonybjelke_fishing) who has been catching carp and white perch side by side recently; strangely enough, he got a couple of carp to eat jerkbaits!

Anthony Bjelke shared this photo of a beautiful common carp he caught on a Rapala X-Rap earlier in the month. (@anthonybjelke_fishing)

Anthony attributes that uncharacteristically aggressive behavior from carp to the fact that they were spawning. He said a few of them were hitting marabou hair jigs at first, and when he switched to the X-Rap, carp were waking on it, and either taking a swipe or tail whacking it. Anthony also reported some phenomenal white perch fishing, catching up to 60 perch at a time as schools of them chewed voraciously on small forage in the river.

White perch present a fun light tackle fishery in the brackish areas of some south shore rivers, but they also are available in select lakes across the island and can bring fast action to an otherwise slow day of fishing. If you have a kayak equipped with a fishfinder, you’ll have no problem marking large schools of perch.

Paul McCain at River Bay Outfitters in Baldwin reports:

“I’ve been guiding a lot recently on the Connetquot and it’s been really good. We’ve had a steady winter of good trout fishing there, which is not always guaranteed. On Sunday, I had a great day on the river with a client; we were fishing with foam ant flies again and we couldn’t miss. When flows are up and the water is moving, the terrestrial flies are a good choice because those bugs are often swept out of the loose, wet soil along the riverbank. Other than that, there’s been a good run of white perch in the brackish water, although they can be tough to figure out. It’s all tidal; they move in with the tide and out with the tide, so watch the tide tables closely. The freshwater ponds are also fishing well for some good sized pickerel since it has been so mild, and there’s lots of good holdover trout fishing in the ponds too. As far as saltwater goes, I was driving down Ocean Parkway this week when I happened to look out at the water on the bayside and I noticed fish breaking on the surface with birds diving on them. After speaking to a couple of friends, it turns out there have been a few other sightings of what we believe are very small stripers in the bays. They probably hunkered down here all winter, but it’s good to see activity like that because it makes you hopeful for spring.”

Point Lookout’s Super Hawk has been running special offshore trips all winter long. If you want to catch cod, these are the trips for you. On Saturday and Sunday this weekend, the Super Hawk is sailing for a special 5 a.m. cod trip and a 1 a.m. offshore wreck trip, respectively. These trips are open to jumbo scup, pollock, cod, ling and more, so if you’ve got an appetite for fresh fish after a winter of frozen fillets, call the office to reserve ahead (516) 607-3004 .

The Super Hawk shared this photo of a couple nice cod caught during one of their recent offshore wreck trips.

Brandon Weitz from Causeway Bait and Tackle in Wantagh reports:

“I’ve been hitting a few different lakes and catching a lot of carp recently. They’re just a lot of fun because of how hard they pull, and recently, mu buddy Chris caught a big mirror carp which was cool. First mirror carp we’ve seen out of all the ponds we’ve been fishing. Otherwise, the freshwater bass bite has been decent in the ponds too. At this point, most of us are looking forward to striped bass season and thinking of putting boats in soon since it’s been so mild this winter. The north shore striper bite starts in March on the west end, but it’s a tough bite to figure out as the bass are usually early arrivals and there’s not a ton of bait around; once you find access, you’ve got to then find the fish, and it’s challenging but it is an option for eager surfcasters.”

Brandon Weitz at Causeway B&T shared this photo of a big mirror carp his friend Chris caught in a small pond. Common carp are a standard catch, but this is the first mirror carp either of them had caught on Long Island. (@bweitz1)

Long Island and NYC Fishing Forecast

Hopefully we don’t see any more alligators in these fishing reports.

As we continue to wait for sustained spring weather, all of the species we covered in this report will remain active and in most cases, the fishing will only get better. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are already on the prowl, with a lot of the action coming around dusk or after dark. However, don’t wait for the sun to drop if the conditions are warm and sunny. Try casting different types of jerkbaits around your local bass or trout pond to see what’s swimming around; you might learn something new about the depth and structure in the pond nearest to your home, or catch something completely unexpected.

The spring trout stocking will bring new life (and crowds) to ponds across the island. While the fishing can be fast and exciting after the stocking truck dumps several hundred brown trout, I find it’s best to avoid these crowds and pursue other fish until the “hot bite” cools down a bit.

I know where I’ll be fishing on my next visit to see family at home on Long Island: catch me at the walleye ponds. I constantly hear about how boring some fishermen find these fish; when it comes to pulling drag, yes they are sluggish. But the initial strike from walleye is usually aggressive, and the subsequent head shakes are where they’ll challenge you most. Once hooked, it feels like you’re reeling in a tree branch with all the dead weight, so be sure not to pump the rod. I have lost some big walleye to head shakes by pumping the rod and dragging them up to the surface where they shake free. Play them low and find appreciation in their stealthy, shallow-water hunting style rather than how they fight. After all, this bite peaks in the spring and is mostly exciting because it gives striper fishermen a reason to go out fishing at night before the striper pursuit begins to eat up our time.

It may seem far off, but the saltwater fishing season is on the horizon. Tautog season opens on April 1, a week and one month from today, with the striped bass season opener close behind (April 15). In years past, my first stripers of the year have always come in late March or early April by fishing deep in the back bays at night, so if you are a strictly catch-and-release striper fisherman, you can expect striped bass activity to increase over the next month. Fishing with small soft plastic jigs around river mouths and warm-water discharges from shallow, tidal creeks will prove most productive until the larger bodies of migratory fish move in. I will say, after hearing what Paul McCain reported about fish breaking in the bay, I’m hoping it’s a good omen for a great spring run of stripers.

If you’d like to contribute to our fishing reports for the remainder of the winter, contact me via email (mhaeffner@onthewater.com) or via Instagram (@hefftyfishing) with a couple photos and a sentence or two about your experience on the water. I look forward to hearing from you all. We’ll be doing another in-depth check in sometime in mid- to late-March, so stay positive through the winter doldrums and keep fishing! Until next time, friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *