Eastern Long Island Fishing Report- May 4, 2023

Opening day fluke produces keepers in numbers, jumbo porgies bite in the Peconics, and more chopper blues hit south shore bays and inlets.

Eastern Long Island Fishing Report

  • New striped bass regulations. Lots of bass (and some big ones) in the bays.
  • Solid opening day for fluke. Some 6-8 pound fish being taken out east.
  • Decent weakfish bite underway in the bays.
  • Awesome jumbo porgy bite in the Peconics.
  • Good amount of 8-10 pound blues present, with gators to the upper teens spread sparsely throughout the South Fork.

Captree Bait and Tackle reports:

“Russell got out on the local pier and caught a nice gorilla bluefish the other day. He was soaking a bunker chunk in the morning. Kyle weighed in a 5.4 pound fluke he caught aboard one of the local party boats yesterday morning.”

Bluefish from 8 to 10 pounds have invaded the south shore bays and inlets.

The Island Princess in Captree reports:

“We’re making our first fluke trip of the year tomorrow. On May 12, we’ll be sailing for striped bass and bluefish with light tackle. Order tickets online to reserve your spot: www.islandprincesscaptree.com.”

Bill at Chasing Tails Bait and Tackle in Oakdale reports:

“Wind and weather, the same old story. This week was a rough one, but not for the anglers who decided to brave the elements and head out. Stripers were chewing hard, all over the bunker and spearing clouds. SP Minnows, darters, bottle plugs and big swim baits were the go-to’s to battle the wind and match the local bait. Poppers were getting absolutely hammered by over-slot sized fish through the faces of waves. Speaking of slots, that’s all about to change by the start of July, when the ASMFC changes the regulations for striped bass to be 28”-31” slot. These regulation changes are listed as an emergency. Fluke season is open already, and some anglers are taking advantage. Stalking the flats armed with light tackle will have you on the fish in no time. Bounce a small jig head with your favorite soft plastic, or a bucktail jig for the hot bite.

This weekend looks like great weather to go hit a local lake or river for some freshwater fishing. Pickerel are out and about, stalking banks and structure for easy meals. They’re crushing swim baits, spinner baits, and in-line spinners. Trout are very active in the mornings, looking up for flies on the surface. Once they’re down for the morning, tie on some nymphs or a streamer for the best chance at an eat. Panfish like bluegills and yellow perch are out in big schools, slurping down worms like crazy and crushing small jigs, and in-line spinners.”

Bill Falco of Chasing Tails Bait and Tackle with a healthy striper he caught on the fly this week. (@fishlongisland)

Surfcasting guide Bernie Bass reports:

“There was a decent pick of fish throughout the entire week, despite some dirty water early and late in the week. I caught a bunch of small fish, with a few decent ones in the mix. It’ll only get better from here, and I’m hoping to find some big girls this week. S&S bucktails and fat cow jig strips have been getting the bites.”

Capt. Dave Flanagan of North Island Fly in Northport reports:

“I took a couple of the Rise Fishing boys on my skiff yesterday for a cloud-covered session in Stony Brook. I poled Tim and Steve around some flats, some deeper water, and some fast currents for a few hours around noon. The water was ultra clear (minus the pollen slicks downwind), and the outgoing tide produced some hungry schoolies that were feeding on medium-sized white presentations (think herring). In deeper water, we fished deep, although a topwater spook provoked a strike from maybe our biggest fish of the day. When the guys had their fill, I hopped on the bow to throw a few loops. A couple more schoolie bass came to my hand before we made our way back.”

Dave’s got big bass, fluke, bluefish and a worm hatch on the mind for the near future. Check out Dave’s website to book him for a charter at www.northislandfly.com.

Steve Bechard (left) of Rise Fishing Co. in Sag Harbor, with Dave Flanagan (right) of North Island Fly enjoying a great day targeting backwater bass on the fly.

The Celtic Quest Fishing Fleet of Jamesport reports: 

“We began our season this week by targeting tautog in some tough conditions. A cold east wind had shut down the bite for us, but not before we picked a few to bring home. The ones we did catch were pretty nice!

The porgy bite was insane a few days later. Some baits barely made it to the bottom before being inhaled by a jumbo scup. Yesterday was a little slower, but we still managed a full boat limit. We’re catching sea bass too, but releasing them as their season opens June 23.

We also picked some really solid weakfish yesterday. There’s a good variety of fish down there, so come join us to catch them!” Call them at 631-928-3926 for booking info, or check the website/Facebook for more info.

The Peconic Star of Greenport reports:

“We saw some big porgies this morning, but it was tough fishing. We were picking fluke and weakfish along with them, as usual. Scup weighed in to 3 pounds, and the weaks were sizable. For most of the week, it’s pretty much been a porgy massacre.” For booking info, call Captain Paul at 631-522-2002.

Rosie Fishing of Moriches Bay got out to pick a bunch of keeper fluke yesterday. There was reportedly a good amount of short life in the mix as well. They’re sailing pretty regularly at this point, so either just show up at the dock or give a call for booking info: 631-905-5829.

Ethan at Whitewater Outfitters in Hampton Bays reports:

“There is lots of life in the local back bays. Ponquogue bridge has been holding a good variety of life, and there seems to be lots of bass in our area. Guys have been doing a decent job in the early season spots. The canal has been pretty stacked with fluke. There are some weakfish and bass kicking around in there as well.

The Peconics are starting to light up with bass and blues. There are blues along the south side too, but it doesn’t seem like the numbers have been there yet. Most places hold the potential to turn on quickly right now. Nobody has weighed anything in yet, but we have been hearing reports of 6-8 pound weakfish and keeper fluke. There is tons of bait in the bay: lots of anchovies, bunker and spearing. There was even a worm hatch occurring last night.”

The Hampton Lady of Hampton Bays reports:

“We had a rough couple first days out, given the very strong winds. Chris G. picked our first fluke of the season, and Demitry Portnoy picked our biggest opening day fish, qualifying him for our ‘free season fishing pass.’ He’s in line to win our free giant tuna trip too, unless someone beats his 3.1 pound fluke before Monday’s end!

Justin G. picked our first 4-fish fluke limit of the season yesterday, in much better drifting conditions. We’re running a deal: if you fish 3 times in May, the 4th trip is free. Every Thursday is a captain’s choice trip, where we’ll target whatever is biting best. Tomorrow we’re back to fluking. Text Capt. James for reservations: 631-521-3366. We’re sailing 6am-2pm.”

The Hampton Lady got into a good mess of keeper fluke during opening week.

The Shinnecock Star in Hampton Bays reports:

“The fluke opener was a bit windy, but the fish were chewing real good! We filled buckets with porgies, and then finished up fluking in the skinny water.” They’re sailing out of Oaklands Marina daily from 7am-2pm. Text or call Capt. John for info : 631-728-4563.

Montauk’s Viking Fleet reports:

“We’ve been sailing out of Sag Harbor this week to target peconic porgies. The scup were good sized, and there were many limits around the boat. We also had some weakfish in the mix. Felipe from NJ took the pool with a 3 pound porgy. The next day, April 30, was even better. We had nicer weather and some double headers. Weakfish and sea bass couldn’t avoid our hooks either. Most anglers had no problem acquiring a limit or two.” Call the office to book at 631-668-5700, or book online at vikingfleet.com.

Chris Albronda from Montauk reports:

“It’s been another exciting week in Montauk. In the surf, there are striped bass of all sizes to be caught. Tere was one fish in the thirty pound range caught on a bucktail along the south side. There were some good bluefish mixed in with the stripers.

From the boat, the striped bass were available, chewing on plugs, metal and bucktails. In the deeper water, there were cod to be caught on opening day. Fluke was a blowout, and nobody really got out to Chris’ knowledge; the commercial guys did though, and they have been catching very good numbers on the south side. The fish are here. We’re right on track with last year, and the fishing season is certainly shaping up to be an epic one.” Give Chris a call at 631-830-3881 to book an awesome light tackle fishing adventure.

Bill Wetzel of the Surf Rats Ball reports:

“Rob fished the western north shore for three nights in a row at the beginning of this month. He worked the top of the incoming mainly. The water was very clear on all three nights, and he picked schoolies from 20-28 inches on a blurple hydro minnow. The fish didn’t seem to want anything else. The magic swimmer was the only other lure that produced, hooking one small fish and one larger fish.” Subscribe today at www.longislandsurffishing.com.

Eastern Long Island Fishing Forecast

If you haven’t heard by now, the ASMFC employed an emergency action to protect the striped bass population. The new slot size is now 28-31 inches, rather than 28-35 inches.

Long story short, the last good striper spawn occurred in 2015. Since then, relatively few stripers have been born. The 2015 class is now in the “slot range,” legal to harvest. Last year’s harvest was historic, with a tremendous amount of fish killed, more than anybody could have predicted. If stripers were to experience another similar harvest, the “slot-size” population would start to look pretty slim. There are a decent amount of over-slot fish in the water, available to recreationally catch and release. Hopefully those big breeders will provide some good spawns in coming years. I think relying on hope to rebuild this striper population is a fool’s errand though. Preventive measures should’ve been considered and implemented long ago. 

I’m not trying to sound like Captain Hindsight here. I’m just still not happy with the ASMFC. In my mind, they’re a day late and a dollar short, and this revised slot is not enough. NY commercial harvest allows the take of striped bass to 38 inches. I’m not too privy to all the details, but apparently the Chesapeake Bay regulations have not changed, and there is still a trophy season down South, where they try to target and kill the biggest striped bass (which produce the most eggs). Maryland’s government website says: “anglers may keep one striped bass per day from May 1-15, with a minimum size of 35 inches.” One should never expect change from the government overnight, but I hope the ASMFC is working this very second to fix the problem they created. Whether you call it regulating, penalizing, or tightening restrictions, if it’s only happening to one demographic (northern rec anglers), then the measure just feels like virtue signaling. If the idea is to create good spawns, then you need to legitimately protect the fish that can spawn. It’s not rocket science. 

That said, I appreciate the complexity regulators must deal with, and I appreciate them taking SOME form of action. Lots of folks currently depend on legally harvesting these fish to make their money. I’d happily never harvest a striper again to support a healthy fishery; but I’m not everyone, and the board needs to consider all interested parties.

Personally, I just think there should never be any question that our striped bass fishery is thriving. This is one of the most economically important finfish on our coast. Letting them fail would be economically devastating. The fact that regulations forced us into this dire situation is extremely concerning.

Rant over.

Last week I said the consistent cruddy weather might produce a good fishing situation. I only did okay. Granted, I focused primarily on fly fishing this week, so I’m basically preventing myself from catching any “easy” fish. I can’t cast my fly as far as spin gear can cast a lure; I can’t stay as tight to my fly, it’s harder to feel a bite, it’s harder to set a hook well, and I get way fewer casts off in a typical session. That’s fine with me, as I’m not doing it because it’s easy. I love the challenge; plus I still catch fish, and go home feeling accomplished when I do; even when I get skunked, I can still say that I’ve learned something. For me that’s what fishing is all about, the learning process. I think I caught 5 bass this week, and I didn’t find any of the bluefish I was after. I enjoyed every minute though.

The ocean was huge for pretty much this whole week. I hardly bothered fishing in it. Although the surf was big and brown, I found very clear water in the back bays on most tides. That in itself is an enormous treat. It can provide sight fishing opportunities, and allow you to see what  bait is in the water. Two nights ago I was able to watch a fish swim right by my feet at midnight under the moonlight.

This week I saw a ton of spearing and a good amount of crabs, so I primarily imitated those baits. I did see some ospreys carrying bunker and fluke, so I tossed some big stuff too. Far out of my casting range, I saw bass blitzing on spearing. Watching those fish from my drone would scratch the itch. Bluefish blitzes also occurred. Chris Albronda told me about one out east: “it was amazing what I saw there today, close to 800 fish between 10-15 pounds feeding on the surface.” Chris and his cronies caught over 20 gators in an hour.

I heard a lot of slurping and popping at night this week, and I saw a bunch of fish swirling on the surface yesterday. I reckon it was mostly spearing getting popped and worms getting slurped. Stephen and Justin were out last night and stumbled upon a worm hatch. The chorus of bass feeding on the surface was unmistakable. Early on, they each hooked a number of fish, but couldn’t get them to the bank. Once the tide began ripping, the fish really put on the feed, but paid no attention to my friends’ offerings anymore. Although they didn’t actually see the worms, it definitely sounded like a worm bite; Ethan from Whitewater was also out late night, not too far away, and he did see the worms. To his knowledge, it’s a bit early for a worm hatch, but given how early everything else seems to be occurring, he wasn’t too surprised to see them. Worm hatches are famous for occurring on the night of the moon… I wouldn’t be surprised if similar bites occurred on the nicer evenings this coming week. If it’s not worms, it could be shrimp or crabs, or lord knows what.

Yesterday I got out with a couple super fishy fly anglers, Steve Bechard and our Captain for the day, Dave Flanagan. Dave piloted us around Stony Brook midday to look for bass. We found them quickly in the shallows, roiling up the surface, sipping spearing. Of course they bailed as soon as we entered the vicinity. We ran over to some deeper water near the bank. Dave took his first cast and got nailed. A couple casts later, he connected with a small bass. That’s all we needed to break the ice, and the bite was pretty much on the rest of the session. We hit more deep water, outflows, grass beds and flats. There was spearing everywhere, and plenty of bass. The cloudy skies made it difficult to sight fish, even with the crystal clear water. We managed to pick a few fish each within a few hours. The fish were chewing pretty well in the fast water once the tide got moving.

On the way home, I popped by my local flats. The tide was right and the water was clear, so I figured I’d try some casts, and maybe get some cool drone footage. The clear water made for a beautiful shot, so I let the drone hang out up there while I fly casted. I wasn’t really expecting to catch, but it only took about ten minutes to connect with a keeper bass. It ate a Holy Moley, twitched along the bottom near the bank.

This bass struck a Holy Moley fly in some crystal- clear backwaters after a great day of fishing to the west.

When I reviewed the footage, I noticed there was a decent amount of fish swimming around in my frame. It felt barren to me in the moment, and I felt lucky to get that one fish. Ignorance is bliss though, as now I’m feeling pretty lame that there were so many fish and (a) I didn’t see them and (b) they wanted nothing to do with my offerings.

We’re looking at sunny days in the sixties this weekend. My typical equation for those days in the past is to allow the sun to heat up the mud flats during the day; look for an outgoing tide that begins shortly after sunset; target choke points specifically. 

I’m thinking I might just spend a little bit more time on the flats than I do in the chokes though. The fish were definitely there, and there were definitely some decent ones.

That’s my two cents.

Whatever you’re up to, enjoy, learn, and conserve! Thanks for reading.

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