Tom Schlichter Newsday columnist Tom Schlichter

Tom Schlichter writes the Outdoors column for Newsday.

Capt. Ray Peres looked at his side scan sonar and smiled. “I feel good about this little wreck,” he said, “and the outgoing tide is perfect right now.”

For Peres and the crew enjoying a busman’s holiday aboard the Northport charterboat Freedom, hard work was about to pay off. With warm water and stiff winds from the East, the opening of blackfish season on Wednesday was proving challenging. While we had a steady pick of shorts throughout the morning, keepers had been elusive. Fortunately, our skipper had an endless supply of bottom structure to sample within the confines of Northport Bay.

“I’m in!” shouted Capt. John Stephens of Huntington, who runs Sound Charters, also out of Northport. “Me, too,” called out Capt. Bob Prinzo a Northport resident who occasionally stands in for Perez aboard the Freedom. Also on board setting their hooks were blackfish sharpies Mark Boccaccio of West Islip and Steven Stabile of Northport.

It was fast fishing for 40 minutes or so, allowing everyone on board to ice a keeper and toss back several more shorts before the bite relaxed. In addition to one for the box and several toss backs, I had three fish that collectively missed the 16-inch minimum size by three-quarters of an inch!

One topic of conversation on many blackfish trips these days is whether jigs or plain crab baits work best. To find out which really has the edge, Prinzo dropped his green crabs to the sea floor on a traditional double-hook bottom rig as the rest of us tipped blackfish jigs with green crab quarters. In the end, it was Prinzo with two keepers and everyone else tied at one.

“The most important thing about blackfishing early in October,” advised Peres on the way home, “is to move around and keep searching. Often they’ll be in just 12 to 15 feet of water here on the North Shore. Today, though, we found them in 24-foot depths.”

That may sound like simplistic advice, but it’s spot on for blackfishing. It also clearly illustrates the importance of having a seasoned skipper in the wheelhouse.

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“The more wrecks in your log book,” concluded Peres, “the better your odds.”

More water woes

In a recent column I discussed Long Island’s serious water woes. Of course, we aren’t alone when it comes to such problems. There’s a water war raging right now that threatens to destroy one of the favorite winter fishing destinations for local anglers: Florida Bay and The Everglades.

“Big sugar companies long ago purchased large blocks of land south of Lake Okeechobee,” explains saltwater fly-fishing legend Sandy Moret. “Over the decades, they’ve diverted the flow of freshwater so it no longer replenishes the vast sea grass beds and fish nurseries on these famous flats.”

The end result, claims Moret, is grass beds in Florida Bay and the Everglades are dying at an alarming rate and game fish numbers are on the decline.

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“Florida’s government has done little to help,” continues Moret. “If you fish or visit here in the colder months, we could sure use your support. Most people think locally when it comes to protecting the water but it really is a global issue.”

You can get additional details at bullsugar.org, and sign a petition of support for a plan to save these fabled waters at gladesdeclaration.org.

Email: outdoortom@optonline.net