Tom Schlichter Newsday columnist Tom Schlichter

Tom Schlichter writes the Outdoors column for Newsday.

Ever since “the breach,” the new inlet that opened during Superstorm Sandy along a wilderness section of Fire Island’s National Seashore across from Bellport, came into being anglers have been claiming that fishing in eastern Great South Bay between Smith’s Point Bridge and Heckscher State Park has been improving. It would be hard to argue against that point based on recent history.

Although the inlet is shallow and considered unnavigable by the Coast Guard, the past several summers have seen a nice influx of fluke and summer school weakfish inside bay waters adjacent to this stretch. For the past few springs, big blues and striped bass have followed schools of bunker into the area, and returned again each fall in numbers no one remembers ever being present this far back in the bay.

It’s hard to say if the bait and predator species come rushing though the new gap in the barrier island or if the flushing action of the breach has attracted some fish while also making the waters more inviting to predators entering from Moriches and Fire Island inlets. Either way, it’s pumped a lot of life back into the estuary here — much of it along the mainland shore where anglers can cast from local docks and bay beaches.

“We’ve seen stripers to 35 inches this week,” said Pablo Salinas of J & J Sports Centre in Patchogue. “Anglers are catching them right from the docks and beaches between Patchogue and West Sayville on popping plugs and teasers tied ahead of Hopkin’s tins. The best lures, however, have been swimbaits, which have also accounted for some nice bass at Shinnecock and Moriches inlets, and along the Fire Island’s ocean beaches.”

There have also been a fair number of surfcasters accessing the inlet from the Fire Island National Seashore (FINS) entrance at the east end of Smiths Point Park (permit required.) Some of these casters have tangled with even bigger bass weighing up to 35 pounds. Night tides and bottle plugs have been the best combination from this perspective.

Farther to the west, Dan Valentine from Comb’s Bait and Tackle in Amityville said striper fishing has been “solid” in South Oyster Bay as well. He got out this week to sample the fun and used live eels to score with several linesiders in the 15- to 20-pound class while drifting around the Meadowbrook Bridge and back into Massapequa Cove. Other anglers fishing this area have used Capt. Bill’s Rattling Poppers to pull similar sized bass from the State Channel and Wanser’s Cut.

While action inside the bays has been keeping the private boat crowd more than entertained, the South Shore open boat fleet has seen action pick up. At Captree, Capt. Ken Higgins of the Capt. Pride had been mixing it up with big bluefish and stripers. The stripers have been hot and cold but improving, especially on windy or chilly days. The blues were awesome, but the last trip for the bruisers was Thursday as Higgins plans to target sea bass once the offshore season in federal (EEZ) waters reopens on Saturday.

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“The bluefish really went out with a bang,” Higgins said. “On our last trip, Alex Sodokov of South Hempstead took the pool with a monster 26-pounder caught on a sardine.”

Email: outdoortom@optonline.net