Tom Schlichter Newsday columnist Tom Schlichter

Tom Schlichter writes the Outdoors column for Newsday.

“I think we should crank the engine and try another spot 15 minutes away,” said Marco DeStefano as he stowed his rod on the port side of the 306 Grady White he shares with a friend and asked us to do the same. “If we grind it out here we’ll probably drill another big fluke or two but I’ve got someplace I’d like to try as the tide changes. Maybe we’ll put more fillets in the cooler. ”

We had gotten off to a decent start while working the Cartwright Grounds south of Montauk Point. Fishing in 80-foot depths, DeStefano had iced a 7-pound fluke while Mike Owen of St. James, Warren Dennington of Miller Place and I creeled several sea bass to 3 pounds on bucktails tipped with spearing, fish strips and/or Berkley Gulp!

With plenty of bait in the water, the decision to leave was debatable. We were surrounded by bunker and pods of mackerel, plus a whale was keeping us entertained as it slowly circled through the baitfish schools. On the fish-finder, the bottom appeared to be covered with sea bass. Still, we all wondered if better luck awaited just a short move or two away.

It’s a dilemma anglers face frequently: Whether to leave a decent bite or fast action with small fish in the hope of a bigger pay-off. On Tuesday, our 34-year old captain made the right call. We back-tracked toward shallow water closer to shore and within minutes put a 5-pound mini-doormat in the cooler. One drift later a 4-pounder joined the ranks, as did three more solid keepers over the next hour.

“There’s no guarantee you win on that gamble,” said DeStefano as we headed back to Gone Fishing Marina around 1:30 p.m. “I usually like to exhaust the possibilities at one spot before trying another. I’ll drift in from a different angle, try to work over humps, ledges and structure on the bottom, and change baits and lures. If none of that works, I might still stay put if we’ve caught a big fish or two. The key is to weigh things out and see how many factors are in your favor for each spot. If another place obviously has more going for it, don’t hesitate to make the switch.”

Indeed, in this case the ebbing tide was slowing to a crawl at our first stop, the wind was pushing lightly against it which further slowed our drift, and the sea bass, although not altogether unwelcomed, were preventing the fluke from getting to our baits.

By comparison, the 39-foot depths we ran to offered a slightly quicker drift as the tide began to flood, the bottom had less structure and thus fewer sea bass, and there seemed to be an abundance of smaller bait around.

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“It also helped that I had a good day there two weeks ago,” said Marco as we pulled into Montauk Harbor. “I figured some of those fish were still hanging around.”

Hunting licenses on sale

Sporting licenses and deer management permits can be purchased at any of DEC’s license-issuing agents (www.dec.ny.gov/permits/95698.html), by telephone (866-933-2257) or online at www.decals.dec.ny.gov.

Hunting licenses are valid for one year beginning Sept. 1, 2017, while annual fishing licenses are valid 365 days from date of purchase. Email: outdoortom@optonline.net