Tom Schlichter writes the Outdoors column for Newsday.
It's late August and some local anglers are beginning to anticipate Long Island's fabulous fall fishing extravaganza. With cooler nights, baitfish are schooling tighter and predators are feeding with more urgency. Before the fall blitz arrives over the coming weeks, there is still some fine late-summer mixed-bag action to enjoy -- and it's hitting full stride now.
"Porgy action is heating up again," said captain Desmond O'Sullivan of the Port Jefferson open boat, Celtic Quest. "We've been making deep-water drops on the Middle Grounds and also fishing in shallower water off Oldfield Point. There's a pleasant mix of scup sizes including true jumbos to three pounds. We are also pulling some sea bass, fluke, bluefish and stripers."
To the east, captain Bob Ceglowski of the Mattituck-based Captain Bob Fleet termed recent fishing action "Outrageous!" He's been mixing it up with porgies to 19 inches, plus sea bass, blues and quality stripers.
"For the month of August, we've already pulled seven stripers over 40 pounds," Ceglowski said. "I can't remember jigging up so many big bass this early in the season. And that's on top of averaging about 300 keeper porgies, sea bass and fluke per day."
On the South Shore, too, mixed bag catches have delighted anglers. At Silly Lily Fishing Station in East Moriches, Gary Grunseich termed the fishing "great!"
"Most anglers are concentrating on fluke around buoys 20 and 21, right in front of the Coast Guard Station," explained Grunseich. "There are plenty of shorts, but also keepers to six pounds. Get your fill of summer flatties and slide over to buoys 14 and 15 for a mix of kingfish and blowfish, then head east of buoy 30 and work the deep hole off Westhampton for weakfish. Mixing things up is a lot of fun."
Anglers targeting fluke on Great South Bay have had plenty of success. Captree's Jib VI has fished both inside and out in the ocean, decking doormats like the 9.92-pound brute Steve Fuller took early in the week. The Island Princess, which has stayed inside the bay on its half-day trips, saw keepers to 8.7 pounds while the Laura Lee had pool winners to 8.26 pounds working in 60-foot depths around the Fire Island ocean reef. On Tuesday, Doug Arlette drilled a 10.7-pound doormat aboard the Captree Princess. Peruvian Smelt have been the ticket to bigger fish both in the bays and ocean.
On the West End, captain Steve Kearney of the Point Lookout open boat Superhawk said his fares have enjoyed a mix of porgies, sea bass, fluke triggerfish and even blowfish both east and southwest of Jones Inlet. Captain John Smith, from the Captain Lou Fleet in Freeport, has concentrated on summer flatties, scoring best around Hempstead Reef and on rough patches near buoy 4 on the slower stages of the tide.
If you want to concentrate on a single species rather than go the mixed-bag route, focusing on bluefish would seem a wise choice. There are tons of choppers to 15 pounds on the Middle Grounds of Long Island Sound, and that's just the size you'll need to get on the leader board for this weekend's WICC Greatest Bluefish On Earth Contest (wicc600.com). There's $25,000 in prize money for the biggest blue. Register online or at official weigh stations before midnight Friday.