Tom Schlichter writes the Outdoors column for Newsday.
Despite a raw spring punctuated by occasional downpours like the one witnessed Tuesday night, striped bass are starting to show in their usual Long Island haunts. With fair weather on the board for this weekend, many anglers are hoping the action will break wide open, especially in the waters of western Long Island Sound, where some big fish have managed to quietly slip into Hempstead Harbor.
"Striper action around here is set to explode," said Blaise Rufino at Duffy's Bait and Tackle in Glenwood Landing. "The only thing holding anglers back has been the weather because keeper-sized fish are already here."
Rufino backed up his words with reports of stripers to 42 inches landed within the past week. Angelo Scalici, he said, used a black/silver Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow to plug a 35-incher and Roy Bryant drilled a 30-incher on a bunker chunk. Both fish were taken at dead low tide, which makes sense because that is when the water is warmest. Rufino suggested anglers try their luck this weekend at Bar Beach, Tappan Beach or "anywhere in Hempstead Harbor."
Over on the south side, striper catches have been sketchy and dominated by school bass to about 24 inches. Jamaica Bay has given up a fair number of catch and release schoolies to Elias Viasberg of Brooklyn, who spends his time chasing the linesiders by kayak while tossing soft plastics at a spot called The Pumpkin Patch.
"I've had decent numbers," said the Brooklyn angler, "but nothing to take home yet. I'm hoping my next trip will change that. The timing seems right."
There also have been a few school bass caught on clam bellies in front of the Jones Beach Coast Guard Station and in the tidal creeks of Great South, Moriches and Shinnecock bays. The Quogue and Quantuck canals have provided a few decent innings, too, but more consistent scores have come from the Route 105 Bridge in Riverhead. Schoolies still dominate there, but the retreat of spawning alewives from up inside Peconic River should commence any day now, and that can trigger a serious bite from bigger bass and bluefish.
Fluke regulations official
It's official: New York's fluke regulations have been approved with a season running from May 17 to Sept. 21, a minimum size limit of 18 inches, and a five fish per angler creel limit.
Although that means the season remains officially closed for the next two weeks or so, open boats possessing RSA permits (Research Set Aside) still can target the summer flatties and some plan to give it a shot starting this weekend.
In addition to the RSA boats mentioned in last week's column, most of the Captree open-boat fleet expects to get in on the fun. Call your favorite skipper and check the sailing schedule if you want to get an early jump on the toothy flatfish.
Mark your calendar
The 3rd Annual Port Jefferson Boater's Maritime Festival is slated for tomorrow and Sunday. The event includes more than 50 boats on display at one of Long Island's few outdoor boat shows. Maritime related attractions, museums and organizations will be represented, and you'll find free demos of kayaks, inflatable boats, paddle boards, fishing techniques, clam shucking and more. There's also a food court, live music, pirate shows and treasure hunts. Visit portjeff.com