Black sea bass making presence known

Kevin Fish, 15, of Bellmore, catches a sea

Kevin Fish, 15, of Bellmore, catches a sea bass at the fishing pier at Jones Beach. (Sept. 23, 2012) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

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Black sea bass, tasty and relatively abundant bottom feeders, are a favorite target of inshore and near-shore anglers.

The black sea bass are structure lovers, like blackfish, and they are quick to swallow a bait. They put up a respectable battle and, with their dramatic dorsal fins, large tails, big head, iridescent markings and humped back, look quite impressive when lifted over the rail. As of Wednesday past, they are fair game in local waters.

Opening day quite naturally kicked off with a lot of enthusiasm, but catches were somewhat tame in most areas. The West End fleet, it seems, got off to a good start on wrecks, reefs and broken bottom anywhere from three to 10 miles offshore, but the farther east one traveled along the South Shore, the tougher it was to put together a limit catch of eight fish measuring over 13 inches.

"We had the sea bass pretty good aboard the Captain Lou VII," said Freeport skipper Anthony Gillespie. "Lots of action and plenty of keepers to four pounds caught on clam bait. No complaints here."

While Gillespie was targeting bass, his sister vessel, the Starstream VIII, continued to sail for fluke. "We definitely saw an upswing in the flatfish action with a generous number of keepers to eight pounds coming up in recent days," said captain Mike Wasserman. "We've been fluking out in ocean waters so we haven't been bothered by the brown tide that seems to be spreading across the western bays."

Although some boats are targeting sea bass out of Fire Island Inlet, fluke remain the best bet in that area. Captain Ken Higgins of the open boat Captree Pride noted action has been best on the last two hours of incoming tide and the first hour or so of the ebb. His fares have been using squid and spearing combos to corral 40 keepers a trip on the best tides and 20 keepers on the off tides. Either way, quite a few fish in 4- to 8-pound class are mixing with the shorts. Yesterday morning's trip saw 44 keepers for a dozen fares. That's pretty good for mid-summer action.

Inside the South Shore Bays, private vessels are scoring well with a summertime mixed bag of blowfish, kingfish, school blues and triggerfish, the first three along channel edges and last near jetty rocks and buoy chains. There are also plenty of fluke to be had on bucktails on the shallow flats of Moriches and Shinnecock bays. Pick through enough fish and you'll catch a keeper or two.

Over on the North Shore, plenty of short fluke can be found along the beaches, and porgies remain a force on humps and rockpiles in 25-foot depths. Also of note are the waves of small snappers beginning to show at local docks. While their arrival may conjure up visions of pan fried treats to the novice fisherman, veteran fluke fans know doormat fluke eat them up, too. Bluefish limits allow anglers to creel 15 fish a day with no more than 10 measuring less than 12 inches. For a shot at an outlandish sized fluke, catch your limit of the diminutive blues and use them for bait in Smithtown Bay, east of Huntington Harbor or along the 20-foot curve anywhere between Port Jefferson and Wading River or slightly west of Mattituck Inlet.

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