You've got to love the fall from a fishing perspective. As long as the weather cooperates, there are endless piscatorial possibilities. From false albacore, stripers and blues, to porgy, black sea bass and blackfish, action can be stellar during October and November. Oftentimes, with the more predatory species, it's as good in the surf as when casting from a boat.
Right on schedule, fishing action shifted back into high gear this week with super bottom scores tallied in the central areas of Long Island Sound, off Montauk and Orient Points, and over near-shore wrecks outside each of the South Shore inlets. At the same time, action with false albacore continued excellent in western Long Island Sound and along the North Fork, out at Montauk, and around Shinnecock and Moriches inlets. Striper catches have improved, too, most notably at Montauk, Shinnecock and around Horton's Point and Eatons Neck on the North Shore.
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"The albies have been fantastic," said Harvey Bennett at The Tackle Shop in Amagansett, "but we'll have to see if it holds up after Hurricane Joaquin rolls through. Hopefully the storm doesn't drop the water temperature much and the false albacore will set up again."
Even if they don't, the cooler weather and roiled waters should get the stripers in a feeding mood. That's how it is with fishing in the fall; as one species moves out another slides in to take its place -- except for the blues, which seem to always be somewhere nearby.
Speaking of the big choppers, they have been regular visitors at all the inlets. Up inside the bays, the juveniles of the species, known as snappers, are now exiting tidal creeks and back bay areas in favor of more open waters as they prepare to hit the inlets and, eventually, head south.
"The snapper fishing was very good late this summer and it's been super through the first days of fall," said Paul Graniello at J&J Sports Centre in Patchogue. "I hope the small blues are still around after the storm because people are having a ball catching them from the Patchogue docks. We've seen a bunch in the 12- to 14-inch class and those can be a ton of fun. Kids, especially, enjoy the battles."
While scup, sea bass, blues, false albacore and stripers are the current headliners, blackfish should start making news come Monday. That's when the season opens and the tough-lipped, snag-loving brawlers become fair game again.
Early in October, blackfish are fond of sliding into relatively shallow areas. Look for them along docks, pilings, bridge abutments and jetties in less than 20 feet of water if probing around the bays and harbors. In Long Island Sound, you'll usually do best to target boulder fields and rocky areas off prominent points in 12- to 30-foot depths for now and sliding deeper toward Halloween. As a soft rule for blackfish baits, fiddler crabs work well in October, green and Asian crabs work especially well in November and Jonah crabs work best in December.
This year's regulations allow anglers to creel four 'tog each per trip with a minimum size limit of 16 inches. Blackfish are tasty but their season is short and sweet. It closes again on Dec. 14, so fish fast.