With striped bass fishing still on fire, blackfish hitting full stride and black sea bass season in offshore federal waters reopening Friday, the only factor that might shuffle the deck and deal an ugly hand this weekend is the windy weather being forecast.
"Wind or not, we've really scored well with the stripers on most trips," said Walter Czekaj of the Captree open boat Fishfinder II as we headed out earlier this week. "Some days the bass have been right outside Fire Island Inlet, other days they're as far east as Cherry Grove. We just keep driving until we spot the birds or the bass show up on the fish-finder."
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Indeed, on our afternoon trip, we had spurts of action followed by lulls that prompted a look farther east. By day's end, however, the boat had taken its limit of stripers to 27 pounds. This incredible run of bass has centered around a huge mass of sand eels staging off of Fire Island and has drawn open boats from as far away as Sheepshead Bay and even Belmar, N.J. Such is the power of a strong fall run.
One skipper who plans to try a little more striper fishing over the next few weeks is Capt. Patrick Gillen. His popular Captree open boat, Capt. Gillen II, spends most days fishing inside Great South Bay, but Gillen has just picked up a new vessel that he'll put to use right away.
"We'll still take care of our regular customers just like always," the skipper said reassuringly, "but now we'll also have more ability to head out into the ocean if we want to take that route. It never hurts to have more options."
Don't be surprised if you get a feeling of having been here before when you step aboard Gillen's new boat. The 78-foot Lydia-built vessel served previously as the Elsie K Princess out of Northport and, most recently, as the Marlin VI Princess out of Montauk. It's a fine vessel and one Gillen has admired ever since seeing the hull being built in Stuart, Fla., several years ago.
While stripers have gobbled the headlines, local bottom fishing has quietly caught fire along the North Shore and plenty of porgies and sea bass continue to mix into the catches.
"That last cool snap last week really got the blackfish chewing," said Capt. James Schneider. Fares aboard his Huntington-based open boat, Capt. James Joseph II, have seen plenty of limits over the past three days with yesterday's pool fish topping 9 pounds. Captain Dave Brennan of the Greenport open boat Peconic Star reported similar results, as did Capt. Mike Boccio on Orient Point's Prime Time 3. All three skippers noted that green crabs have been the top blackfish bait. while clams have accounted for plenty of scup and sea bass.
Long Island Sound stripers also seem to have reacted well to cooling water temperatures, occasionally surfacing to smash poppers tight to the beach immediately east of Port Jefferson, Mount Sinai and Wading River, and walloping diamond jigs inside the Eaton's Neck Triangle and at mid-Sound east of Hortons Point.
Capt. Jerry McGrath's Sportfishing on Long Island Course, presented by Suffolk County Parks, begins on Nov. 19. The wrong date was provided in an earlier column. Contact Suffolk County Parks at 631-854-4947 for more information.