Many serious anglers and fishing boat captains list the challenge of figuring out their quarry on a day-to-day basis as one of the aspects they love most about piscatorial pursuit. If that is indeed the case, local porgy fans are getting their money's worth this month because the fishing has been good but the scup have often strayed from their traditional September patterns.
"We're seeing awesome catches of big porgies, plus a decent number of keeper sea bass most days," reports Capt. James Schneider of the Huntington open boat James Joseph II. "Usually by this point the scup have moved into 40- to 50-foot depths around here, but we're still fishing in 12 to 20 feet of water."
Schneider believes the Sound's porgies have stayed on the flats because the warm water there continues to hold bait. Porgies generally prefer rock piles, mussel beds and hard structure, but recent catches have been best over clean bottom.
"We are actually finding the porgies feeding on rain bait [bay anchovies] and a tremendous hatch of small, brown crabs about the size of a pencil eraser," Schneider said. "The crabs are rafting up by the thousands in some areas and the porgies are gorging on them."
Schneider added that to find the crabs, look for seagulls sitting on the surface and poking their beaks into the water. The birds, it seems, are as opportunistic as the fish.
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On the south side, the Point Lookout open boat Super Hawk has been pulling plenty of keeper sea bass. Capt. Steve Kearney has been probing slightly deeper waters, concentrating on wrecks and rocky areas in 50- to 70-foot depths.
"We usually see a mix of porgies, a few fluke, some triggerfish and blues," Kearney said. "Right now, however, we are catching ninety percent sea bass."
On Great South Bay, anglers will likely score best if they keep moving around. That approach has helped the Captree open boat Fish Finder II put together some interesting catches.
"We're working inside the bay and inlet," said Capt. Walter Czekaj. "We keep probing different holes and channel edges for a mix of fluke and sea bass on our day trips. In the evenings, we'll use diamond jigs to score with bluefish and a few stripers around Robert Moses Bridge and the inlet, then switch to casting Bass Assassins after dark."
At Orient Point, Capt. Mike Boccio of the charter boat Prime Time 3 noted that porgies are starting to spill out of eastern Long Island Sound and onto the reefs between Fishers Island and Orient. Like Schneider, however, he said that the best fishing is often over open water, quite out of the ordinary for East End porgy and sea bass catches.
"These porgies are so hungry right now that they are hanging around the bluefish schools, feeding on the small baitfish bits and pieces the choppers leave behind," Boccio said.
Since porgies and bluefish are usually prey and predator, respectively, mark this down as yet another surprising September happenstance.