To nobody’s surprise, black sea bass season opened with a bang last Saturday as anglers finally had a chance to put a few of these tasty fish in the cooler. From Point Lookout to Montauk along Long Island’s South Shore, anglers had little difficulty filling their three-fish limit. Long Island Sound is also teeming with sea bass, with the waters off Huntington and Orient Point producing especially well.
Despite the great catches, one has wonder about the efficacy of the current regulations. The black sea bass season is split into two sessions. The initial session runs through Aug. 31 and allows anglers to keep three per day with a minimum length of 15 inches. From Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, anglers can creel seven fish at 15 inches.
With the current sea bass population 240 percent above the minimum stock threshold as set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) coordinating with NOAA Fisheries, a three-fish creel limit seems ridiculously low. Many also believe the seven-fish fall limit is unreasonably tight.
Of further concern, black sea bass on the western end of Long Island at this time of year run smaller than on the eastern end. That means sea bass fans fishing west of Moriches Inlet may need to cull through dozens of smaller fish to ice their limit. That’s not too bad when the fleet fishes in relatively shallow water, but if the boats need to hit deeper wrecks to connect, some fish will suffer the bends while being reeled to the surface. Not all of these will survive their release.
The rules are set for this year, but there has to be a better way to do this. Fisheries managers need to start working on that now.
In the meantime, many boats are targeting fluke and porgy — or red hake and ling — in addition to sea bass. Sailing out of Freeport, the Capt. Lou Fleet has had a blast. “There are tons of fish here,” Capt. Anthony Gillespie said. “We are catching sea bass anywhere between 35 and 150 feet deep, plus fluke if we fish shallower.”
Capt. Ken Higgins of the open boat Captree Pride described the sea bass action out of Fire Island Inlet as “non-stop.” Further east, Capt. Joe Tangle on the Moriches charter vessel King Cod said “you can catch your limit in minutes” in 50 to 85 feet of water. After that, he suggested, try deeper for ling or shallower for fluke.
Out at Orient Point, Capt. Brian Ringold on the open boat Prime Time 3 said his fares have seen a mix of fluke to 8 pounds and large sea bass coming over the rails. A combined trip on Wednesday sponsored by Spro Bucktails and Fat Cow Fishing produced 38 keeper fluke to 7 pounds, plus sea bass to 4 pounds.
On the North Shore, Capt. James Schneider of the Huntington open boat Capt. James Joseph II was happy his customers could finally take home some sea bass. “We’re seeing some monsters to 23 inches long while targeting fluke,” he said.
Schneider was also thrilled with striper fishing at the Middle Grounds. On Wednesday, his charter boat found linesiders there busting butterfish on the surface. “We had stripers to 27 pounds,” he revealed, “and we’ve also been catching some mighty big fluke.” Email: Outdoortom