All good things must come to an end, and so we said goodbye to the 2016 fluke season on Wednesday. While spotty in some areas, this year was noteworthy for the outlandish number of trophy fish it produced.
Doormat action had for the past month been unparalleled at Montauk, and South Shore anglers working ocean reefs and wrecks from Shinnecock to Jones inlets also made quite a few “personal best” catches, even while concentrating on mixed-bag scores of porgy, sea bass, triggerfish and blues.
Also closing Wednesday was black sea bass fishing in federal waters (more than 3 miles offshore.) While sea bass remain fair game in New York State waters (inshore of the 3-mile line) the tasty sea biscuits will be off limits in the federal zone until Oct. 22. At that time, both state and federal waters are open for the taking of sea bass through Dec. 31.
The closure of sea bass season in federal waters is a blow to wreck fishermen in particular, since many offshore structure pieces are covered with knob-headed lunkers at this time of the year. Those fish will have to be released even while anglers continue to pursue blackfish, pollock and cod. Take note, also, that if you plan to target both sea bass in New York State waters and other species farther offshore, you need to fish the federal waters first, then come back inside to catch sea bass in state waters.
On a bright note, porgies are still feeding with abandon just about everywhere, crabbing remains solid along the South Shore, and blackfish season is set to open on Oct. 5. Hunters should also be getting ready for archery season, which commences in Suffolk County on Oct. 1.
There are also ample opportunities to sharpen your skills, have some fun and gain a little hands-on knowledge available in the coming days. At River Bay Outfitters in Oceanside (riverbayoutfitters.com 516-415-7748) for example, Paul McCain will be leading a South Shore Orientation Trip on Saturday. He’ll be visiting eight different fishing access points from the western South Shore to Moriches Inlet. These are legal access sites, points out McCain, but none are obvious on a map. Reservations are required.
Monster sheepshead caught
Once numerous in our waters, sheepshead are now primarily a southern species and caught only infrequently around Long Island. Peter Kruczko of Seaford, however, made the most of his encounter with one on Tuesday’s incoming tide.
Fishing near the third Wantagh Bridge with clam baits intended for stripers, the 48-year old avid angler drilled a 13-pound brute that may end up being recognized as a NYS record for the species (there is no current state record for sheepshead.)
“That fish was so big that its teeth were starting to decay!” said Ed Walsh, who officially weighed the beast at Jones Beach Bait and Tackle and called the porgy-shaped brute “impressive.”
Kruczko said the big sheepshead fought a straight up-and-down battle in the 15-foot depths, and at first felt like a double-digit blackfish at the end of the line.
“I’ve never caught anything like this around here,” he chuckled. “But that’s what makes fishing so exciting — you never know what’s going to take your bait next.”