An angler on the beach earlier this week told me it’s been a “slow fall so far.” Sure, he explained, he’d had luck catching a pair of false albacore in the past month, plus a 15-pound bluefish that surprised him on a dropping tide one evening. Overall, though, he felt the beach action was “lacking.”
That may actually be the case so far this season as September and early October have seen some shots of fast fishing along both the north and south shores interspersed by longer shifts of tough prospecting. Don’t lose hope, however, for there is a tendency to rush the fall season and, quite simply, it’s just getting started. While a decade ago may have seen some wild surf action on a regular basis during late September and early October, the trend in recent years has been for genuine blitz conditions to hold off until mid-October and carry over through November.
Indeed, that’s how things appear to be setting up right now. False albacore, usually the first to binge feed and quickest to depart our waters, are schooling thick in Long Island Sound off Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai harbors. Anglers, however, are having a tough time catching them because the tiny tunas are focused on minuscule young-of-the-year spearing and anchovies. That leaves fly-fishermen casting small Clouser or Epoxy minnows with the upper hand over spinning fans tossing slightly larger tins and soft plastics. Further east, along the North Fork, in Gardiners Bay, across to Montauk, and around Shinnecock and Moriches inlets, the albies have been on larger baits and more willing to strike traditional lures — although flycasters still have the edge.
Slammer blues, once the sure sign that fall had arrived, have been less than abundant this year at favored surf fishing hot spots such as the North Fork, Robert Moses Beach and Jones Beach, but they have been showing regularly at the eastern South Shore inlets. On Tuesday and Wednesday, some North Shore beaches also saw big blues in the wash. Given a drop in temperatures and a stiff Northeast or Northwest breeze, it’s likely the choppers will start smashing poppers, tins and cut bunker on a more frequent basis. They have already begun to swarm around the deeper Long Island Sound and nearshore ocean wrecks. The Captree, Freeport, Sheepshead Bay and Capt. Bob (Mattituck) fleets, in fact, have had some banner days tempting them with diamond jigs.
As for stripers, they are usually last to appear in large numbers along the beaches. Right now there is a steady pick of fish in most areas, especially on night tides, but the dense schools can’t be counted on to arrive for another week or two at least. Last year, the best shoreline bassing took place from early-November through Thanksgiving.
With inshore water temperatures this year similar to last, that scenario is likely to repeat.
On the bottom-fishing scene, black sea bass fishing in federal waters beyond three miles reopens on Sunday (Oct. 22). Porgy action is still red hot, although most scup are now in 30- to 50-foot depths. Blackfishing remains picky overall but an impressive percentage of the keepers being caught have topped the 6-pound mark. Green crabs, 25- to 40-foot depths, and incoming water have been the hot combination for the tasty ’tog.