With a new 19-inch minimum size and three-fish creel limit, anglers were curious about how the fluke fishing — and keeping — might stack up as the season opened Wednesday. In most areas, they didn’t have long to wait for an answer.
“We had 115 shorts plus a dozen keepers on our first drift,” said Capt. Jimmy Schneider of the Huntington-based James Joseph fleet. “With 35 customers on board, we fished inside Huntington Harbor and Northport Bay before pushing into Long Island Sound to look for a few bigger fish off Asharoken. By day’s end we tallied 81 keepers to nearly 6 pounds.”
According to Schneider, the bay fish were spitting up “globs of grass shrimp” as they hit the deck while fluke caught in the open Sound regurgitated squid. “The fluke are definitely around,” said Schneider, but the water is still chilly so look shallow if you want fast action. Both jigs and bait seem to be scoring well.”
Out at Greenport, a perennial early-season hot spot for doormats, Capt. Dave Brennen of the Peconic Star Fleet labeled the action slow but steady. “We put together a nice catch and everyone took home some fillets,’’ Brennen said. “The fishing wasn’t fast but our pool fish weighed 7.5 pounds and we decked several 5-pounders. Overall, that’s a good start to the season.”
Brennen concentrated his efforts in Greenport Harbor, just minutes away from his dock. Many other Peconic Bay skippers made a beeline for The Greenlawns off the west side of Shelter Island. I glassed the area from shore at noon and counted nearly 70 boats on the hunt. Reports for this armada had a solid keeper or two plus several shorts and, perhaps, some blues or porgies, on most boats.
Down the South Shore, water at the inlets is still in the mid-50 degree range so the best scores are coming from shallow, warmer back-bay flats. The Captree fleet and private boaters from the Fire Island Inlet area have been sliding west down the State Channel to find solid action and a fair number of 19- to 20-inch keepers around Gilgo Beach and Hemlock Cove. The western fleet, sailing out of Freeport and Point Lookout, has run to the east to work from the Wantagh Bridges up toward Cedar Beach and into Massapequa Cove. Bill Witchy at Comb’s Bait and Tackle in Amityville named Great Channel Run as one hot spot.
Capt. Mike Wasserman of the Freeport open boat Starstream VIII worked the back bays around Baldwin and Freeport on opening day and scored with “a decent number of keepers given the new size limit.” The day’s top fish measured 21 inches, he said, and weighed about 3 pounds — but there were several close pool contenders.
While most anglers were concentrating on fluke some bigger stripers slipped into the area — but they couldn’t get past Capt. Herb Hahn of Cold Spring Charters. He used bunker chunks to drill a pair weighing 31 and 41 pounds on Tuesday, plus a boat limit of 15- to 20-pounders on Wednesday.
Still, even Hahn couldn’t resist testing the waters for summer flatties. During his Wednesday trip, he had his fares try jigging stripbaits between bass bites. They iced four 19-inch keepers to round out the day.