There's nothing like a cold snap and biting wind to shake the confidence of local anglers. With rough waters and morning temperatures dipping into the low 30s the past few days, fishing effort has been light and some have wondered if an end to the season is close.
"That's probably not the case,'' local surf fishing guide Bill Wetzel said Wednesday night. "Sure, it's tough right now, but there is still plenty of bait around and when this all settles down there will still be some quality catches made.''
Wetzel, who is hoping to find some bigger fish on the new moon tides this weekend if conditions allow, suggested surfcasters concentrate along the South Shore and West End ocean beaches, naming Smith Point as one potential hot spot.
"A lot of fishermen are hoping for a sand eel run to fire up the bass,'' Wetzel said. "If that happens, diamond jigs and tins should work well. Right now, I'm tossing large lures like metal-lipped swimmers, darters and 3-ounce bottle plugs. These approximate the big bunker that are still around. Given a choice, big bass usually prefer big baits.''
Capt. Walter Czekaj of the Captree open boat Fishfinder II agreed with Wetzel that bass fishing should hold on a little while longer. "We've had consistent action on clam baits in Fire Island Inlet whenever we can get out,'' he said. Monday saw Czekaj's passengers limit out with fish to 20 pounds and he expects that action will resume as soon as the wind calms down.
While bass fans have their fingers crossed, those who crave sea bass, blackfish and mixed-bag wreck catches are fairly certain this fall's great bottom-fishing will continue. They're just waiting for a chance to get back out and give it a try.
"Our wreck trips have been very good,'' Capt. Neil Delanoy of Captree's Laura Lee fleet said. "The sea bass have been big and plentiful, there's been some blackfish, tons of big porgies and even some cod. It's very good fishing that should hold up right through Thanksgiving.''
Anglers heading out of Greenport aboard the open boat Peconic Star are also likely to continue scoring well with bottom species. Capt. Dave Brennan reports that when he's been able to get out, many catch their 'tog limits with some bulldogs topping 8 pounds.
On the North Shore, surf fans have had some luck in the far western quadrant of Long Island Sound with school stripers, but blackfish are the dominant target at this point. The Huntington-based James Joseph II has seen enough keepers to send most anglers back with a pile of fillets. "We've been fishing on the Connecticut side,'' skipper Jimmy Schneider said. "There's plenty of action and enough big fish to keep things interesting.''
With schedules changing and the weather unpredictable, be sure to call ahead before heading down to your favorite open boat.
Sportfishing class set
The Suffolk County Parks Department will sponsor its annual Sportfishing on Long Island class beginning Jan. 26. The 10-week program, presented by Capt. Jerry McGrath, will be held Mondays (7:30-9:30 p.m.) at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. Cost is $130 with discounts for children and seniors. Call 631-854-4947.