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Hunters beware: ‘The rut’ is now upon us

And on the water, plenty of blackfish and stripers are there for the taking.

There’s a sweet spot that arrives on the outdoors scene each fall. It’s that point when water temperature, air temperature, daylight, dominant wind direction and the need to breed or feed all fall into perfect alignment. There’s no telling how long it will last, but it certainly is upon us right now.

In the woods, the second week of November usually sees several trophy whitetails taken. That’s when “the rut” — the peak of mating season when wily bucks seemingly lose their minds in pursuit of does — reaches its peak in our area. Indeed, on Tuesday I watched a 10-point buck race across a wide-open East End field in hot pursuit of a quartet of does. Just a day later, I jumped an 8-pointer; its neck swollen, nose to the ground and grunting as it hurried down a hiking trail. They’ll be no better time than the next few days to sit and wait for that buck of a lifetime.

On the water, blackfish and stripers are primed for battle. Blackfish catches are off to a great start this year, aided by relatively warm weather, which has kept them feeding in just 20- to 30-foot depths. Because October was so windy the tasty tautog have seen less pressure than normal this fall, resulting in a productive bite and limit catches. The eastern sector of Long Island Sound, from Mattituck to Orient Point, has seen the best action with the charter and party boat fleets doing exceptionally well and private boaters scoring as the wind allows access. Good catches have also come from Eatons Neck, Cranes Neck, Huntington Harbor and the waters outside of Cold Spring Harbor.

School stripers remain in good supply throughout the Sound with an edge on the keepers going to the waters off Cold Spring Harbor and Huntington. The real news on the striper front, however, is the super run of keepers now underway along the South Shore. From New Inlet to Fire Island Inlet, huge schools of bass are feeding on swarms of large sand eels.

“It’s just fantastic fishing right now,” Capt. Walt Czekaj of the Captree open boat Fishfinder II said. “We’re fishing 20 to 40 minutes from Fire Island Inlet and limiting out with ease in 50- to 60-foot depths. Pool fish have been running between 20 and 40 pounds.”

Capt. Patrick Gillen of the Capt. Gillen agreed with Czekaj, adding there’s still a ton of bait in the water which bodes well for the weeks ahead. In addition to the bass, he noted that big blues are entering the mix with some pushing well up into the ’teens. Farther west, the Capt. Lou Fleet in Freeport has also been limiting out daily with stripers while the Point Lookout open boat Super Hawk has been loading up on big sea bass, jumbo porgies and other bottom feeders.

“Private boaters have been doing great with stripers between Jones and Debs inlets, too,” advised Rob Greco at Long Island Outdoorsman in Rockville Centre. “Troll a Tony Maja bunker spoon near the bottom in 50 feet of water off Lido Beach and you might nail a 30- or 40-pounder.”

Email: outdoortom@optonline.net

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