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Little snappers are providing big action

A young Black Sea Bass is retrieved from

A young Black Sea Bass is retrieved from the trawling nets on board the R/V Peconic, a research vessel with Stony Brook University, Southampton Campus, on the Shinnecock Bay in Southampton. Stony Brook University announced $3 million in private donations for the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program, to restore the health and vitality of the Shinnecock Bay in the town of Southampton. (Aug. 27, 2012) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Snapper fishing broke wide open this week at local docks and bulkheads across Long Island. While the little blues are still only 5 to 8 inches long, they grow very quickly at this point in the season. With good conditions they might grow up to an inch per week.

"Snapper fishing has really taken off," said Bill Witchey of Combs' Bait and Tackle in Amityville. "Anglers using Snapper Zapper poppers and small spearing seem to be catching the bigger fish, but one-eighth-ounce Kastmasers and Johnson Sprite spoons are also working well on any tide except dead low."

According to Witchey, Phillip Healy Beach, John J. Burns Town Park, Lindenhurst Town Dock, Bergen Point Dock and Babylon Town Dock are hot spots. Crabbing has been good at these locations, too, with the blue claws favoring frozen bunker over chicken thighs and legs.

At Captree Bait and Tackle, Brenden Rutigliano confirmed the rush of snapper blues. "They're running 6 to 9 inches at Captree Pier," he noted, "and they are mixed with occasional blowfish plus some monstrous blue claw crabs. I measured a blue claw [Thursday] that stretched 91/2 inches across the shell!"

Rutigliano noted that the small blues are hitting Snapper Zapper poppers tipped with sand eel baits while the crabs are favoring bunker over chicken.

"It does look like a really good crop of snappers have invaded our waters this year," said a cheerful Chet Wilcox at B&B Bait and Tackle in Center Moriches. "Most are 6 or 7 inches long but they are getting bigger every day. Action in the Moriches area has been solid at the Union Avenue Dock, Senix Creek and Old Neck Creek. Blue claws are in the creeks, too, and they aren't fussy as bunker and chicken have both worked well."

On the East End, Steve Petras at White Water Outfitters in Hampton Bays recommends snapper anglers hit Shinnecock Canal, Sebonac Inlet, any Peconic Bay creek or Mecox Inlet for a shot at the little blues but walk the back bay flats to scoop blue claw crabs. "We've got snappers hitting poppers and small tins at the mouth of any creek, and the crabs right now are easy to find," he said.

Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai has been another shore fishing hot spot, according to Jim Flora at Miller Place Bait and Tackle. "We've seen anglers using snapper spearing under a float catching best, although some bigger fish are falling to one-eighth-ounce Kastmaster-style tins," he said. "Cedar Beach pier is also producing blowfish on squid and worms, plus and an occasional school bass. The best catches have come on morning flood tides."

Just as productive have been the waters of Port Jefferson Harbor. "Local kids are having a ball catching snappers from the Village Dock," advised Tim Caraftis at Caraftis Fishing station. "Every type of snapper bait and lure is working right now. The dock fishing really couldn't be any better."

That's the same message Mark McGowan was pitching his customers at Cow Harbor Bait and Tackle in Northport.

"It's time to take your kids fishing!" he said enthusiastically. "We've got a ton of snappers at the Northport Village Dock, Centerport Beach, Sunken Meadow Beach and Huntington Town Dock. High, outgoing water has seen some terrific scores. Don't miss out on this."

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