The ripples on the surface were a sure sign something was headed my way just before dark on Tuesday evening. Looking back toward Duck Point, I could see ribbons of nervous water sliding along the North Fork’s Sound beaches. Bunker had invaded the shallows. Could the blues be far behind?
It didn’t take long to find out. Just 30 yards off the beach a pod of the baitfish erupted in a spray of silver as a teen-sized chopper cartwheeled through the center of the school while others attacked from the rear.
For Long Island Sound surf-casters, the reappearance of bunker schools sliding tight along North Fork beaches during mid-September, and the relentless pursuit of the baitfish by ruthless blues, offers hints of fall. Toward the end of the month and through October, bunker schools on this end of the Island will be pushing ever east, trying to round Orient Point and spill out into Gardiners Bay before cutting through the rips of Montauk and down the South Shore as they race toward warmer southern waters.
It’s interesting to watch those new to shore fishing along the Sound try to connect with the hungry blues. Most come armed with appropriate lures; a mix of poppers, diamond jigs and tin spoons along the lines of a single hook Hopkins No Equal that can withstand the slashing attack of the toothy predators. Generally, they cast out as far as possible, sometimes way past visible fish working yards off the beach.
These anglers connect with a fair share of bluefish but they often miss the sweet spot — that stretch of water where the beach shelf drops off and the biggest blues tend to prowl. If space between anglers allows, a better approach can be casting at a 30- to 45-degree angle to the shore to retrieve lures along the inner edge of the bunker schools. That should keep your lure in the lunker zone for the greatest amount of time.
Of course, when bunker and blues appear further off the beach, longer casts are necessary. Still, when the situation presents itself, retrieving lures tight to the beach often pays big dividends. Protocol, though, does demand putting significant distance between yourself and other casters to prevent crossed lines.
On Tuesday, a bright yellow popper reeled at a 45-degree angle to the shore worked well for me. Having trekked 80 yards west from the center of the action, I battled and released a pair of blues in the 12-pound class even though 5-to-8-pounders seemed in greater supply.
In addition to refreshing my fishing soul, the battles also served as a reminder to check gear, sharpen hooks, and make plans to get out again following the next stiff northwest breeze because the genuine start of the fall bluefish and striper migrations are now just weeks away.
Surf Fishing Show and Seminar
The Fisherman Magazine’s Surf Fishing Show and Seminar is slated for Thursday at the Huntington Hilton. More than 70 surf fishing tackle manufacturers, businesses and tackle shops will display their wares and offer special deals. Seminar speakers include “Crazy Alberto” Knie, surf guide Bill Wetzel, Al Gags, Bill Muller and Fred Golofaro, among others. Show doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children 16 and under.