It’s been a while since anyone could honestly call the Long Island offshore scene “explosive,” but that’s where it’s at right now. Just in time for Independence Day celebrations, massive schools of bluefin tuna have arrived off Long Island’s South Shore with some yellowfin, bigeye and even a few white and blue marlin mixed into the mayhem a bit farther out to sea.
“It’s just been crazy good!” said Jeff Lomonaco at White Water Outfitters in Hampton Bays, where a steady stream of superlative reports has rolled across the counter since late last week. “The bluefin are running 30 to 100 pounds with many in the 50- to 80-pound class. They’re spread across a large swath of the Northeast from New Jersey to Cape Cod with heavy concentrations 20- to 30 miles off the beach. Head out to Block Canyon or The Dip and you might find some big yellowfins or marlin, too. I can’t remember the last time our offshore waters were so loaded with fish.”
For Long Islanders, the center of activity has been the Coimbra Wreck, a 423-foot tanker sunk by a German U-boat in 1942. It rests on the bottom in 180 feet of water roughly 30 miles southeast of Shinnecock Inlet and serves as an easy mark to start your search. Still, if you begin here you’ll surely be surrounded by a fleet of other hopeful skippers so it might be smart to run a few degrees east or west given the fish are covering such a large area.
“Don’t discount any life you see in route to the fishing grounds,” said Lomonaco. “Whales and dolphin like the same kind of water as the tuna. Check them out and you might find some tuna closer to home. Some of the action has been within 10 miles of shore.”
What has brought the tuna bite to such a ferocious boil? For starters, there's plenty of warm water offshore now with significant temperature breaks along eddies that break free of the Gulf Stream and slowly spin their way within reach of the fleet.
Additionally, a big influx of sand eels and other baitfish species that tuna love has moved into the area. These stack-up where cool and warmer waters collide, essentially forming a giant chum slick. Find a temperature variance of several degrees across a short stretch and the action can be intense.
Mike Andreani at Star Island Marina in Montauk confirmed catches have been as good to the east as to the west. “We’ve seen super scores from five miles east of Shinnecock Inlet all the way to The Fishtails and The Dip,” he said. The deeper water at the canyon edges has given up the biggest fish with some yellowfin to 150 pounds, a few bigeye tuna, plus several blue marlin hooked.”
While most anglers have been trolling spreader bars to connect, this a great time to experiment with trolling plugs, spinning or even fly-fishing gear. A green Side Tracker by Chatter Lures is a great choice, suggests Andreani, as is a Bomber CD30 swimming plug. That lure has a big lip and can dive 30 feet deep. Lomonaco suggests tossing a large Hogy soft-plastic, Shimano Orca stick bait, or a Strategic Angler Espada swimming plug.