'Bring the big cooler!"
That's what Capt. Mike Wasserman of Freeport's Capt. Lou Fleet is telling customers when they ask about the black sea bass action. He's not exaggerating, for since federal waters (three miles or more offshore) reopened last Thursday, fishing for the tasty, iridescently hued bottom dwellers has been red hot off Long Island's South Shore.
"Wednesday's wreck trip produced a really fine haul that included a full boat limit of porgies, jumbo sea bass and bluefish, plus some blackfish and 20 cod," Wasserman said Thursday. "We've been fishing anywhere from 15 to 50 miles offshore, based on the trip, and many of the sea bass have weighed between 3 and 5 pounds."
From Montauk and Shinnecock to Moriches, Captree and the Jones Inlet, the bottom action around Long Island has ranged from steady to excellent. At Point Lookout, Capt. Steve Kearney of the open boat Super Hawk has had good results as well. He's concentrated efforts in 50- to 100-foot depths for solid mixed-bag catches.
"Sometimes on these offshore trips," he noted, "dogfish can be a bit of a problem. When that happens, you can keep the more desirable species like sea bass, porgies and cod coming over the rail by using a tandem rig instead of the traditional high-low rig . Either way, right now, you should have no problem icing fillets."
While mixed-bag catches have been the focal point of the open boat fleet, some charter skippers -- when not searching for stripers -- have had good success targeting blackfish. Capt. Mike Barnett of the Freeport charter boat Codfather, for example, has been working local waters for limits of 'tog with most keepers weighing around 4 pounds but some pushing the 9-pound mark."
There's been a shortage this fall of both green and Asian crabs, two favored blackfish baits, and that has blackfish skippers willing to try something new. For Barnett, white (Jonah) crabs have worked well, but he's also experimented with small spider crabs and found they produce. In the past, he's used calico crabs with good blackfish results. It's just something to keep in mind in case green crab supplies continue to tighten.
On the waters of Long Island Sound, blackfish off prominent points and mixed-bag action with sea bass and scup in 30- to 50-foot depths remain the surest options. There are also plenty of big bluefish willing to smack diamond jigs on the Middle Grounds or under any baitfish schools between Hempstead Harbor and Port Jefferson.
Surprisingly, false albacore continue to delight anglers in the eastern portions of the Sound. Capt. Vinny Catalano (Joeyccharters.com) has been working between Riverhead and Orient where the little tunny, along with stripers in the 24- to 30-inch class, are still pile-driving peanut bunker schools. Plenty of albies, plus schoolie stripers, also remain in the rips and surf around Montauk Point.