September is an interesting month from a fishing perspective. As a transitional period between summer and fall, many of Long Island's favorite recreational fish species are in a state of flux. Already, cooler nights and slightly shorter days are sending silent signals that autumn is fast approaching. Veteran anglers, as much as the fish themselves, sense these subtle changes.
Still, September always rallies. Often, the action catches a second wind first in Long Island Sound, Peconic Bay, Montauk and Orient Point. So far, that pattern seems on target.
"Bottom fishing couldn't be better right now," said Candie Caraftis at Caraftis Fishing Station in Port Jefferson. "Anglers are hammering keeper porgies, sea bass, plus a few fluke, off all the local points. Cranes Neck, Oldfield Point and Eatons Neck are just a few good examples. Get a piece of clam or squid to the bottom and the bite is instantaneous."
Mixed-bag action has been smoking out of Greenport and Orient Point, too. "We've really seen super catches of porgies and sea bass in recent weeks," said Capt. Dave Brennan of the Greenport open boat Peconic Star, "as long as the weather allows us to head where we need to go." According to Brennan, novice anglers are walking off the boat with 20 or more big slabs apiece, and serious scup fishermen are doing even better. "These are quality scup," the skipper said. "It takes only 15 to 18 fish to fill a five-gallon bucket."
If you are looking to put a few more fluke on ice before the season wraps up Sept. 21, your best bet is probably Montauk. Like most other areas during the past few weeks, catches of the summer flatties there have varied in 40- to 60-foot depths along the South Side, but there have been a fair number of 7- to 8-pound pool winners, and most days have a decent number of keepers.
The other spot to try for fluke in September is Fire Island Inlet. The fishing here also has been picky, but the stretch from just west of Robert Moses Bridge back to Fire Island Lighthouse has given up some huge, late-season doormats during the past few years, including a 14-pounder caught last month. Impale a snapper on a 2-ounce jighead and drift here hoping to hang one for the wall.
Snappers, of course, have been ravenous around the docks in bays and harbors of late, especially along the South Shore and Shinnecock Canal. Snapper Zapper popper rigs tipped with small spearing have been the top offering. Make sure, as you cull through the small blues, that you don't accidentally keep any undersized weakfish. There seems to be a decent crop of 4- to 6-inch juveniles at some locations.
Offshore, too, changes are starting to occur with tuna schooling a little tighter, sharks seemingly more impatient and mahi numbers surging just slightly, which usually occurs just before they begin to slip.
Most Septembers offer a few big surprises from the deep and Capt Alex Shlomm of the "Far East" kept the streak alive last Saturday evening by putting Joe Mole and crew on a 300-pound swordfish, plus an estimated 120-pound bigeye tuna. The huge billfish ate a butterfish at Hudson Canyon and Mole fought it four hours with an Avet 30W. That's some workout.