Where are the stripers? That’s the primary question Long Island anglers are asking. The season for the tasty game fish opened Saturday but local catches have been picky so far.
“I’ve been running to Raritan Bay for bass to 25 pounds,” said Elias Vaisberg, a Brooklyn kayak guide who works both Long Island and Staten Island waters each spring. “There are decent numbers of keepers there, but they’re hitting best at dawn, dusk and under cloudy skies.”
Like Vaisberg, Capt. Nick Savene, of the Oceanside charter boat No Time, has powered to Raritan Bay to put his fares on limit catches of stripers to 20 pounds. Saturday’s trip for the Tom Minor crew and Tuesday’s venture with chef Nader Gebrin and friends each limited out while trolling Mojo rigs. Both charters also scratched up limit catches of winter flounder.
Closer to home, a few anglers have been quietly scoring with stripers in Jamaica Bay using soft plastic shads or live-lined bunker cast tight to baitfish schools. There have also been some bass caught from the ocean beaches adjacent to Fire Island and Shinnecock inlets, and inside most of the larger South Shore and East End tidal creeks.
The fish at these locations have been mostly schoolies although some have stretched the tape to 25-inches — just shy of the 28-inch minimum size limit. The bay bass have been hitting sandworms, swim shads and Zara Spook topwater plugs while the beach fish have favored whole clam baits.
Long Island’s fishing fraternity lost a good friend April 6 when Kevin Owens of East Rockaway passed away at age 39. Stricken with cancer 17 years ago, he battled hard and held off the disease while continuing to fish as much as possible.
A hard-working, long-time mate aboard Savene’s No Time Charters, he started working the deck at age 17 and stayed at it until 2011. Even after losing a leg to his disease, he continued to catch, and close friends noted he got even better at the game while hauling in everything from blackfish, weakfish, stripers and fluke to a 175-pound bigeye tuna taken on an offshore trip.
“I was lucky to get him early,” said Savene, “and he learned how to do things right. He came aboard just as the West End action was reaching its peak with winter flounder, fluke, weakfish, bass and tuna. It was truly amazing fishing back then and he proved to be both a natural angler and a tremendous inspiration.
“Kevin showed everyone what it meant to have true determination and courage. We were lucky to fish together so long, and he was especially fortunate God allowed him to enjoy the best years of fishing action the West End had seen in our lifetimes. I told him that on one of our last visits together, and he agreed.”
A fishing fanatic to the very end, Owens was laid to rest wearing his foul weather gear.
On Monday, Capt. Joey Leggio, Pete Lamba, Joe Paluseo and Kevin’s older brother, Kenny, took Paluseo’s Fin-ACK-Tic out for a memorial fishing trip to honor their buddy.
“I’m guessing Kevin was looking down on us,” said Leggio, “because for the first time this year, the bass and flounder chewed all day.”