Late summer on Long Island has long been synonymous with snapper fishing among the angling set. The juvenile bluefish arrive in our waters earlier in the season, but it takes until late July or August before they grow large enough to bother putting in a pan.
Decades ago, docks and bulkheads across Long Island would be lined end-to-end with snapper fishermen planning on catching dinner. Inconsistent runs in recent years have resulted in less pressured pursuit, but this year the young blues are off to a very strong start, sparking renewed interest.
“Snapper fishing has been really good,” said Pablo Salinas at J & J Sports in Patchogue. “Anglers are using spearing, small Kastmaster lures and snapper poppers to catch them from just about any bay access point between Patchogue and West Sayville. Right now, the fish are running 6 to 8 inches long.”
The snapper blues have been biting well in Shinnecock Canal and throughout Shinnecock Bay too, according to Jeff Lomonaco at White Water Outfitters in Hampton Bays. “Most are still a little on the small side at 5- or 6-inches long,” he noted, “but the action has been very consistent.”
The best catches of snappers at Shinnecock Canal are usually made just before the locks open and right after they close. Inside Shinnecock Bay, any moving water should turn on the bite.
“We’ve got a nice run of snapper blues developing off the local docks and creek mouths on the West End also,” said Bob Sansonetti from Freeport Bait and Tackle. “Anglers are catching them on spearing and snapper poppers at the end of Guy Lombardo Avenue, and at Waterfront Point in Long Beach. At 7 to 8 inches long, you can fry them up or use them for fluke bait.”
Although the South Shore usually has a head start on the best snapper fishing each summer, the North Shore action seems to already be well underway. “I’m seeing minnows scatter as snappers tear into them,” said Tom Swiencki at Oyster Bay Marine Supply. “There are plenty of them right here in Oyster Bay Harbor.”
A bit east, Mark McGowan of Cow Harbor Bait and Tackle said that snapper blues in the 6- to 8-inch class were inside Huntington Bay, Northport Bay and swimming tight to Long Island Sound beaches as well. Jim Flora at Miller Place Bait and Tackle echoed that sentiment. “There’s plenty of small baitfish here right now — rain bait, spearing, anchovies — that’s what you need for good snapper fishing,” he said.
Regulations allow anglers to creel up to 15 bluefish per day, but no more than 10 can measure less than 12 inches long.
That the little blues are in good supply bodes well for the Captree Snapper and Crab Derby (631-587-3430) scheduled for Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 2 p.m. Entry is free but you’ll still have to pay the $8 parking fee to get in the park.
Another contest you might want to mark on your calendar is the Hooks for Heroes Summer Fluke Slam (www.hooksforheroes.org) on Aug. 26, hosted by Scotty’s Fishing Station in Point Lookout. This tournament raises funds to help send veterans and first responders with physical and mental problems sustained during their service on free fishing trips. It’s a great cause and fun time.