The amazing run of striped bass that is ravaging sand eels along Long Island's South Shore is finally showing signs of fading as recent catches have been more uncertain than at any time since mid-October. Don't put away your bassin' gear just yet, however, as anglers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are still catching and those fish should filter down here over the next couple of weeks.
"We had anglers with as many as 13 bass caught in the surf on Thursday morning," said Samantha Norwood at J & J Sports Center in Patchogue, "So the bass fishing is still pretty good around here as long as you put in some time. Smith Point continues to be the hot spot, but there are a few fish at Cupsogue and along the South Fork, too. Tins are still accounting for the most fish."
To the west, Capt. Ed Walsh at Jones Beach Fishing Station called the bass action "a little sporadic," but added it's still good overall with boaters chasing the birds both east and west of Jones Inlet and surf-casters hunting down their prey between West End Jones Beach and Robert Moses Beach. Gorilla blues to 18 pounds have also shown along the beach in recently, slamming diamond jigs with red or green tubes.
"If you like catching weakfish," added Walsh, "get out now. There's a big body of them gorging on sand eels under diving birds." Walsh joined the weakfish brigade this week, using diamond jigs to tempt them in 50 feet of water southeast of Jones, 29 feet of water off Tobay, and in 50-foot depths off Gilgo Beach.
While stripers and blues may be starting to scale back, blackfish and sea bass seem to be reaching their peak.
"Tuesday and Wednesday saw the best blackfish catches of the year!" said a happy Jim Schneider, skipper of the Huntington open boat Capt. James Joseph II. "With gentle tides and a light northwest wind on Long Island Sound, we limited the boat both days with blackfish to 11.5 pounds and two more over 10 pounds. The fishing was just super in 50-foot depths."
Out at Orient Point, another famous blackfish area, Capt. Mike Boccio of the Prime Time 3 said last weekend saw "one-stop shopping" for blackfish in 100-foot depths with anglers using green crabs scoring best.
The "greenies," explained Boccio, "have a hard shell so they stay on the hook and transmit the bite up the line with more intensity than softer or smaller baits." Jeong Yoo of Flushing had the biggest blackfish on the boat this week with a 12.5-pound bulldog.
Blackfish, sea bass and some jumbo porgies have also been cooperative for the West End party boat fleet. Capt. Mike Wasserman, who skippers the Freeport open boat Starstream II for the Capt. Lou Fleet, reported steady sea bass catches on the 20- to 30-mile wrecks, plus a few shots at stripers on the way home. Capt. Steve Kearney from the Point Lookout open vessel Super Hawk II said his fares have had sea bass to 4.75 pounds along with jumbo porgies to 3 pounds. Kearney has been working wrecks and rubble in 60- to 100-foot depths for the sea bass and targeting the blackfish closer to home in less than 50 feet of water.