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Voracious snappers make their annual run

People fish during a half-day fishing trip on

People fish during a half-day fishing trip on the Island Princess boat at Captree State Park. (April 18, 2008) Credit: Ana P. Gutierrez

There is no official opening day for snapper blues, the juvenile predators that will grow up to be one of the most ferocious fish in the sea pound-for-pound. But the last week of July or first week of August would be a great starting point. By then, the diminutive bluefish are big enough to eat, feeding with abandon, and flooding bays and harbors in numbers that guarantee nearly anyone can join the fun with a high degree of success.

The snappers are right on time this year and they've shown up in good supply over the past week or two inside all of the South Shore bays, North Shore harbors and Peconic Estuary ports between the North and South Forks. Stop at just about any dock, bulkhead or river mouth that has a decent tidal current and you should find the aggressive little blues ripping into spearing, sand eels and bay anchovies.

While many old-timers recall the days of bamboo snapper poles and dunking bait beneath a float, today's anglers tend to favor using small tins or snapper popper lures with 4- to 8-pound test lightweight spinning outfits. Not that the old-school equipment doesn't catch; it still does. It's just that today's well-balanced gear is more sporty and allows users to cast their lines far enough to cover plenty of water. Still, there is something to be said for the more patient times recalled when you grabbed a bamboo pole and used it simply to lift your catch from the water.

As for the poppers and tins, both work best for snappers when tipped with a small piece of spearing, although the tins can catch without any addition at all. Try tossing a one-quarter-ounce KastMaster, a small Deadly Dick or a ½-ounce Acme Phoebe. If you choose to go the float and bait route, realize that you don't have to put the entire baitfish on the hook to entice these young bluefish. Use half a spearing, or a two-inch segment, and you'll hook more fish.

There is no season on bluefish, including snappers, but there are some protective measures to help safeguard the stocks. Anglers are allowed to take home a total of 15 blues each per day, but no more than 10 of these can measure less than 12 inches in total length. Be careful, too, that you don't accidentally creel any baby weakfish. These are easily distinguished from the blues by their yellow pectoral fins and squared tail. The snappers always have a sharply forked tail.


Around the Island

Porgies continue to provide plenty of action throughout Long Island Sound with the better catches being recorded in 20- to 30-foot depths around rock piles. Stripers, porgies and blues are available at the Middle Grounds with catches best early in the morning.

On the South Shore, fluke remain the best bet with keeper catches inside the bays still having the edge over slowly improving ocean scores. Bucktails tipped with spearing or Gulp! have worked best at the start of outgoing water.

For stripers, head to Montauk and work the Elbow or Pigeon Rip with trolled umbrella rigs during the day, or live eels after dark.


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