By most accounts, boating activity around Long Island has been relatively light this season. That's undoubtedly a result of last year's severe storms taking many vessels out of circulation, but this weekend is likely to see just about everyone who still had a boat in dry dock finally hit the water.
It also means plenty of pleasure boaters, jet skis, kayak fans and others pursuing outdoors fun cutting back and forth across the fishing grounds, creating odd wakes and, occasionally, wandering off course while distracted.
Under such conditions, savvy anglers often do well by showing a little independence and breaking away from the crowds and traditional fishing hot spots. If ever there was a weekend made for exploring out of the way places that you've always thought might hold a few fish, this is it.
Rather than probe along the main channels, up close to the better-known buoys, near or inside of an inlet or harbor, or right outside your busy marina, consider looking for fish that have taken up residence off the beaten track. Many bay species, such as fluke, weakfish and bluefish, will likely take the same course of action as waters grow increasingly busy.
Ideal places to check out include back bay flats such as those found in the most western and eastern reaches of Moriches Bay, or inside Fire Island between Fair Harbor and Ocean Beach and again between Sunken Forest and Water Island in Great South Bay. Similar waters can be found between Robert Moses Bridge and the Jones Beach Causeway, on the south side of South Oyster Bay, and in the western reaches of Shinnecock Bay, again on the south side. Find a cut or pocket with six or seven feet of water in such areas and you'll probably also encounter kingfish, blowfish and summer school weaks.
North Shore anglers can find unpressured areas by heading down the beach, east or west, of most any harbor mouth. In the western and middle stretches of Long Island Sound, you'll find fishable water for just about any species in 15- to 30-foot depths. Explore areas that are almost equidistant between harbors to avoid as much boat traffic as possible. For the more eastern ports, like Mount Sinai and Mattituck, just run east until the crowds drop off.
Prospecting in shallow or unfamiliar waters requires skippers to be alert for shoaling, sand bars, and submerged debris. Plan these excursions to coincide with rising tides to put as much water under your hull as possible. You'll also score best early and late in the day as bright sunlight can drive game fish off the flats.
Boat safe this weekend
On this celebratory weekend it's a good idea to keep an eye out for vessels that could pose trouble. Give especially wide berth to boats that appear to be driving recklessly, aggressively, at high speed, on the wrong side of channel buoys.