There’s a time-honored saying among veteran anglers that goes: “Find the bait and you’ll find the fish.” More often than not, this holds true with predator species like false albacore, bluefish and striped bass, three of the primary fall targets in our waters. That bodes well for the next few weeks as there are currently massive amounts of baitfish in our area.
“We look to be set up pretty well,” said Peter Haskell of Haskell’s Bait and Tackle in Westhampton. “The surf along Dune Road is loaded with sand eels and over the past few days a decent number of stripers have been caught by anglers tossing a variety of lures meant to imitate the slender baitfish like diamond jigs, Hogy Epoxy Minnows and needlefish plugs. Most of the bass and school blues being caught have been toss-backs, but a few fish to 40 inches have found their way into the surf.”
Haskell also saw plenty of bait in the Shinnecock Canal a couple of nights ago. “The locks were closed and there were massive amounts of bay anchovies swimming under the lights. They were headed from Peconic Bay toward Shinnecock Bay. Hopefully, when they reach Shinnecock Inlet later this week, those baitfish will be greeted by false albacore, bluefish and some bass.”
Baitfish schools are also stacked to the west, and in Long Island Sound. One skipper sailing from Fire Island Inlet to the Fire Island Artificial Reef about two miles offshore told of cruising through thick schools of adult bunker. Others have noted tremendous numbers of peanut (juvenile) bunker in Long Island Sound stretched from Matinecock Point east to Port Jefferson. In the waters off the North Fork, I’ve seen a mix of rain bait, snapper and peanut bunker paralleling the beach all the way to Orient. It’s been enough to draw in some false albacore for an occasional attack, but consistent action has been lacking.
So, with huge schools of baitfish ready to flush from our interior waters what has kept the predators quiet so far? Likely it has been warm water temperatures. As of Thursday morning, surface temperatures were 68 degrees in Peconic Bay, 71 degrees off Kings Point in Long Island Sound and 69 degrees in Great South Bay. That’s three to five degrees warmer than the usual trigger point for fall madness to begin. With temperatures expected to drop below 50 degrees over the next few nights, the fall blitz may be right around the corner.
Bottom Fishing Still Hot
Bottom fishing remains strong across Long Island with solid catches of porgies and black sea bass outside of Jones, Fire Island and Moriches inlets, as well as in Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. Mixed in with the scup, especially, have been a few keeper blowfish and an occasional weakfish.
Those who love the challenge of blackfishing can now wet a line in Long Island Sound from east of Throgs Neck Bridge to a line running from Orient Point across to Watch Hill, Rhode Island. The season there opened Thursday with a three-fish bag limit and 16-inch minimum size limit. Blackfish season around the rest of Long Island opens Monday with a four-fish bag limit and 16-inch minimum size.