Despite a few good innings here and there, surf fishing for striped bass, bluefish and false albacore has been surprisingly hit and miss this fall. Some have blamed the inconsistent action on a lack of sand eels, the diminutive baitfish that lit a fire under South Shore predators last October and November. Others have speculated that the downturns in bluefish and striper populations may be the culprit.

Whatever the cause, there seems to be a collective sense that the fall bite is about to improve and reports over the past few days indicate a significant uptick in surf fishing success.

"Yesterday we saw the first solid action along the open beaches between Shinnecock and Moriches inlets," said Paul Graniello at J&J Sports Center in Patchogue. "The gannets [large sea gull-like birds] were working over schools of monster bluefish to 16 pounds along with stripers in the 15- to 25-pound class. The surf was boiling from Quogue to Moriches Inlet with Super Strike Little Neck poppers and Stan Gibbs Pencil or Polaris poppers drawing the strikes."

At Saltwaters Bait and Tackle in West Islip, Jose Santiago said that surf fishing in the vicinity of Fire Island Inlet hasn't caught fire just yet but did appear to be building.

"It's not hot yet," said Santiago, "but there has been a steady pick of very nice bass to 35 pounds in recent days at the Sore Thumb and Gilgo Beach. There have also been a fair number of stripers in the 20-pound class plugged after dark from Democrat Point. The action may be ready to ignite."

Ed Walsh, at the Jones Beach Fishing Station, agreed. "The fish are growing more aggressive each day," he said. As proof, Walsh offered the mid-week catch made by Max Lonigro at Gilgo Beach. Lonigro used skimmer clams to catch six stripers, then tied on a popper and caught a pair of 18-inch fluke right on the surface.

The fishing piers in front of Walsh's shop have also produced well with stripers to 41 pounds falling to bunker and shad chunks during the week. The bite seems well-timed for the Jones Beach Classic, a striper and bluefish tourney based out of Walsh's shop and scheduled for Nov. 4-6. Visit for the details.

Surf action along the North Shore remains lackluster west of Smithtown Bay but seems to be improving to the east.

"The North Fork really came alive over the past few days," said Steve Sponza at WeGo Bait and Tackle in Southold, which recently moved a half-mile to the east on Route 25. "From Mattituck to Town Beach, we've had jumbo blues to 16 pounds. At midweek, we even saw a two-hour blitz of false albacore, and anglers have been taking plenty of blackfish from the shore off Hortons and Rocky Points."

If you head out to the North Fork in search of those monster blues, don't expect to see them busting on the surface. The action has been on bunker chunks fished on the bottom when the wind blows from the northeast.

"There's been almost no sign of surface feeding activity, not even any diving birds," Sponza said. "It's just a quiet bite taking place below the surface."

With any luck that, too, will change over the next few days.

Email: outdoortom@


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months