Last call for fluke. The season will come to a close on September 17th. If you are looking for that double digit dream fish I suggest you focus your attention on fishing the ocean. Make sure you bring some bigger weights when targeting these big fish. It’s a little different fishing for fluke in 80-90 feet of water than it is fishing the shallow waters of the bays. While deep water fluke fishing, you should be prepared to use sinkers anywhere from 6-10 ounces. The wind and moon phase will play a big part on how much lead you will need to use. On the flip side you may find yourself motionless in the ocean. You need movement in order to catch fluke. If you find yourself in this situation you can try to power drift. Every few minutes bump your boat into forward then back into neutral again. By doing this it will help you cover some ground and make your bait look alive. It’s not my favorite thing to do but it’s better than sitting motionless.
As fluke fishing comes to an end, some of the best light tackle speedsters enter our waters. False albacore, Atlantic bonito and skipjack tuna begin to show up as the long summer days begin to unwind. I must warn you, these fish will test your patience. Don’t bother shutting your motors off - if you want to land these guys be prepared to “run and gun.” If you think it’s a blast catching big bluefish wait until you hook into these small tunas. Leave the big rod and reels at home, chasing after these fish is all about the sport. These speedsters are what fly fisherman dream of. Your best shot at catching these fish in late September would be to head to Montauk. If bait settles in around the point these fish can be found until early November. As autumn takes hold these fish begin to head west. These fish will most likely be feeding on rain bait (small baitfish) or very small shrimp. It’s important that you “match the hatch.” You will increase your odds of doing battle with these speedsters by throwing artificial lures that match the size of the bait they are feeding on. Some of my go-to lures are Hogy epoxy jigs, Deadly Dick’s and small bass assassins on a small jig head. Once you find the birds and busting fish cast quickly, reel fast and hold on!
September will provide boats that like to stay within sight of land their best shot at finding mahi mahi. With water temperatures peaking in September these colorfully acrobatics can appear just about anywhere along the south shore of Long Island. There are two things that are important when it comes to finding these fish. First, it’s important to find some type of floating debris. I can’t speak for other fisherman but from my own experiences I have never found mahi under floating balloons. I mention this because you will see a lot of balloons out there. Floating wood, buckets, buoys and Sargassum Weed should be thoroughly inspected. Second, it’s up to Mother Nature. The bluer the water the better the chance of finding these fish. These are fish that like “clean water.” If you head out looking for mahi try to fill your livewell with snappers, peanut bunker, or mullet. If you can’t get anything live, make sure you bring some squid.
If you missed out on your chance to catch weakfish in the spring, the month of September will give you another shot. Most years, especially around the back bays of Fire Island, smaller weakfish appear. These fish can range from a 1-2 pounds to 6-8 pounds. Just like the big tide runners that you find in the spring these fish love moving water, low light conditions and light boat traffic. If you locate one it usually means you’ve located a school of them. No need to go with anything more than 10-15 pound test. A rod with plenty of flex and a reel with a very loose drag will help you land these fish once you are hooked up. Take your time reeling these fish in. Remember they are called weakfish because how fragile their mouths are. I suggest you keep the net handy, as trying to flip these fish into the boat will cause you a lot of frustration. As a reminder, you can keep 1 fish with a minimum size of 16”. When weakfish are on the feed they will eat a wide variety of bait. Sand Worms, Blood Worms and Jelly worms all work great. Cut squid on a high-lo rig is a simple but effective rig. Small bass assassins on a jig head, 1-2 ounce diamond jigs and small swim shads will all do the trick. So whether hit them early or hit them late, weakfish on light tackle is a great way to fill the void in the bays waiting for the fall run to begin.
The last two years out in Montauk have been tough. However, if things get back to normal look for massive schools of bluefish, striped bass, bonito, false albies and skippies to kick off the fall run. My first experience with Montauk was from a bird’s eye view. I stood at the top of Camp Hero and was awe-struck by what my eyes were looking at. Huge schools of fish exploding on the surface. I had never seen anything like it. A week later I hopped aboard a small center console that I chartered and caught more fish in one day than I had caught in the entire year. If the bite is on, head for the “end.”
Already this summer several wahoo and white marlin have been caught within 30 miles off our coast. These fish will hang around as long as water temps out there hold in the 70’s. If wahoo and marlin are in that close I can just about guarantee you that there are yellowfin, bluefin and longfin tuna swimming among them. Before you head out check your chlorophyll charts and head to the blue water. These fish love “clean” water.
As for shark fishing, September seems to be a transitional month. It doesn’t mean that you can’t find them but for the most part threshers and makos like the water to be on the cooler side. Look for these sharks to return in October. In the meantime there are plenty of brown sharks out there to bend a rod. Besides brown sharks don’t be surprised if you come across a tiger or hammerhead.
Our offshore north east canyons will be filled with boats doing “overnighters” looking for bigeye tuna. If you head out, look for those bigeyes in the early morning hours and at night. I would spend the afternoon day chunking for yellowfin tuna and longfin albacore. If you can’t find any tuna you can put some meat in the boat by hitting up some lobster pots that will hold mahi.