September is a month which anglers across the island either love or leave. For some, it means back to school and the end of the boating season. For others, it means the beginning of the fall run and a frenzied few months of lost sleep, cashed in sick and vacation days and sore muscles. September is a transition month with many of the fish whom spent their summers in our waters begin to form dense schools and migrate toward their wintering grounds. Fluke, menhaden and many of the tropical exotics such as trigger fish all head south starting this month. On the other hand, September triggers many of the larger predator species to migrate toward the island in order to fatten up for their migration south. Yellowfin and bigeye tuna, long fin and false albacore, striped bass and bluefish are prime examples.
This past summer has been another interesting one, similar to the past few years with many patterns not repeating themselves. The fluke bite picked up later in the season, as did the striped bass bite in the rips off of Montauk point. Many anglers griped at the lack of fluke action until mid-July when unexpectedly the bite in the bays turned on big time, especially on the east end. Anglers working the shallow drop offs and cuts near the inlets with fresh spearing or peanut bunker found themselves quickly limiting out, especially on the incoming tide. The cooler, clean ocean water seemed to trigger the bite around the last few hours of the flood. Just as effective, if not more than fresh bait, are the various sizes and shapes of Berkely Gulp scented soft baits. The twister tail models in white, green and electric chicken threaded onto bucktails of similar color, or used alone on a hook eighteen inches above a jig or sinker all produced fantastic results.
Anglers who preferred to run out of the south shore inlets to fish the ledges and humps in the 40 to 80 foot depths often found large sea bass willing to take baits meant for fluke. Unfortunately, the pieces closer to the inlets were quickly picked over with only small fish remaining in those areas. While drifting for sea bass and fluke, many anglers reported seeing thresher and brown sharks feasting on the acres of bunker schools. Often joining in were porpoises and whales all snacking on the nutritious morsels. It seemed that the large biomass of striped bass which fed on the bunker off the western south shore did not continue the pattern as the bunker marched east. Many anglers reported unharassed schools of bunker with nothing under them for most of July. Once those fish reached Montauk, it was a whole other situation. Setting up in the rips off the south side, large stripers in the thirty to sixty pound range eagerly ate eels and other live baits drifted along the ledges. Charter boats filled up quickly, as many first time anglers brought home a trophy. However, the current state of the striped bass fishery does raise some concerns. The current biomass is consisting of very large fifteen to twenty year old 35 to 55 pound fish, as well as five year old six to eight pound fish. With very poor overall spawns the past ten years, many anglers, scientists and anyone involved in the fishing industry for any length of time are reminiscent of the the crash and subsequent moratorium on striped bass of the 1980’s. Time will tell, but most anglers are not optimistic about the future of the fishery.
Turning south and looking into the offshore scene, the summer has been rather interesting. Once again there have been more bigeyes than yellowfins in the local canyons as most of the yellowfin action has been excellent for our friends in the southern canyons. Fortunately, the bluefin tuna, mako and thresher sharks have made up for the lack of canyon action for local anglers. Each year we have seen bigger bluefins feeding on sand eels and squid along the thirty to forty fathom line and most of the overs taken this season have been between 52 and 56 inches. Many days anglers release multiple large bluefins while trying to find an under or two. The interesting part is very few boats have been cashing in on the bluefin action. Even on weekends it was and still is possible to fish a whole day without seeing another boat. As the water temperatures warmed up into the mid to upper seventies, flying fish, mahi mahi and even white and blue marlin were seen on the bluefin grounds. Also are acres upon acres of skipjack and bonito no doubt drawn to the area by the various types of bait which is plentiful.
September is a magical month. The northwesterly winds start to carry cooler, drier air across the island. The mass migration of fish, birds and other assorted creatures begins in ernest this month making it a magical time to be a fisherman on Long Island so get out there as much as possible and make the most of the end of our season.