October means it’s togging time. Blackfish season officially opens on October 5th with a 4 fish bag limit at 16”. As the inshore waters begin to cool the blackfish bite begins to heat up. Pound for pound one of the best fighting fish that are found among our South shore waters. Along with a great fight these fish offer some great table fare with their white flakey filets. No need to head too deep to find these tasty critters. In fact I spend the entire month of October in the bay if I’m out targeting Tog. When targeting blackfish it’s all about structure. My go-to spot is the Robert Moses Bridge. Over the last year construction crews have sunk an enormous amount of concrete rubble around the bridges abutments. I fish for blackfish in shallow waters so I started using blackfish jigs in the range of 2 to 4 ounces. You rig a crab the same way you would on a single hook. Whether you use a jig or a plain hook make sure your hook is exposed and not buried in your crab. Both tides work for me. However once the tide reaches maximum velocity the bite will slow down. Just make sure you don’t get discouraged. Once the water slows again the bite will heat up. Unlike a lot of other fish, blackfish feed very aggressively during slack tide.
In last month’s column I mentioned that bonitos and false albies would start to be caught out in Montauk. It’s now October and these speedsters can now be found all along the south shore of Long Island. I have to warn you these fish can make you want to pull your hair out. First, you need to be in the right spot when they pop up. Second, you may cast directly in the middle of a school feeding on the surface and still not hook up. Just like other tuna these fish have great eye sight. If you aren’t up for “running and gunning” I do have a little trick that you can deploy. It’s great for kids and older fisherman that may get frustrated with trying to catch these little tunas. First, tie on a small Kastmaster, Deadly Dick or Diamond jig. I choose these three lures because how popular they are. Many others will work. Second, put your boat in forward and cast out your lure behind the boat. Before you close the bail let out about 50 yards of line. Third, place the rod in a rod holder in the gunnel closest to the stern. Fourth, take the line and use a rubber band and attach it to the reel handle. This will keep your lure just below the surface. Once a fish hits it will break the rubber band and you can then fight your fish. You can use a conventional reel or a spinning reel. Personally I find it more exciting with a small spinning reel. By using this technique it allows you to cover a lot more ground. I usually troll around 6-6.5kts.
At times you may come across acres of bass and bluefish gorging themselves on anything that swims as they prepare to migrate south. Over the last few years areas from Shinnecock Inlet to Jones Inlet have been home to millions of sand eels. This is why the most effective lure in your tackle box is just an old school diamond jig. I prefer six ounces. There are two ways to fish a jig while targeting bass and blues that are not on the surface. Some fisherman like to bounce the jig off the bottom by rasing the rod tip. I’m not a fan of that method. You will catch bass and blues however you are going to end up catching skates and dogfish as well. The method I prefer is a technique called squidding. Drop the jig to the bottom then reel up quickly about three quarters of the way and do it again. This method allows you to cover more of the water column while mimicking a fleeing sand eel.
As the month begins to cool, black seabass and porgies begin to move to deeper water. This is a great opportunity to jump aboard any number of party boats that can be found along on south shore ports. It’s not easy to anchor over a small wreck in 150’ of water so why not let someone else do it for you. Don’t forget for the month of October the bag limit for black seabass increases from 3 fish to 8 fish per person.
If you missed your chance at a big thresher or mako earlier in the year you may get another chance as these fish will reappear as the water cools. The key to finding these fish is being able to find bait within water temperatures in the range of 62-68 degrees. You should have no problem finding a few live bluefish to take with you to your favorite sharking spot.
Things begin to wind down for those of us that fish for pelagics along the 30-40 fathom lines. It’s been a weird year so far. I caught my first blue marlin ever in August. In fact I have seen more marlin this year than in the last 10 years fishing this area. The water temperatures have been warm however, the water clarity was a bit off. If the water temperatures stay warm you still may be able to find some fish especially during the early part of the month. The big question mark is bluefin tuna. If they use the 30-40 fathom line to migrate down do the south things can really heat up. In fact quite often these tuna can be found just about anywhere. If you are out jigging for bass and blues make sure you have a heavy jigging setup just in case you run into these tuna.
So far 2016 has been a complete bust as far as our offshore canyon fishing goes. It’s so bad that many have called this season the worst ever. I’m still not ready to throw in the towel just yet. October is typically a great month for canyon fishing. The fall usually brings about a great night chunk bite. You would be amazed how fast the night seems to go when tuna are feeding. If you are new to doing overnighters make sure you have someone on squid patrol. As the sun sets the squid rise from the depths to investigate your underwater lights. Using live squid that you net will increase your catch chances. If you are having trouble netting squid try using a net with bigger holes that will allow less drag in the water. If you hear on the radio that boats are catching fish and you are not, it might be because your leader line is too heavy. I have been on trips in which we had to go all the way down to 40lb leaders. Just remember to loosen up the drag a little more and take your time