By far my favorite fish to target are mahi mahi (aka dorado, aka dolphin). As the first full summer month begins, these neon colored, acrobatic fish begin to show up along our south shores. Most people may not realize just how close these fish will come inshore. Last year a 25lb mahi was caught in the Fire Island Inlet. To be honest, that was out of the norm. However, these fish can be targeted within sight of land if the conditions are right. Here is what to look for: First, water temps usually need to be above 70, especially early in the summer. Second is water clarity. Every now and then an eddy may break off from the warm blue water of the Gulf Stream and make its way inshore. As this eddy heads inshore it will more than likely contain mahi and other pelagics. If you can’t find blue water then you probably won’t find mahi. Mahi want nothing to do with dirty green water. The last thing that you need is to find something floating - other than a balloon. I mention balloons because they seem to be everywhere. In the last 10 years, I have never found mahi under those shiny mylar balloons. Perhaps others may have had luck looking under balloons but I have not. Those balloons don’t allow for algae growth. In short, you need algae to create a small self-contained eco-system. The algae on floating debris attract small fish and in turn, those small fish attract mahi. The ocean contains many areas void of life so when mahi find a source of food they usually stick with it. I have found mahi under ropes, logs, trees, buckets, 55-gallon drums and buoys. Spotting a floating buoy gets me excited. There is a good chance that under that buoy is a line attached that has an incredible amount of algae growing on it. Two years ago while out trolling we spotted two small buoys floating. These buoys were the same size that you would find on a crab pot inside our bays. As we got closer I stood on the gunnel and I could see something was floating below the surface. These two small buoys floating in a slick flat ocean held more life than we had seen in the last 8 hours of trolling. Underneath these buoys was something out of National Geographic. There were tons of rope, sargassum weeds, sticks, mesh netting and a plastic tarp all stuck together. The amount of life living among this floating debris was insane. Huge triggerfish, several different kinds of jacks, blue runners, pilot fish and tons of teen sized mahi. We swapped out all of our trolling gear and switched over to spinning gear. We were using whole small squid. We put about 8 of them in the box and released many more. Catching stripers and bluefish on spinning gear is a blast but once you find yourself in the middle a mahi feeding frenzy you will quickly understand why they are my favorite fish to target. So the next time you are out in the ocean fluking and you find yourself with a flat drift less ocean don’t be afraid to head out a few miles and look for some floating debris.
Besides mahi, July is also a great month to target bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna. If you aren’t comfortable running out to our offshore canyons you can find tuna much closer. With the invention of the internet finding a hot bite has become a lot easier. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can obtain some coordinates to locations that have historically held tuna. Here are a bunch of tuna hot spots that are closer than our offshore canyons: Little Fishtails, Butterfish Hole, the Horns, Ranger Wreck, Bacardi Wreck, Texas Tower, Coimbra Wreck, Chicken Canyon, Triple Wrecks, Glory Hole, Resor Wreck and the Mud Hole. Quite often tuna will swim along a certain fathom line. Trolling along the 30, 35 and 40-fathom lines are a viable way to target tuna. One mistake that fisherman make, including myself when I first started out, was slowing the boat down once you hook up. It takes discipline but if you want multiple hook-ups you should maintain your speed for another 10 seconds. Tuna are a school fish. They usually swim together in large numbers. So before you slow down and start clearing lines wait 10 seconds. I have to admit those 10 seconds will feel like an eternity.
As of June 1st water temperatures around our region have been cold. As June began I looked at a buoy that lies 30nm south of Islip and it showed water temperatures of only 53 degrees. This means that our south shore shark season may get off to a slow start. Most shark tournaments usually take place in the month of June. I have a feeling with these cold temperatures we may see excellent shark fishing in the early part of July. If you do plan on going shark fishing please try to use circle hooks, especially if you are not planning on harvesting a mako, thresher or any other shark.
July is a great month to hit your local ocean reef. One of the most overlooked reef species is the triggerfish. It may look odd but it tastes pretty good. You just need to use a serrated knife to get through its tough skin. There is a good chance that you will keep losing your bait when these toothy creatures are around. It’s not always a small sea bass or a small porgy that keep robbing you of your bait. There is a good chance that there are a bunch of triggerfish under your boat. If you are using sea bass hooks I suggest you swap them out and go with a hook no bigger than something meant for a porgy. You will know pretty quickly when you hook into a triggerfish. The fight is equivalent of that of a blackfish. Once you boat them take extra precaution when handling them. Don’t let their spines on top of their bodies get the best of you! Before you leave the reef I suggest you do some fluking. Some of the biggest fluke that are caught are found near structure like you would find on our artificial reefs. Hopefully by this time of the year dogfish will have moved out to deeper water. If they are around I will usually just use artificial baits like Gulp and Zman when targeting fluke.
With cooler water temperatures you just might be able to find a good striped bass bite especially if you fish out of any of the inlets from Jones Inlet to Montauk Point come July. As you set out looking for pods of bunker keep in mind that not every pod will hold bass. It’s important that you put your time in and bounce from pod to pod. Remember when it comes to bass the earlier you get out the better chance you will have at finding bass under pods of bunker.