September can be a great month on the south shore of Long Island. Before you head out there are a few regulation changes that you need to keep in mind. First, fluke season comes to an end on September 21st. Second, black s
ea bass bag limits see an increase from 3 fish to 8 fish. The size limit stays the same at 15”. Finally, keep in mind that black sea bass in federal waters is closed from September 22nd through October 22nd. However, you can still keep fish within the boundaries of NYS waters.
The beginning of September will give you a great chance at catching mahi close to the shore. The entire water column is now very warm so it’s shouldn’t surprise you to see mahi while you are fishing for fluke in 80-100 feet of water. Always have a rod setup in case you get your shot. If you see mahi and you happen to have live bait on board, that is what I would try first. Squid also works well, especially squid heads. They will also take a variety of small artificials. I will let you in on one of my mahi secrets. Always attempt to cast to mahi facing into the sun. If the sun is behind you and you are casting a shadow they tend to get lock jaw. One last note about mahi - if you come across floating debris and you don’t see any mahi below it, don’t assume they are not there. Drop a bucktail down and reel quickly.
As great as the beginning of September is for mahi, the end of the month sees the return of mako and thresher sharks. With sea bass season closed towards the end of the month in federal waters, it becomes a great time for shark fisherman to hit some great wrecks looking for big sharks. Before you bring a big shark back to the scales please make sure it’s not going to go to waste. If you do decide to bring a big fish back, please call your local food bank and see if they will take it. No need to throw it in a dumpster. Just recently I took my nephew from Texas out for a day of sharking. I hate to say it but we got skunked. However, because of what took place I just might have come across a new technique. After a few hours, we decided to call it quits. We cleaned up and stowed everything away. Just as I turned the engines on, here comes a big hammerhead. We quickly pulled out a shark rig, threw on a mackerel, and tried to drag it in front of the shark. This went on for a half hour! We tried to throw a popper at it. However, I wasn’t about to lose a $30 tuna lure to a shark. He would chase but I wouldn’t let him take it. Eventually, the shark disappeared. On the way home, we found some floating debris. No mahi, but lots of triggers and wouldn’t you believe it - another hammerhead. We tried again to hook up with it. No dice. As I sat back and enjoyed the smooth ride home I was bummed that I couldn’t get my nephew his first shark, and then it hit me. The next time I head offshore I’m going to use a spinning set up that I have rigged for tuna and use it for sharks. All that I need to do is shorten the wire leader used for shark rigs. I will make it only three feet long this way it will allow me to cast to a shark just in case I see one on the way in. Believe it or not, I have seen a lot of sharks cruising the surface. Of course, I always see them when I don’t have anything to throw at them. I will now!
In years past September usually meant that the fall striped bass run was under way. However, it seems that inlets west of Shinnecock don’t start to see an abundance of bass until October. For those of us that fish the FI inlet area, I don’t know what to expect with this brown tide that has been around since May. I’m praying that it clears up so bass will return to our back bays. If you can’t wait for things to heat up, I suggest you head east to Montauk. Fishing the full moon tides would be your best bet at landing a trophy size bass.
Bay fluking begins to fade and ocean fluking heats up. You will have three weeks to fish deep water for fluke before the season comes to a close. Look for doormats in 80-100 feet of water. I love fishing for fluke with light tackle but if it’s September and I’m out deep I leave that stuff at home. Make sure you also remember to bring some heavier weights. You might be using as much as 12oz depending on the speed of the drift. If the drift is too fast and you aren’t holding bottom you can try to use a sea anchor. If you don’t have one on board you can simply tie a rope to a bucket handle and throw it over board. This should slow your drift down.
Albies will begin to show up this month. If you love to chase them with light tackle then you already know how frustrating it can be. If you are new to albie fishing I suggest you keep reading. The first time I encountered these speedsters I nearly threw my rod overboard out of frustration. I couldn’t believe how quick they would pop up only to disappear just as quick. If you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time it still doesn’t guarantee you a hook up. I actually learned a lot from a buddy of mine that kept his boat out in Montauk. First, you need to reel fast. Second, you need to match the hatch. Most of the time these fish are on what is referred to as rain bait. Small fish no bigger than most people’s pinkies. So how do you cast something so small and retrieve it fast enough to trick an albie? It’s simple, use a 2oz drail weight with a 3-foot leader attached to it. By using this setup it allows you to cast a decent distance and it also allows you to reel fast enough to not cause your lure to skip along the top. The drail allows your lure to stay in the strike zone. At the end of the leader, I attach a green Zman 3” soft plastic bait. It’s a blast to catch bluefish and striped bass but catching albies takes things to the next level. Pound for pound one of the best fights you can experience on light tackle. They may be terrible table fare but with makos and thresher around they make great shark bait.