It’s hard to believe it’s October already. This month is when things begin to really heat up inshore and offshore. There is an old saying “you can’t catch fish if your boat is tied to the dock.” Many people will cancel a trip if they get bad reports. That’s not me. If the weather says go then I go. In late August my wife and I headed out on an afternoon troll towards the Coimbra Wreck. Beautiful afternoon predicted, however, the area had been dead for a few weeks. We ended the day with a bunch of mahimahi, with two of them weighing in at 17lbs. In my book that’s a great day. Out with a loved one and fish in the box. By the way, a couple of boats picked up some bluefin tuna in the same area. Maybe you are shrugging your shoulders and wouldn’t call two 16lb mahi a good day. How about a bad fishing report nearly derailed my best canyon trip ever. Two years ago in October, the Hudson Canyon was on fire. At the time I wrote for another fishing publication gathering weekly fishing reports. I couldn’t believe the reports that I was getting. It was Sunday and the boats that fished Friday into Saturday on overnighters crushed it. Boats were reporting double digit catches of 60-90lb class yellowfin tuna along with some bigeyes and tons of mahi. I called my buddy who had already heard about the bite. He was able to get two other guys, however, with gas prices through the roof we were desperate to find a fifth. I wanted to go so bad so I scraped the bottom of the barrel. I invited my buddy, Justin. I used to work with him. We are complete opposites. However we did have one thing in common, we loved a good adventure. It took all of 10 seconds to convince him. That’s five guys, even though three out of the five had never been more than a mile offshore, never mind 80 miles. Woke up Monday so excited to go, the weather was predicted to be awesome. As I arrive at Tony’s boat he informs me that he has some bad news. The boats that did Sunday into Monday overnighters caught nothing. An estimated 200 boats caught nothing! Talk about a punch in the stomach. After a quick discussion with Tony, we decided to still go. He asked me not to say anything to the other guys. As we arrived at the fishing grounds we came across a few boats that were chunking. There were too many weeds in the water to troll. So we began to chunk. It didn’t take long. Within the first half hour, we had our first tuna in the boat. As the day turned to night the bite just kept getting better. We didn’t go more than 20 minutes without a bite. We didn’t land them all because we were using only 40lb leader but we filled the fish boxes enough to make all of us smile. At day break we decided to hit the pots on the way home. What a blast, Captain Tony up in the helm and the four of us in the back catching mahi after mahi. By far the best canyon trip that I have ever been on. I have been dealing with a lot of health issues this past year. You never know when it may be your last trip. So if the weather is nice don’t worry about reports. Get out there with your friends or family and enjoy your passion.
We dodged a bullet when it comes to blackfish. There was talk of reducing the bag limit down to one fish. This year the same regulations will remain in place. The season opens on October 5th with a bag limit of 4 fish at 16”. There is a cult like following when it comes to blackfish. Once you catch a few you will understand why people wait all year for opening day. I had terrific success using blackfish jigs. Some of the old timers may look at me funny because I like using a spinning reel while targeting blackfish. To be honest I only use them when I’m using jigs. When I’m not using jigs I use a snafu rig. Instead of using two hooks for two different baits, the rig uses two hooks that are placed into one piece of crab. Use this rig once and you will never fish two baits at once again.
Let’s be realistic, the fish that most fishermen look forward to catching are striped bass. In October they return in a big way. It’s odd, I love trolling for pelagics but I hate doing it when it comes to bass. When bass are feeding on adult bunker I use very large treble hooks to snag bunker and let them sink. The extra weight of the treble hook forces the bunker below the pod to where the bass are feeding. Once the bait from the bay enters the ocean I go with 6” pearl colored swim shads. When the bass stay deep I use a 6oz single hook diamond jig without a colored tube. Don’t just bounce the jig off the bottom. Let it hit the bottom and begin to retrieve. Reel the jig about three quarters of the way up and repeat. This method will out fish those just bouncing the bottom and it will allow you to avoid hooking up with dogfish.
Imagine if a 15lb bass fought like a 15lb bluefish. I’m sure that there a few readers out there that have friends that are bass snobs. Personally, I would take a bent rod from a bluefish any day than one from a bass. The largest bluefish that was ever caught on my boat was actually caught by my wife Gina. After about a 20 minute fight the fish came to the surface and it looked like King Salmon. It tipped the scale just a shade over 20lbs. If you come across blitzing bluefish do yourself a favor and put your treble hooks away. That includes poppers that have them on. It’s a lot easier to remove a single hook from a bluefish mouth than a treble hook.
Towards the end of October, seabass season will open again in federal waters. Personally, I wouldn’t target them in state waters. You would be hard pressed to put together a decent catch. If you love bottom fishing I would stick to blackfish and porgies.
Don’t forget about false albies and bonitos. These fish are what fly fisherman live for. If you prefer to use spinning gear, the one single lure that I would make sure that I had on board would be a small Deadly Dick. Let it sink after you cast it and then retrieve very fast.
If you want something bigger but don’t want to travel to deep, makos and threshers can be found on our local wrecks from 20-40 fathoms out.