It’s always sad to see the summer end but if you fish the south shore of Long Island things are about to heat up. Whether you fish the bay, like to “run” the beaches or are still fishing the edge there are plenty of species to keep you busy.
Blackfish/Tog opens up on October 15th. Along the south shore, the bag limit Is 4 fish and the minimum size is 16 inches. Believe it or not, there are a lot of keepers within the bays. The key is finding structure. Bridge abutments are great as are any submerged wrecks. You will catch blackfish on both the incoming and outgoing tides. When the current peaks I usually take a food break. Unlike most fish blackfish feed very aggressively once the water becomes slack. This is a great time to use a blackfish jig. It’s similar to a bucktail but its head is flatter. If you have never used them before just attach a fiddler crab or a half of a green crab to the hook and get ready to get addicted to a new way to target blackfish. If the water stays warm into October don’t be surprised if you end up catching a few triggerfish while targeting blackfish. They look weird but taste great.
Striped bass begin to show up in large numbers. The last few years have seen incredible fishing in the back bays. If I could only have one lure to fish the back bays it would be a 6-inch Tsunami swim shad in pearl color. This lure does a great job “matching the hatch” when bass are feeding on peanut bunker. If you are a night dweller and you prefer to use natural bait your go to bait should be eels. Fish eels around structure and dock/bridge lights.
Along the beach…
I know a lot of guys don’t like to “run and gun” but I love it. I’m usually willing to cover a lot of ground. With my binoculars within arm’s reach, my eyes are peeled looking for birds and bait pods exploding. The hard part is locating fish on the feed. Once you do you should have no problem keeping rods bent. If it’s false albies I’m using a 2 ounce Hogy Heavy Minnow. Let it sink then reel as fast as you can. If it’s bass on the surface once again I’m using a Tsunami swim shad. If bluefish are around I’m using a 6-ounce diamond jig. The swim shad works great on bluefish however you will need to tie on a new one each time you catch a bluefish. It’s going to get costly.
If you didn’t get a shot at a mako or a thresher you still have time. As the water begins to cool these sharks will reappear in our waters. Areas like the Coimbra, Linda, and Yankee wrecks should be on your short list for places to target these toothy critters. Last year the number of thresher sharks that were along the beaches feeding on bunker was amazing. It’s a cool sight to see a thresher tail come out of the water and whack a pod of bunker. So don’t be surprised if you get spooled while bass fishing. Just keep in mind some of these sharks are very large before you harvest one please make sure you have a need for all of the meat. There is nothing macho about taking a few steaks off a shark and throwing the rest away. Just like with all fish take what you can consume.
I have never seen the mid-shore waters stay this “clean” for this long. If this continues you will still be able to target mahi 20-40 miles out. If you come across floating debris that usually holds mahi and don’t see them, drop a lure down deeper and see if you can bring them up. The sea surface will be colder but the water lower in the water column will be warmer as it takes a lot longer to cool off. Squid is probably the best dead bait to entice a bite. However, if I’m targeting mahi I’m not leaving the dock without a live well filled with either peanut bunker or mullet.
On the edge…
Pick your days wisely. Weather in the fall can change very quickly. Being 90 miles out when things get sloppy is no joke. Twice I have been on trips that it took us twice as long to get in as it did heading out. Now, if you have the weather October can be a great month in our offshore canyons. Yellowfin, bigeye and albacore tuna will be on the feed. Usually, the fall provides for a great night chunking bite. A good bite makes the longer fall nights go very quickly. Most boats will be using sardines and butterfish while they chunk at night. Be prepared to go light on your fluorocarbon leaders. I’m talking 40-pound test. Even at night tuna have tremendous eyesight. Here is something to remember: You need to decide if you want to fish for tuna or shark at night. You don’t want to put chum in the water and hope to catch tuna.
Mahi should be all over the canyons. By this time of the year, these fish are big. Lobster pots and floating debris should provide plenty of chances to ice up some great eating fish. With mahi in the 15-30 pound size, I would still keep your hooks on the small size.
It’s been a great year for white and blue marlin. I hooked up with one on a day trip to the dip in August. I know a lot of guys head to the edge looking for tuna to bring home. However, I will take a marlin any day over a tuna. I don’t think there is anything more exciting than seeing a 400 to 500-pound blue marlin tail-walking on the horizon. If you look to target marlin you will increase your chances if you run a dredge in your spread. A dredge is kind of like a very large umbrella rig. Speaking of marlin, a bill was just signed into law that prohibits the sale of marlin in the US. That means you will never see it on a menu or at a grocery store. A marlin is worth more to the recreational fisherman than a commercial fisherman. If care is taken marlin can be caught many times.
Please keep in mind that fluke season closes on September 30th. Black seabass in state waters will be open the entire month. The bag limit will be 7 fish per person with a minimum size of 15 inches. However, if you plan on fishing beyond three miles out that puts you in federal waters. Black seabass won’t be allowed to be harvested until October 22nd in federal waters.