Long Island Fishing Report
It’s hard to believe that the calendar already reads November. Thankfully November has become my favorite fishing month. In fact, the last few years all the way to the close of striped bass season (December 15th) we have seen great fishing. Even though most people will be chasing bass there are a few other fishing opportunities. Mackerel, herring, cod, porgies, ling, blackfish, albies, bluefish and black seabass can all be found off the south shore of Long Island. Let’s start with striped bass. The last three years have seen some great back bay fishing for striped bass. From Bellport to Bay Shore bass have been found in big numbers. If you can’t find them in the bay it’s time to “run the beach”. Most of the time I’ll run out of Moriches Inlet and head towards Fire Island Inlet. This allows me to cover some ground searching for striped bass. Usually, this time of the year striped bass are schooled up in huge numbers. As the bait from the bay begins to flow out into the ocean the bass are there waiting. This time of the year you should think smaller. Most of the baits that are coming out of the bay are small. Spearing, mullet and peanut bunker are usually no bigger than your hand. It’s important to match the hatch. That means you should have rods rigged and ready to go with a few different must have lures: 6-inch swim shad, an old school A67 diamond jig and a 1-ounce jig head with a 3-4 inch soft plastic on it. These 3 lures will make sure you are able to match the hatch. During this time of the year, there is a lot of running and gunning. Birds and blitzes on top of the water will lead you to the fish. However, if you don’t see fish on the top it doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. Keep a close eye on your fishfinder. You may be able to spot bass feeding a little deeper on sandeels. This is your opportunity to drop down a diamond jig. The bass in November and December may not be 30 or 40 pounders but the sheer numbers will provide plenty of excitement. Blues and albies… Along with bass, you will probably come across bluefish and albies. The bluefish that you do find will be tackle busters. These fish are usually in the 12-20 pound range. If you know for certain that bluefish are around do not use soft plastics. They will tear them up and cause them to be unusable. You can catch them on top water poppers and diamond jigs. Just make sure you are using lures with single hooks. Using treble hooks for bluefish can be a recipe for disaster. Besides bluefish, you will most likely encounter albies. If you don’t eat fish then this is a fish that you want to target. Pound for pound one of the best fish you can target especially on light tackle. These fish are fast. You want to use a lure that can be cast from a great distance. I use a 2 ounce Hogy Heavy Minnow. Besides being fast these little tuna have great eyesight. Keep your leader to no more than 30 pounds and reel as fast as you can to trick them into hitting something artificial. Bottom feeders… November is also a great month for bottom fishing. By far my favorite fish to eat is black seabass. Its flesh is white and flakey. By this time of the year, these fish have moved a little deeper. Try wrecks, rocks and ledges from 20 to 40 fathoms out. I use a 6-ounce diamond jig to weed out the smaller fish. Using a diamond jig will also help you avoid the dreaded dogfish that will reappear as the water gets colder. If you don’t enjoy using an artificial then I would make sure you have clam on board. Along with seabass, you can count on catching porgies and ling as a by catch. To increase your catch of ling and porgies I would ditch the diamond jig and just use clams on a hi-lo rig. Another great fish to target is cod. I would target them the same way you target black seabass. Blackfish a.k.a Tog… If you noticed I didn’t talk about blackfish when I discussed bottom fishing. There is a reason. Porgies, black seabass, ling and cod can all be caught as by catch while targeting each other. Blackfish in the fall usually take different bait. Artificials won’t work. If you are targeting these fish then you must use a crab. Asian, green and fiddler crabs are excellent baits. If you are just starting out targeting these tasty critters be prepared to get frustrated. You are going to swing and miss a lot. It’s important to be patient and most times you want to wait for the second bite before you try to set the hook. Be careful because once you get the hang of things you just might find yourself obsessed with catching blackfish. Don’t overrun these fish. If we have a warm October you will be able to still find these fish around bridges and jetties. For the freezer… Just because its fall it doesn’t mean that the ocean is “kicked up” every day. There will be plenty of days to hit the ocean on a nice flat day and load up on some mackerel and herring. I don’t eat either of this fish but I do stock my bait freezers up with them. I will use them next year for shark fishing. I will also use them to chunk for tuna and mahi. A Look Back… 2018 was a mixed year. The mid-shore tuna and mahi bite were great. The life along the 30-40 fathom lines was the most I have ever seen. We boated several bluefin tuna over 150 pounds. We also got into a great yellowfin bite on live peanut bunker near the triple wreck area. Mahi stayed plentiful all the way through October. The bite out on the edge was a disappointment. However, marlin were in abundance. Both white and blue. Inshore was just as mixed. Black seabass were plentiful while fluke were tough to come by unless you were east of Shinnecock. The striped bass that showed up in the spring were big. Many 40 and 50 pound fish were caught fishing the bunker pods along the beaches. Once again weakfish were very scarce in the spring but made a good showing in the early part of the fall. With this issue being a double issue I would like to wish everyone a great Thanksgiving, happy holidays and a Merry Christmas. I’m already looking forward to striped bass opening day.