They are here! My favorite fish begins to appear in July. I’m talking about mahi-mahi. Down south they refer to them as dolphin. However, up here in New York I refer to them as mahi because most people that don’t fish almost start to cry when you tell them that you catch dolphin. They associate the term dolphin with “Flipper” the mammal. Even though mahi is a Hawaiian term that means “strong” most people in our area know what a mahi is thanks to many restaurants serving mahi-mahi tacos. After reading that opening paragraph I’m sure you can tell that I’m a mahi nerd. There aren’t too many fishermen willing to travel 80 miles for a good mahi bite. Oh, but I am. I have said it before and I will say it again. Live bait is king when it comes to mahi. If they won’t take live bait then they aren’t going to take anything else. If it’s July, live bait will be found on my boat. Mullet, peanut bunker, snappers and killies all make excellent mahi bait. If you don’t have a bait well or you aren’t able to throw a cast net you should be able to purchase some live killies at your local bait shop. Believe it or not, killies can be kept alive on ice for several hours. I kid you not. So don’t leave the dock without something alive that you can toss out to a school of mahi. If frozen is the only option, make sure you have squid on board. Along with mahi, a few other pelagics show up off the coast of Long Island. Yellowfin tuna, wahoo and marlin. You don’t need to run all the way out to the “edge.” These fish can be caught around the 30 fathom curve. Look for temperature breaks along with “dirty” and “clean” (chlorophyll) water butting up against each other.
The last few years have been great for those out chasing bluefin tuna. These fish arrived even earlier this year. Fish from 50 to 400 pounds were being caught in late May. It’s not too often that a lure becomes a game changer but if you don’t have wide/directional bars in your spread you are missing out. Half of all of my tuna bites came from these bars. It’s a spreader bar that has a keel on it. This keel allows the spreader bar to move away from the boat. It places the bar in “clean water” away from your boat’s prop wash. It’s not just tuna that will hit these bars. Marlin, mahi and wahoo are also landed on these wide/directional tracker bars. I place the rods these lures are on forward of my console. I do not run them from my outriggers. The invention of these bars has allowed me to increase my spread. I now troll 9 rods instead of 7. The bars on my boat are made local by Chatter Lures.
Just because most shark tournaments are over it doesn’t mean that makos and threshers have left. With the water being warm there is no need to run too deep to find them. Before you head out don’t forget the new regulations. Recreational fishermen with the appropriate authorizations (HMS permit and shark endorsement) must release all male shortfin makos measuring less than 71 inches in a straight line from snout to tail. For females, that minimum size is 83 inches. Most of my shark days during this time of the year take place in-between tuna fishing. Most tuna are caught in the early morning or the evening. If the weather is nice and doesn’t chase us home we set up for shark fishing mid-day. We throw out some chum and hang out hoping for a mako or thresher before we get back up on the troll for tuna in the late afternoon/early evening. Make sure you have something ready to toss out if you get mahi in the spread.
What an incredible run of weakfish we have had. I have been fishing my local waters (Great South Bay) for the last 15 years. I have never seen a weakfish bite that took place in May and early June. Check out Fishgaak.com to see just how great the bite was. Under fishing reports click on the month of May. Towards the end of this month, we are going to see weakfish re-enter our south shore bays. These fish tend to be smaller than the ones that come to breed in the early spring. However, don’t be surprised if you land a few 4 or 5 pound fish. These fish also tend to be more spread out. The spring fishery is very concentrated because these fish gather to spawn. In the summer and fall, these fish can be found just about anywhere. It’s a must to fish light tackle. Here is my exact weakfish set up. My reel is Daiwa BG 2500. It’s loaded with 15 pound braided line. The rod is a Shimano 7 foot Teramar. The model number is TMS-70M. You can also use this setup for shallow water fluke fishing. Remember to keep that drag loose. Don’t try to set the hook like you are fishing for largemouth bass. They are called weakfish for a reason. They have very delicate/weak mouths. Unlike mahi, I never use live bait while fishing for weakfish. Most of the time I use a 1/2 ounce jig head tipped with a soft plastic. Gulp, Bass Assassins and Zman products all work. Just keep them in the 3-4 inch range.
I feel as if we haven’t had a real good fluke season in a while. I plan on making a few trips out to Montauk to do some fluking. The area where I fish has a tremendous amount of fishing pressure. I think the further out east you go the better the fluke fishing gets. On days that I’m not able to run offshore, you can usually find me fluking in the ocean. If you plan on ocean fluking make sure you pick a day that has some wind. If you have no drift you are going to end up catching a lot of skates and dogfish. I like winds blowing from the west or southwest the best. I won’t bother to fish if east winds are forecasted. If I’m not using a squid and spearing combo, I’m using a hi-lo rig with Gulp. I have no preference in color. I use the 3 inch swimming mullet. With black seabass season open, it’s a good idea to do some of your fluking around wrecks, rock piles and reefs. Don’t forget to go to the DEC’s website and copy down coordinates of the debris that they added to your local reef. I expect these new spots will be covered with some pretty tasty fish.