Boy, this season is flying by. On June 28th I returned from an offshore trip only to find the back of my starboard engine was covered in oil. It turned out that the powerhead had a small crack. My boat was laid up the entire month of July. However, that didn’t stop me from getting out. I was able to hop on board a few of my buddies boats. I had my best trip of the season with Capt. Tony Gatto on board the Fox Sea Lady. We did an overnighter around the West Atlantis Canyon. Right before darkness we hit pay dirt with a couple of yellowfin tuna in the 70-80 pound range. We awoke to a flat calm sea that was loaded with yellowfin. For three straight hours, we didn’t go more than 15 minutes without hooking up. Wide-tracker bars and rigged ballyhoo on single lures were on fire. I even managed a 50 pound yellowfin on a popper. This trip wasn’t a one off. This year canyon fishing has been great and it continues. There has also been an abundance of marlin. Some boats are hooking up with 2 or 3 per trip. Unlike last year we are getting plenty of offshore weather days. The mid-shore grounds continue to hold bluefin tuna. The Coimbra, Virginia, Chicken Canyon, Resor and Atlantic Princess wrecks have stayed productive with bluefin. On weekends these places are packed. Don’t be afraid to stay outside the fleet. A lot of fish are being taken on the jig. Our bays, rivers, and canals are loaded with peanut bunker and mullet. Load up your live well and head towards the Chicken Canyon. This is usually the time of the year that yellowfin tuna will migrate out of the Hudson Canyon. The Chicken Canyon provides incredible structure for these fish to feed. I will usually do a mixture of chunked peanut bunker and live ones. Look for slicks with tuna chicks dancing on the surface. That is usually a tell-tale sign that tuna are below feeding. There is another reason to fill your live-well with peanut bunker. September is probably the best month for mahi. During this time of the year, the water column is at its warmest. These tropical water loving mahi will be all over the place. The key to finding them is twofold. One, you need to find “clean water.” Second, it helps to find floating debris. Mahi are often taken on the troll. However, if you find a weed line, 55 gallon drum, hi-flyers, logs and a number of other types of debris you will increase your chances of finding mahi. Peanut bunker aren’t the only live baits that will work. Two of my other favorites are mullet and snapper blues. If you aren’t able to get the live stuff than make sure you have plenty of squid on board. If you come by a piece of floating debris and you don’t see any mahi under it, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t around. Before you leave drop a jig down about 100 feet. Reel it up as fast as you can. If nothing follows then move on.
September means last call for fluke. Your best bet at catching that doormat will take place in the ocean. These fish will begin to migrate to deep waters as the summer comes to a close. A very effective way to fish for doormat fluke is dead sticking a live snapper blue. Do not use a hi-lo rig if you are using live bait. It will just cause tangles and frustrations. Fish waters from 80-110 feet of water. Make sure you bring some heavy lead with you. It may take up to 12 ounces to hold bottom.
If you like to do the run and gun thing I suggest you start your motors. False albies and bonitos start to show up usually at the beginning of September. When I’m offshore trolling for tuna I can’t stand when we get covered up with false albies. However, when I’m running the beach looking for them with light tackle spinning gear, it’s a blast! You need a lure that you can cast far. These fish hit the surface and disappear so fast that it almost seems impossible to catch them. I use a heavy sinking minnow from Hogy Lures. It is 2 ounces and can cut through the wind with ease. Like most tuna, false albies and bonitos have great eyesight. So, it’s very important to fish with a light leader. No more than 20 pound test. Most people don’t realize this but bonito are very good to eat. Like all fish that you catch bleed and put on ice immediately.
Striped bass will begin to move westward at a snail’s pace. It seems that bass along the south shore have been showing up later and later. In my neck of the woods (Moriches-Fire Island Inlets) we didn’t see a bass bite develop until mid-October last year. However, what I love about saltwater fishing is how unpredictable things are. Last year very few fish were caught on live bunker. The bunker didn’t bypass the south shore, they were just in deeper water. Don’t forget you can only catch bass within 3 miles of our shoreline. The bass showed up late last year however they did stay until early December. The nice thing about that is there are very few boats left in the water at that time. So you may have the fish all to yourself.
As the water begins to cool in late September mako and threshers begin to show up again. In 2017 there were threshers all over the bunker pods. It was amazing watching their giant tails come out of the water and slam down on a pod of bunker. Last year very few were caught along the beach. As I mentioned earlier, the bunker pods stayed deep and so did the thresher sharks. If you don’t want to venture too far offshore a great wreck to shark fish is the San Diego. It lies in 110 feet of water. It is located between Fire Island Inlet and Moriches Inlet. The nice thing about fishing the wreck is the possibility of bringing home some seabass once you are done sharking.
Speaking of seabass, September is time to start targeting them in some deeper water. Target seabass in waters along the 20 fathom curve. Along with seabass, you will most likely find an abundance of ling. Ling have a tendency to get mushy so get them on ice right away. Both of these species can be caught on clam. If you don’t want to fuss with clam, try dropping down a jig. Using a jig is a great way to target larger fish.