Where did this year go? The good news is we have one more great month left. November has turned into one of the best fishing months of the season. You can catch everything from blackfish to striped bass to bluefin tuna.
Until the water temps really begin to drop blackfish will be located in shallow water. Blackfish is the one fish that seems to feed best when the current isn’t really strong. In fact, slack tide is a great time to catch these fish. It will also allow you to go with a lighter lead. Once the tide begins to slow down I will reach for a setup that has a 2 or 3 ounce blackfish jig on the end of it. This jig looks like a flattened bucktail. I will use a small whole green crab or a half of a larger one. I can assure you fishing with these jig heads becomes very addictive. I find that I catch way more blackfish on jigs than I do with a sinker and a few hooks. There are plenty of bridges along the south shore of Long Island that hold a good amount of blackfish.
It’s jigging season. This is the time of year where the jig bite gets insane. I know a lot of fishermen that like to troll for bass. I’m not one of them. I’m a run and gun guy. I’m always willing to go out Moriches Inlet and come back in through Fire Island Inlet or vice versa. I always have my binoculars within reach. You would be amazed at how many times I was about to call it a day until I would spot a blitz through the lenses of my binoculars. They can see much further than you may think. When it comes to jigging keep it simple. It’s hard to beat a 6 ounce diamond jig. Personally I like the jigs without the tubes. I let my jig hit the bottom and then I will reel up about three quarters of the way and do it all over again. This style of fishing will help prevent you from catching dogfish. If the fish are feeding on the top it’s hard to beat a 6” pearl colored Tsunami swim shad. Cast into the blitz and let it sink for a few seconds, then reel it in without stopping. As long as there are no bluefish around your swim shad may last the entire day if you are only catching bass. I have a gut feeling we are going to see a really good bluefish bite. If you are like me the bigger they are the better. I love fighting double digit bluefish on light gear. I have a separate “Plano box” just for bluefish. The gear is old and cheap. You won’t find any treble hooks on those lures. Bluefish in the fall are not picky. They will hit just about anything. I suggest you carry a de-hooker anytime you think you might catch bluefish.
I can’t talk about bass and bluefish without mentioning albies and bonitos. These are a favorite among those that fly fish. Land these fish on the fly and you should pat yourself on the back. What makes these fish such a challenge is speed. They are the ultimate run and gun species. If you aren’t a fly guy make sure you have a light setup that you can cast a far distance. These fish are easily spooked. They both have great eyesight so keep all terminal tackle to a minimum. As long as your lure is kept below the surface you will never be able to reel too fast. As far as eating these types of tuna I suggest you throw the albies back and enjoy some bonito.
I discussed it last month and I will talk about it again in this column. There are a lot of bluefin tuna that show up in large numbers in shallow waters. I have seen these fish at the Fire Island Reef in the month of November. Here is my game plan when it comes to chasing these fish in the fall. It’s not easy to find the weather to chase these fish down. Leave your trolling gear at home. Just like albies and bonitos, are caught running and gunning. There are two types of lures you should have with you. A popper with beefed up hooks and something that resembles a sand eel (RonZ). I have seen firsthand what a big tuna can do to a hook. Make sure your gear is up to par. You are going to be heartbroken if you lose your dream fish to a bent hook or a mangled swivel. Just because you make the perfect cast it doesn’t mean that you are going to hook up. During the fall these fish don’t seem to feed the way they do in the spring and summer. They can be very picky. You need to be lucky and find them on a day that they are feeding. I will usually target them when it’s a flat day. The bass fishing usually tends to be off on calm days. So it’s nice to have an alternative. A sunny day will allow you to see birds diving at the water which will lead you to the tuna.
During November most seabass and porgies have moved off into deeper water. Get yourself a couple of Capt. Seagull charts and fill your cooler up with seabass and porgies. I don’t like the taste of ling however if you do you should have no problem catching them while fishing on some deep wrecks.
A few thoughts about next year. It looks like the bass season may be shortened. There is a good chance that the season will not open until May 1st. The season may also close on November 30th. However, I do believe that catch and release will stay in place during any closed periods. Look for a new size limit of 35 inches and above. I have my fingers crossed that we will see great things to come as far as weakfish go. I have never seen so many “summer weaks” in the bay. The overwhelming majority are too big to be eaten by bass and bluefish. In a year or two, we may see some big spring time weakfish caught. It’s going to be hard to beat the bluefin tuna bite that I witnessed this past year. Once these fish arrived in late May they settled in and were here through the entire summer. Overall I can hope and pray for a fishing year like 2019. Fingers crossed for a healthy and a fish filled 2020.