2020 has shaped up to be one of the most consistent and long-running tuna bites we have seen in a long time. The best part is that most of it took place 20-55 miles off. A little closer than we are normally accustomed to. It started in late May into early June and seemed to improve weekly since. We experienced a few storms that scattered the bait and subsequently the fish. But in short order, they both seemed to congregate where favorable water temperatures and chlorophyll; conditions were optimal. Throughout October the yellowfin tuna bite was simply off the hook. The areas in and around the triple wrecks were most productive. Jigging, chunking as well as live lining peanut bunker were the best methods. Yellowfin has also been active south of the Coimbra, and north of the Dip. In October the tuna seemed to be scattered there so trolling out produced. Mostly falling to Chatter side trackers in green and rainbow. As we move through the fall the yellowfin will leave to seek warmer water. Following these fish will be bluefin migrating down from the Cape. October into November the bluefin will respond well to chunking and live bait. But as water temperatures drop they will be harder to hook. The key will be to find the bait. Migrating tuna will stop and gouge themselves for their trip. However, they seem to be on a mission at this point and will only feed when it makes sense to do so. Ranger Wreck, Jenny, and Ryan’s Horn slowed down on the tuna front in October. However, shark fishing picked up. Threshers were caught in close, and good size makos are back. Alysa Ann out of Montauk had several trips where he caught and released several makos and threshers. As we roll into November bluefin tuna will show up at these spots and expect the shark fishing to remain strong.
Further south down in Atlantis Canyon fishing was hit or miss. There were plenty of trips producing swordfish, yellowfin, and bigeye. There were also a good number of fishermen who were skunked. The mahi was also hit or miss, so anglers couldn’t even rely on them to save a trip. The swordfishing should remain strong through November, but as waters temperatures cool the tuna will move on. As you head west to the Fishtails the offshore seen just never really took off. There were swords taken with occasional bigeyes, but the “red hot must go” tuna bite just never happened.
A nice slug of water is set up in the Dip area. This water was in the deep and stretched up onto the flats. This water turned on in October. A good number of yellowfin, longfin albacore and yellowfin were caught. Jazzy Jeff out of Shinnecock had a memorable trip. They boated the trifecta, scoring yellows, albacore, and a nice wahoo. The fish were all caught on the troll. As long as this clean warm water stays in the range there will be pelagics. There is no way of knowing when this water will retreat but when it does it will be over.
Heading further west to the Hudson Canyon there were a bunch of great reports in October. Plenty of bigeyes were taken, but the most notable catches were the amount of swordfish caught. Boats deep dropping both day and night saw success. Teddy Pragger even had a day where they went 3 for 5 on swordfish to over 200 pounds. These were all caught with large belly strip baits dropped deep on long leaders. The yellowfins seemed to have moved up onto the flats at and north of the Hudson. It seems that several large bodies of yellowfin are opportunistically feeding on sand eels and squids. This bait has been mostly present on the flats and has been showing up 10 miles southwest of the Triple Wrecks, at the Triple Wrecks, and the Bacardi. On any given day the yellowfin could be anywhere in approximately this 20 square mile area. But when you found them it was a wide-open chunk bite. Anglers were hand feeding them baits boat side. At the beginning of the month, there were 2 weeks where wahoos were mixed in. They hit baits and lures intended for tuna. If you were lucky they didn’t bite off. Some fishermen had limited success targeting them with high-speed trolling lures. With November around the corner, I would expect the yellows to stick around as long as the water is comfortable for them to do so. But the wahoos will be gone before the end of October. We will start to see bluefin mix in soon and can expect them into December.
Mahi fishing was good, but disappointing at best this summer. October saw limited reports of fish caught off lobster pots and floating debris. The class of fish remained mostly smaller in size and numbers. I would expect to see some fish caught into November mixed in with the tuna. But like the wahoo these smaller fish need higher water temperatures to thrive. Keep in mind if you are lucky enough to catch some fall mahi that they make great shark baits.
Inshore fluke fishing closed 9/30th with a bang. Just as things started heating up with some larger fish the season slammed shut. The summer was very disappointing with decent numbers of fish being caught just under keeper size. Hopefully, this will result in stronger stocks for the future. Along the beaches, the fall striped bass run was on fire in October. Surfcasters were treated with an early run that was in the range of most of Long Island’s beaches. For boaters, trolling and jigging were most productive. Mojos and bunker spoons trolled real slow or small jigs. Many 40 – 50 lb fish have been caught and released, with a bunch of slot fish mixed. Every once in a while you will get surprised as a pelagic may show up mixed in with the bass. Fintastic nailed a 250-pound thresher that inhaled a bunker spoon. Avid anglers were able to land this fish on light gear and did an amazing job gaffing and securing it with a 3-foot gaff. An angler out of Moriches also tangled with a nice size bluefin in 70 feet of water. The fish also hit a lure meant for striped bass. So always keep a larger set up ready to pitch a lure to a large fish that may come up and surprise you. As long as there is bait present there will be plenty of fish throughout the month and into November. Keep in mind DEC regulations allow for 1 fish per person per day between 28 and 35 inches. Larger and smaller than this slot must be released. Bluefish have been around but in greatly decreased numbers. These will be caught as bi catch while bass fishing and should be released if not needed.
Tautog (blackfish): Long Island Sound Region opened October 11th. Four days ahead of the South Shore both with a 16-inch minimum. The biggest out of the sound for October was a 23” caught with green crabs. Many limits were taken in October. But bait fishing crabs outpaced jigging as wind and waves made jigging difficult. Rock piles to the east near Fishers Island were hot. Other spots to mention are Huntington Triangle, Middle Clump, Clay Point, Latimer Reef, and Race Rock all had some decent reports. The biggest fish was 12 lbs and a bunch of fish at 10 lbs. Some boats reported 50 -100 fish released in a single trip. It’s nice to see these stocks are healthy again. Simply amazed by the amount of fish available. As far as numbers go the North Shore is red hot. Every single drop was met instantly with a hit. Again, green crabs for bait was the ticket. I would expect this fishing to remain strong through November if the wind stays light enough to fish.
Blackfish's opening day on the South Shore was October 15th. I spoke to Capt James Foley from the Hampton Lady. They limited out using green crabs. They also had seabass, cod, and ling mixed in. When fishing on structure, they limit the boat to 20 anglers to keep as many people possible in the strike zone as possible. They sail out of Hampton Bays. They also reported some deep-water wreck trips where they focused on cod, ling, and sea bass.
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