Fall fishing off Long Island is one of the best seasons of the year. The weather gets colder, the days are shorter, and the fish get bigger. The true warriors don’t pack in until December if at all. When the weather cooperates, there is been plenty of action and boat traffic dwindles. The name of the game has been warmer than normal air and water temperatures coupled with an abundance of baitfish. Bunker and sand eels have been in the bays, inlets, and all along the beach.
Offshore Bluefin tuna, sharks and swordfish become the main targeted species. As the water temps drop the yellowfin, mahi, marlin, and wahoo all move on to seek a more comfortable environment. Inshore the focus is the fall bass run. Seabass, blackfish, porgies, and cod are also readily available. With the tight restrictions on striped bass mixed bad trips are common. Be careful to pick your days as weather window can be tight and change without warning.
Huntington: I spoke with Mark McGowan from Cow Harbor Bait and Tackle. The Smith town reef and the rocks by the triangle have been very productive with blackfish. Green and Asian crabs on small jig heads have been very productive. Striped bass have been available in good numbers. Top water, jigging and chunking have all worked well. Remember if you snag bunker, you must reel it in and move it to a circle hook to target bass. The bite seems to be early as the afternoon winds make the fishing conditions tuff. Sunset and nighttime should not be overlooked (when conditions allow). Porgies tailed off as the weather cooled. The false albacore bite was few and far between for all of November. Squid fishing at night strengthened off the docks in the channels by Stonybrook, Huntington, Northport, Coldspring Harbor, and the Nissequogue River.
The North Fork turned-on right-on cue this fall. Large schools of bass moved in. The False albacore bite died off towards the middle of November. Black fishing in 15 35 feet of water was just lights out with crabs and jig heads at the beginning of the month. As the month moved on the fish pushed into deeper locations but were still readily available. Many double-digit fish were weighed in.
Montauk had an incredible month as well. Surfcasters had a great fall run of bass along the point, both North and South sides. Bluefish seemed to dwindle making the bass fishing that much more enjoyable. Paulie Bruno on the Elizabeth II reported steady catches of blackfish well into December. The Viking fleet and the Miss Montauk have been fishing the radar arch, Windmills, Cartwright, and east to block island for mixed bag trips. Targeting codfish, sea bass, and blackfish. The striped bass fishing off the beaches and along the rips was mostly dominated by schoolish and larger fish. Some anglers had issues finding their allowable slot fish. Late November the huge bass seemed to push down towards New Jersey and large schools of smaller fish replaced them. The good news is there are still fish being caught off Cape cod, so this season is far from over! My Joyce II has been fishing off Block for great mixed bag trips of seabass and blackfish. Easily limiting out his fares. Codfish are starting to also show, and catches are expected to increase into December. Migrating bluefin tuna started making their way thru during the month. Smaller to medium fish in decent numbers. Some giants were caught and released.
Shinnecock was on fire this fall. The reef 1 mile south of Shinnecock has been producing good numbers of blackfish with seabass mixed in. Migrating bass along the beaches kept anglers from the surf and boats busy. For the most part, it has been a jib bite. But live lining a bunker and trolling mojo worked well too. The trick to catching striped bass on the troll is to ascertain what they are feeding on. When bunker is present, live lining, chunking, trolling mojos, and bunker spoons are the best methods. When they are on sand eels you need to scale it down. Trolling umbrella rigs (especially in red, or dark maroon). Casting thin plastics and diamond jigging are all great methods. In November there was plenty of bass in all sizes caught. They were feeding on various bait through out the day, so having options and being able to switch things up was key.
Moriches to Fire Island. The Captree party boats have been working hard locating and catching plenty of fish for their customers. It seems no 2 days have been alike in November. The bite has been constantly changing between morning, afternoon, and evening. Some days the fish are on top pushing bait and birds are everywhere. The next day they hold deep. The party boat fleet has been working as far east as the Davis Park and the breach, Ocean Beach, Fire Island lighthouse, and the needle. The fish seemed to move daily, and the first part of the day was spent hunting for them. Attention had to be paid so you didn’t over run the fish. Inside schoolie bass on surface plugs and black fishing along the Robert Moses Bridge columns and rip raft has been excellent
Offshore: The mid-shore tuna bite slowed in the middle of November. Once sea surface temperatures hit the low sixties the yellowfin moved on. Bluefin was hit or miss in the 20-30 fathom areas namely, butterfish hole, Coxes ledge, Coimbra etc. Deep Dropping Swords was consistent as well. The only issue is the days are getting shorter and the weather can change on a dime. So be careful to pick your weather windows. Tile fish remained a go to option to round of fall trips when the bite was slow. The Capital Princess out of Freeport had a few very successful tilefish trips. Many trips boating 100+ tiles with some tuna mixed in. One of the last mahi reports for 2021 came from Bolshevik: angler Paul Tuttle landed his first mahi a true 20+ pounder (which is a huge fish for the Northeast). Other than nuisance blue sharks in the canyon and threshers harassing bunker pods the shark season has seemed to come to a close in November.
December hosting shorter days and questionable weather is always a challenge for anglers. The colder weather and wind seem to keep many anglers away. However, diehards put off winterizing the boat for 1 last shot. For the true diehards chasing Bluefin will be the name of the game. Bluefin tuna will migrate through as they head south. Historically they gouge themselves up by the cape and just past Long Island as they migrate south. With blinders on they are close to impossible to hook up with. However, with the good amount of bait still present there should be opportunities to find feeding bluefin that will hit lures and bait. The Rockaway bite this summer has afflicted many anglers with tuna fever. They are all hopeful for one last shot at a trophy! If you go be safe.
The winter is a the time for maintenance and re rigging. Make sure your vessel is put away in perfect working condition and is winterized properly. Go over all your fishing gear. Rods; clean and inspect ferrules, collet nuts and guides. Reels; should be taken apart cleaned, re greased and stored. Lures: inspect skirts, hooks, and leaders make all necessary repairs. Clean and store your tools (knives, pliers etc.). Make a list of what needs to be replaced and patronize your local bait and tackle shop.
Happy New Year to All!