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LI Fishing Report

I was really happy to have the opportunity to follow Anthony Gatto in providing the monthly Long Island Fishing Report for Boating World. As a kid growing up in Nassau County, I loved every half-day fluke trip on the Freeport head boats and savored every invite from family friends with boats that fished the bays and ocean between Jones Inlet and East Rockaway Inlet. Later on in life, living in Manhattan, I fished a lot, both on the party boats out of Sheepshead Bay and many private and charter boats around the NY Bight. If I weren’t off of Brooklyn, I would be fishing the western sound out of Manhasset Bay. Since moving out to the east end full time a few years back a lot of my fishing is out of Shinnecock and Moriches, but I’m always willing to take a ride for a trip.
With the holidays and football season behind us, it’s that time of year. I love the anticipation for the Spring. The first osprey that flies over with a bunker in its talons makes my heart skip a beat. It also signals that if I haven’t done the typical off-season duties, it’s time to get on it.
As the snow and ice pile up on shrink-wrapped boats across the island, reel and rod maintenance are crucial to coming out of the gate strong once the fish show up. Other than a new reel that hasn’t made it out of the box, all of mine have seen action the previous season. I trust myself to give a quick checkup and greasing to some inshore rods that didn’t see much action. I also do a double check of all of my reels which I had loosened the drags during winter storage. It’s an easy thing to forget, but absolutely makes a difference in performance and longevity. My other gear I just am not willing to roll the dice on for what could amount to true heartbreak in the height of battle. Mark McGowan at Cow Harbor Bait and Tackle in Northport, Nick and Tom at Haskell’s in East Quogue, and a slew of other shops on the north and south shore are experts in fine tuning our weapons. The time and skill that goes into their work keep them busy so getting your reels to your favorite shop is best done sooner than later.
After a few lessons learned the hard way in past seasons, I make a point of also checking the guides on my rods. I’ve done a decent amount of surfcasting and was completely miffed when not too hard of a cast of a not too heavy plug snapped fairly fresh braided line. It was a painful aha moment answering the question of where I placed a hook when not having a line in the water. Small scratches and nicks in the guides eventually exploit any weak spots in the line and also lead to annoying repairs or even more frustrating purchases of new rods. I’m pretty good at placing hooks in the arms of the guides now or on reel handles. Yet, there’s always that lapsed moment, more times than not, during a fall run and gun session chasing blitzes that I default back to not doing it right.
While the early bird gets the fish mantra holds true year to year, this season more than ever is the one to get on top of off-season boat maintenance. The supply chain nightmares upending so many aspects of life aren’t going to spare the boating industry. Amazing and tragic to have heard late last season of boats hauled out because of the most trivial of parts with six months backorders. In speaking with buddies in the business, the spike in boat ownership from the pandemic lockdown in 2020 is still putting a big strain on mechanics and technicians helping new owners learn typical do-it-yourself projects.
Once the grind is done though, this season looks to get off to a great start. We’ve seen a solid striped bass bite after harsh winters like we had this year. The abundance of bunker in our waters since regulations changed a few years back should once again bring a pre-opening day bite off of Sandy Hook and Breezy Point if water temps rebound from their winter ranges. Further west well-founded frustration is going to persist with the Jones Inlet situation. As things stand, the earliest date for dredging is October of this year. It’s quite unsettling to have safety and access threatened to the extent it is. Many anglers and boaters have voiced their concerns and the louder our voices, the more of a chance they’re heard. This is a list of officials that play a hand in how things progress for those that want to reach out.
Army Corps of Engineers
US Coast Guard

I’ll be keeping my eye on the prize as I hope you will too, for a season better than those gone by. Soon enough the snow shovels will be swapped out for the favorite boat rods and fish coming over the rail!