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LI Fishing Report

It’s spring….finally. March fishing can often be a fool’s errand but a welcomed one after a long winter. To the west, some migrating stripers are eager to chew by the time April arrives, and in our eastern waters, the occasional schoolie holdover bass will take a soft plastic. While fools may be celebrated on April 1st, their efforts will soon be rewarded.
April 15th is the official start of the striper season, but they’re always in town earlier. Trolling and live lining are bound to account for the better catches. Tony Maja bunker spoons are proven winners year after year and produce big fish. A close second for the trolling crowd are mojos which have been increasingly popular in the past few years. MagicTail along with some other local producers have fine-tuned their offerings to be deadly throughout the spring and summer months. It’s also nice to not have to use wire when deploying these.
Nothing beats the live stuff though. In light of recent regulations, snag and drop is no longer an option. Weighted trebles have killed far too many breeders season after season. Science may not have enough hard data for the impact yet after just one season of using circle hooks. The logic though seems to point that there are more trophy bass swimming and spawning and not falling victim to a weighted treble gut hook. As the migrators make their appearance this month from Raritan to Jones Inlet, I think it’s actually an advantage to have a dedicated spinning rod for snagging with a conventional beefier set up with a circle hook to drop down a live bunker.
Artificials can call in the big cows as well, with big surface plugs or swim shads. Out front, a six inch or larger Tsunami holographic shad is a great bet. Tsunami’s talking popper or a nine inch Doc are two others that when worked near bunker pods are producing solid fish. New to the scene is the flutter spoon which was the rage last season but availability can be an issue. If you can get your hands on a few, they’re a no-brainer to add to the arsenal.
Back in the bays from Jamaica Bay to Fire Island, there are plenty of opportunities for quantity over quality. The skinny water and boats that can work those areas are ideal for light tackle and fly success. Sunny days and muddy bottoms are the perfect combo to provide a warm and cozy refuge to smaller fish feeding on shrimp, worms, and peanut bunker.
In the western Sound, small to medium size bass in the back of Manhasset Bay, Hempstead Harbor as far east as Eaton’s Neck are willing to bite at red fins and small swimming plugs along with soft plastics and storm shads. Mid-April adult size bunker are prevalent in the bays and chunking both sides of the channel will produce some of the early movers of the migrating bass. Mark McGowan of Cow Harbor Bait & Tackle in Northport reports that early bass can be hard to nail down as to locations but the hunt doesn’t take a ton of scouting to find the fish.
For a big portion of the western Sound fishing crowd, the swim shads and bunker chunks don’t come into play this month. Spring blackfishing, self-inflicted torture at times, has been a welcomed addition in the past few years. Unlike the fall season, there are days when clams outfish crabs. The concentration of boulder fields and sticky bottom throughout the sound can be a treasure trove of spots that yield some spring keepers and earn a well deserved mark on the GPS to return to in the fall.
On the south shore, spring blackfish can fall into a ghost-hunting category. The fish are there but not as good as a keeper to short ratio. The parkway bridges east of Jones are a good bet along with the reefs to the west and outside of Rockaway Inlet.
On the east end, the bite is a bit tougher. With no real urgency of an ocean inshore or offshore bite, late offseason maintenance and fine-tuning are often top of the list. Those in the water though, often get into nice bites in the bay. Ken Morse at Tightlines Tackle in Sag Harbor reports that after a phenomenal showing of weakfish in the 2021 season, they’re back but have yet to have shown in the numbers seen in late April and early May last year. Diamond jigs and pink soft plastics have been most effective, and worms have taken a number of April unicorns. Small bass are in the mix around Jessup Neck and west to the mouth of the Peconic River. Keep an eye out for adult bunker which often congregate in the western Peconic and can draw in some nice stripers.
The tug is the drug and it’s nice to have a taste after a long off-season. Here’s to a season better than the last one!