The transition from spring to summer fishing is upon us! Time to fish deeper waters, further out waters, and target more species. Each month of the season marks a different level of excitement for me for different reasons. June marks the arrival of big stripers in Montauk, typically on the full moon. With the harsh winter and chilly spring, June 14th could be a little early for water temps to be just right for them to show. When we get the new moon on the 28th there should be quite a few over slot fish.
Fluke season, while having a tricky start with no update from New York State DEC until the 11th hour on regulations has been a solid one so far. With a half-inch reduction on the limit, more flatties have made it to the table and at the tail end of the season some bonus days with a longer season than last year. The early arrival of squid in April along with the colder temps we had has made for some great skinny water fluking across the island longer than in past years. Ken at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor has had consistent reports of productive drifting in the usual Peconic spots such as Greenlawn out to Orient. High low bucktail setups have been very effective in the shallower sections. Snappers should start to show in the creeks, inlets and bays. While the boat’s tied up there really is nothing better for fishing with young kids for the first time than snappers from a dock. The limit for blues including snappers is 3 per person. Absolutely a bonus to build up a frozen stockpile to use for doormat baits.
The same holds true in Shinnecock as well as Great South Bay and west towards Jones and East Rockaway inlets. The ocean fluke bite has been productive as well. Spearing, Peruvians, and Gulp worked in 40-80ft of water and have raised a good number of fish with consistent reports of double-digit netted.
Aside from Montauk where the north side isn’t the typical bay as with the grounds that stretch all the way west, the opportunity to target skinny water fluke and ocean fluke in the same trip is a fun one to capitalize on. In a perfect world, I’ll bring two setups with me. One light tackle spinning rod with 10-15 lb test braid connected to 25-30 lb leader for buck tailing, and a beefier setup with 20-30lb braid and 40-50 lb leader. But there’s not always a perfect world scenario with a larger crew on board or if I’m out on one of the head boats. In June I’m ok with beefing up the setup if some ocean drifts are part of the day’s plan. When tying my rigs, I’ll use a surgeon’s knot for the bottom bucktail and just swap out a 1-2 oz for a 3-5 oz when it comes time to take some ocean drifts.
Sea bass opens up on the 23rd. Kind of tough with a 3 fish at 15 inches or greater limit to plan a day targeting these tasty critters exclusively (The bag limit goes to 7 per person on September 1st). At the start of the season though, there should be plenty of knucklehead size ones that have been enjoying the offseason on the wrecks all around the island. For those that like to use a squid strip on their fluke teasers, chances are you’ll definitely be catching a good number of sea bass while drifting for fluke. Whether those fish make the ruler mark to get in the cooler though usually is pretty thin odds.
Last year hopefully wasn’t an anomaly with the inconceivable giant bluefin bite inshore to the west. It started last June, and I’ve been kicking myself since thinking it was a quick bite that may go for a week or so. If the bunker are thick enough, there’s a really good shot these majestic beasts make another showing close to shore. You will need an HMS federal permit to keep one. The regulations are constantly updated so check NOAA’s site for the most current bag limits.
For those that don’t have an arsenal of heavy gear to tame a giant and want to leave the sight of land behind them, the typical offshore wrecks like Coimbra and Bacardi hold a steady pick of smaller bluefin in the 40–100-pound range. Some “ghost hunting” went on early last month with a handful of fish caught, but not a strong enough bite to justify the run. Jig and pop and heavy fly rods for tuna in this size class are arguably one of the biggest thrills around. You don’t have to be right on top of the wreck. Typically, fish can be in a 5–10-mile radius depending on conditions and trawlers in the area. Keep an eye out for the tell-tale signs like mammal life and tuna chick birds. While out there, it’s worth a quick stop with lighter spinning gear by any lobster pots to try for mahi. If you’re able to stuff the live wells with peanut bunker before heading out tossing them around the boat often creates a bite. They’re also effective on a single hook for mahi.
Shark fishing takes on a new dynamic this year with a moratorium for harvesting makos in place for 2022 and 2023. The time and cost put into both shark tournaments and trips that start this month can be tough for some to justify with this new restriction in place. Let’s hope it does what it’s intended to and the population flourishes in years to come. That said, this month with warmer waters and more bunker the threshers will be around along with blue sharks and the occasional hammerhead.
It was a lot of fun scrapping with big blues in the back bays last month. Throughout June the bruisers will make their way back into the ocean and will be mixed in with a more robust striper bite to the east. Fishing the large bunker pods in the ocean with hefty surface plugs is a highlight of June. For the last few seasons, I’ve been swapping out the tail treble with a single hook. It checks off a few things on the list of smarter fishing. First off, with the blues in the ocean, it makes tangling with them boat side a lot easier. With bigger bass, there’s some heartbreak insurance built-in. There have been plenty of cases where during the fight with a cow, almost always getting hooked in the mouth with the front treble, the rear treble will hook into the fish below the gill plate. This gives the fish leverage and leads to a few sob stories of plugs breaking off. Lastly and probably the most important, one less treble drastically increases the chances of an over-slot bass swimming away healthy.
Coming up on the new moon on the 24th, overall fishing should be some of the best for the month. In terms of trophy bass—drift those eels over structure! I’ve had some of my best catches in June on board Grand Slam Charters in Montauk. A long leader of 50-75lb fluro to a swivel connecting to your mainline and using a fish finder rig for the appropriate amount of lead has slain season after season. Drop down, 3 cranks up, and don’t set the hook has made for some memorable June outings!
Talk to you next month! Get out there and catch ‘em up!