Well, the transition to counting down to spring is here. 2022 was a solid season regardless of the homestretch on the east end being a bit lackluster. The spring bluefish bite was the best I’ve ever seen in my 9 seasons of fishing in between Shinnecock and Moriches. My buddy whose boat I experienced it on has been fishing the same neck of the woods for over 40 seasons and it was the best he’s ever seen. Just about anywhere in the back bays bruiser blues from 5 to 20 pounds were ready to rumble on incoming, outgoing, and slack tides. You would have sworn you were in Florida some afternoons in a shallow bay full of tarpon exposing their tails. It was a fun bite that went on for almost a month before the bass moved in. The real ones.
During the epic bluefish bite, there were stripers that hadn’t reached slot size in the mix. The competition for a meal was fierce and the few bass that snuck onto the hook were hard to differentiate at first bite with frantic movements. As much fun as endless topwater takes were, one more explosive than the previous, the body of large stripers accounting for an epic bite to the west as far as Raritan would be in the neighborhood soon.
The blues didn’t make much of a showing in the NY Bite but the bass too big to keep certainly made up for it. As those fish made their way east along the south shore, it was quite a show. Typically, the run of larger fish feeding on adult bunker pods is short-lived in early June. Not the case by surf or boat this past season. The first few weeks of July saw multiple catches of over-slot bass.
As the summer doldrums set in, dreams of an epic fall run were in everyone’s head. Columbus Day weekend, the bite blew up from Montauk to Raritan with some of the best bass fishing in recent memory. I got into a few fish, none reaching cow size that I had set as a surfcasting goal this year. For whatever reason, the bite was amazing and stayed amazing west of Fire Island, and in lieu of a bass bite to the east, the albies made a strong showing from Montauk to Moriches. They were on both the north and southeastern shores with a stronger presence in Montauk and Orient, one the light tackle and fly anglers hadn’t seen in a long time.
The fluke bite wasn’t bad and wasn’t great. The same could be said for near-shore sea bass, and closer to the great level on deeper wrecks.
Weather and real-world responsibilities are to blame for not having gotten out for tuna this season. It was a good one. The insane giant bluefin bite a few miles from the docks that happened in 2021 didn’t happen again but several big tuna did get caught on live bunker along with jig and pop. Yellowfins were the big story though. From Coimbra to the edge, the size and quantity had anglers’ heads spinning. Especially a solid number of allisons.
The tog bite was a bit lackluster. Some point to bad fishery management or warmer than usual water temps. The weather definitely didn’t cooperate, especially what seemed like a daily west wind during the fall.
It’s easier now to look back with some clarity on the whole season. In mid-November, I was really frustrated putting in more time than in the past for fewer fish, or just losing opportunities because of conditions. As it always does though, the fishing got good one day. Really good. Good enough to recalibrate and realize how lucky I am to be able to chase fish as much as I do.
While New Jersey surfcasters were having the best November in decades with ridiculous numbers of stripers gorging on ridiculous amounts of peanut bunker, there was little to get excited about on the Island’s south shores. Gannets diving way outside of casting distance frustrated surfcasters, and boat anglers that couldn’t get the marks on their screens to bite.
The day before Thanksgiving school was out and I had taken the day off. My 10-year-old son and I hatched our plan the night before. After some negotiating, breakfast at IHOP was in, electric go-karts were out, top golf made the cut, and despite a 4 for 4 skunk when he came along surfcasting, we’d give it a try at sunset east of Shinnecock Inlet.
The scene that met us as we drove onto the beach was nothing short of spectacular. A dozen or so anglers either unhooking a fish or fighting one, thousands of birds diving, fish busting on the surface. Neither one of us had both straps of our waders on as we ran to the edge of the suds. His first cast produced a doubleheader. My first 20 casts produced more fish than I had caught in the prior three weeks. The ocean was glass except for the mayhem of the shoreline out 50-75 yards. They moved out of town within a few days, but it was hard to say things didn’t end better than I ever expected because of those couple of memorable hours.
All the best for the New Year! I have a garage to clean up and a lot of gear to tune up!