Archive for June, 2011
I had Tony and his two children ( Jenna and James) aboard this morning for some live bait fishing for Striped Bass. We departed Seaborn Marina at 4:30am and headed across the Great South Bay into a decent chop kicked up by a big east wind blowing. Half way across we ran into fog banks rolling off the Atlantic Ocean and into the bay. Visibility was down to a 1/4 – 1/2 mile. A slow cruise the rest of the way to our target area.
First rod was baited and passed to James and before I could get baits on the other two rods he was tight to the first fish of the day. You GOTTA love that!!! Small striper going about 10lbs. Next drift James is hooked up again, and the next drift and so on. Jenna and her dad Tony did get some shots but did not connect. All was not perfect for James either as he had a few swings and misses of his own. Although he did land the pool fish of 21lbs.
As the outgoing current reached it’s peak the bite slowed on the striper front and the bluefish took over by cutting our baits. Got the hook in a few LARGE bluefish but the mono leaders are no match for their teeth and they each earned their freedom.
A move just outside the inlet led to finding acres of birds and fish working over an area known as the Cedar Bar. Lock and load here with bluefish in the 2-4lb range. Lots of fun on light spinning tackle.
I’ve got a light-hearted video poking fun at my FOGGED video camera lens. The fish is James’ 21lb striper but it’s pretty hard to see
Had a great time with awesome company on the water today despite the LESS than ideal weather.
Each Spring brings with it a highly anticipated event which drives many Long Island Striped Bass anglers to cash in vacation leave, call in sick to jobs and just about completely neglect everything else on their daily schedules. I am speaking about the yearly appearance of large schools of menhaden (bunker) in the Atlantic Ocean waters along Long Island’s south shore beaches.
The action generally starts along the New Jersey beachfronts in early to mid April before spreading northward to the New York Bight area and ultimately sliding east along Long Island’s south shore. In the area I fish (Fire Island Inlet) we can usually count on seeing these baitfish in late May and early June. Hot on the heels of these schools are some of the biggest striped bass of the season. Many personal best stripers are caught at this time of year.
Two of the more popular methods employed in this fishery would be casting a weighted treble (snag-hook) into the densely packed schools and sweeping the rod until a bait is foul hooked or snagging and re-rigging the bait on a rig that is then sunk to the bottom below the school. Let’s take a closer look at these methods.
First off, understand that not all schools are created equal. Coming across a loosely packed, slow moving school where the baitfish are happily performing their trademark “snapping” on the surface would be an example of a less desirable bait school. While there may be fish on this particular school and it could be worth a quick shot I would suggest searching for other schools. Coming across a tightly packed, quickly moving school with the fish tight together on the surface and moving along pretty well is a good indicator that something below is driving them to the surface and pushing them along in an attempt to get out of harm’s way.A lot of times you will notice the baitfish shower out of the water on the surface. A sure sign that gamefish are feeding on them. It goes without saying that these schools deserve your FULL attention.
With snag rig at the ready, cast your weighted treble across the school and sweep the rod until you snag a baitfish. A tip to make this process easier would be to make your cast into the school and reel SLOWLY while the snaghook sinks. Eventually you will feel the baitfish bumping the line and this is when you can begin sweeping the rod knowing that your rig is now at the depth the school is swimming at. Once a bait is foul-hooked if there are fish on the school you will generally know fairly quickly as the snagged baitfish is emitting vibrations the gamefish are quick to sense. In addition, the weight of the snag itself will pull the baitfish down below the school and hopefully into the mouth of a waiting striper.
In general I will leave the bait to swim in the school just long enough that I can feel it is no longer struggling at which time I will reel it in and toss it in the livewell before snagging a new one out of the school to start the process over again. If fishing in a relatively small school I will let the baitfish swim where it wants but if the school is very large, and some are EXTREMEMLY large, I will try to coax the baitfish out of the middle of the pack toward the edges of the school.
If you are not able to find a school being actively fed upon that does not necessarily mean you are out of action. In this case, snag (or castnet) a bunch of baits for the livewell. These baits are then rigged and sent to the bottom and drifted through areas where the schools are and/or have been swimming. There are a LOT of fish caught in areas where a school has just passed as the stripers are prowling behind the school doing a cleanup of stragglers who strayed from their friends. I find this method works very well when the bait is scattered over a large area or I am marking the schools near the bottom. Those schools on the bottom may be getting massacred without ever showing a mark on the surface. Even if fishing a snagged bait in the school I will always be dragging one along the bottom as the boat drifts.
Another option that works alot of times when the others don’t would be cutting the bunker into chunks and drifting those along. It can be VERY effective drifting the head portion of the bait as this would mimic what the stripers along the bottom are accostumed to seeing when bluefish are feedind on the schools above. The blues slash the baits from behind leaving the head sections to sink to the bottom where the stripers are more than happy to take the easy pickings.
Tackle I use for this type of fishing includes medium-heavy 8ft casting and/or spinning rods. I use 8ft Star Rods from their Stellar Lite series. The reels on the conventional rods are Shimano Tekotas loaded with 25lb monofilament and the finished off with a shot of 50lb leader. For spinning I have Quantum Cabo 40′s spooled with 30lb braid and a 3 or 4 foot shot of 50lb mono leader which is then tied directly to the snaghook.
I personally prefer using conventional casting equipment for this fishing as I can easily freespool line to a fish that has picked up the bait and leave it run to swallow the bait before driving the hook home.
Spinning equipment is widely used as well and since alot of my charter clients don’t cast conventional very well it works very nicely for them. With spinning tackle I advise my anglers to cast into the schools, snag their bait and once one is on the bail is then opened and the line is held by their index finger similar to as if getting ready to make a cast. When a take is felt it is an easy matter of letting the line off their finger, point the rod tip at the fish and then close the bail after the fish has been allowed to get the bait down and set the hook. A lot of folks fishing with spinning equipment will back off the drag knob until it is loose enough for a fish running off with a bait to pull line off unimpeded. For me I just have a mental picture of that drag knob falling off and into the briny so I use the index finger instead.
I hope everyone is able to take advantage of this amazing Spring time ritual. Around Fire Island area we can usually expect the action to hold up into early July (Weather depending of course). Have fun out there and don’t hesitate to email your pics of your live bunker successes.
I have not had the chance to write up reports for each trip over the course of the last week as I had a BUSY week on the water. Starting on June 6th the boat fished 5 of the next 7 days with some nice striped bass and fluke action taking place in the Fire Island Inlet area.
In the previous report I discussed the 6/6/11 striper action where I had striped bass to 26lbs on live bunker in the ocean outside Fire Island Inlet during a quick early morning trip.
The boat did not sail on Tuesday but was back on the scene early Wednesday 6/8 with Alex, Jay and Germain aboard. As we arrived on the grounds there were several boats already hooked up with big striped bass. We quickly snagged bunkers and left them to swim. Almost immediately Jay hooked up with a powerful fish that ran off quite a bit of line before gaining it’s release. The guys had a few other shots that were missed before we ran back inside the inlet where the bluefish wore out the live bunker almost as soon as they hit bottom. We finished out the day fluking and had a few that were close to legal but ultimately were not.
Back on the chase early Thursday morning with Joe (SoCalSalty) aboard in search of his very first striped bass. We found huge schools of bunker being raided periodically by fish but it far from the hot bite of earlier in the week. We worked over the schools and before long Joe’s bait got taken by a good fish. After putting up a very nice battle a 39 lb striped bass came aboard. Not too shabby for the first striper he ever caught. A short time later Joe added a smaller 10 lb bass to the tally along with many bluefish hooked up and fought before biting off the mono leader.
I fished a solo trip Friday morning following the passing of a brutal storm system overnight. Very hazy conditions led to difficulty finding the bait schools which seemed to have been split up by the storms. Up0n finally coming across nice concentrations of bait it was near the end of the short early morning hours where this action has been best. I had word of just a few fish picked from the area and despite hunting around over a large area I was not able to get on anything outside. Headed back inside the Fire Island Inlet and fished all my favorite drops only to find HUNGRY bluefish having invaded each area and they made short work of the live baits as soon as they hit bottom. Ravenous little devils
Ended up a very nice week on Sunday morning with Mike and friends aboard for a half day fluke trip on the Great South Bay. We fished a lot of areas inside the bay searching for a legal sized (20.5 inches) but it was not to be despite pulling a ballpark estimate of 60-70 fish aboard. Berkley Gulp was outfishing the spearing baits today and the better fish came on the Gulp. Lots of action but thanks to New York’s regulations nothing of “LEGAL” size came home. If we were fishing New Jersey or Connecticut we would have LOADED the boat with keepers. Go figure……
I set sail Monday (6/6/11) toward the ocean waters outside Fire Island Inlet with the goal of taking advantage of the striped bass feeding on the HUGE schools of menhaden along Long Island’s south shore beaches. Every Spring we are fortunate to have a run of these menhaden (bunker) in the near shore ocean waters and right on their tails is some of the best striped bass fishing of the entire season.
Some years this run is not as strong as others but if what I saw is any indication of things to come then this season’s bunker run could be one for the ages. On arrival at the fishing grounds at the very first sign of daylight I immediately spied very large schools of bunker stretching down the ocean front beaches for literally miles!! Long Island residents will be able to relate when I say they stretched from just west of Babylon’s Cedar Beach all the way down to the Jones Beach tower. That is a LARGE amount of baitfish!!!
Being one of the first arrivals on the scene I searched the schools for signs of fish feeding on the bait. As game-fish (stripers in this case) feed on the schools from the below the baitfish flee by flushing to the surface in a small water explosion. This is a scene that gets Long Island striped bass fisherman’s blood pumping.
I was able to find a school getting harassed and casted my snag-hook into the school and with a sweeping motion of the rod foul-hook a bunker. This baitfish is then left to swim within the school. The now wounded baitfish impaled on the snagger swims erratically which is what our targeted species will key in on.
My first snagged bunker was taken by a striped bass within five seconds of being hooked and it was game on. After a spirited fight a striper of near twenty pounds came aboard for it’s photo session followed by a release. A few more snagged bunker swam around successfully surviving before I was able to hook up again. This time as I casted my snaghook into the school I felt an extra weight unlike what is normally felt from the bunker.
Turns out I had snagged a passing bluefish right in the back. Bad luck for him as he was just happened to be in the wrong place.
Before long another bunker was taken by a striper that circled me around the boat before coming up alongside after a tough fight. This fish was also released to fight another day.
On the way back to the dock I was treated to a humpback whale porpoising through the bunker schools for his breakfast I assume. Man, I REALLY LOVE THIS STUFF!!! A beautiful day on the water with amazing weather and relaxing calm seas. Stripers on the hook as well. It does not get any better!!!!
Here is a full video of some of the highlights. I tried getting the humpback but they stay under a LONG time
I made some arrangements with two friends of mine to give the striped bass in the Fire Island Inlet a try. Tossed the lines off at 6:00pm but had to see the man at the fuel dock first. Did I mention I HATE that part??? While we are fueling we noticed a small pod of bunker swimming down the creek. Good sign!!
We finished at the gas dock and hit the bay with a pretty strong northwest wind blowing offshore. In the lee on the northside of the bay we found some “striper candy” and with one throw of the castnet I had 25 of them for the livewell. Next stop, Fire Island Inlet.
The flood current had just starting moving and we fished a few spots outside but the wind made good drifts difficult. I decided to move inside where we would be protected from the breeze a little better. On the first drift over the selected piece I marked a LOT of fish setup on the tops of the rises in the bottom. VERY good sign.
Motored back up for another drift through and almost before I could shut the engines down my buddy Tony is getting run off. Tony did everything by the book, jammed a good hook-set on the fish and fought it all the way to the boat before it came un-buttoned. Some days you are the dog, and some days you are the tree. “STUFF” happens.
On the very next drift over the same piece my other buddy Dennis gets picked up and sticks a fish. This also happened before I got to MY rod. I explained to the guys it was NOT good etiquette to out-fish the Captain. Anyway, Dennis gets the fish to the net and it’s about 15-16lbs.
We were losing sunlight quickly now and as the sun hit the horizon the bite ended. Several more drifts through the area showed a now barren bottom. I figured we would go drop the anchor and fish some cut bait but that only produced a couple of skates.
It actually turned out to be a very nice night, the wind laid down, we had a beautiful sunset and I had a great time with two good friends. The fish were a welcome bonus to the evening .