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South Ferry, that stretch of fast running water that separates North Haven from Shelter Island and widely referred to as South Ferry, has been known to hold large stripers in the early part of the season, and then again as the fall approaches.
By Tom Melton
According to Ken Morse of Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor, cold winters and cool springs bode well for early season action. As the waters warm in July, the fish seem to move east towards the Gardiners Island Ruins and the cooler water. With a cold winter and spring, the waters stay cooler longer, lengthening the spring run into the early stages of July at times. However, for the most part, once July and August roll in, bass are elsewhere. As fall approaches and the waters begin to cool down again, bass will show at the ferry area. This usually coincides with that first northeast cold front that comes through in September.
For best action, Ken suggests you try several methods to increase your odds of catching larger stripers. Wire line trolling, drifting eels or bunker and diamond jigging all will account for large bass.

The ferry area averages between 27 and 35 feet in depth. Ken feels that the west end of the ferry slip produces best on the incoming tide. There is a drop off and bass face into the current waiting for unsuspecting baitfish. Go past the drop, and then troll back over the drop. On the outgoing tide, fish the east side of the ferry. For trolling, jigging green Andrus Parachute Jigs or trolling Danny swimming plugs or deep diving Manns Stretch Minnows is the way to go. Keep in mind that blues will become a nuisance as the season progresses. You can avoid blues by fishing early in the day or dusk. Cloudy, overcast days are the best, especially if you get there early.
If trolling is not high on your favorite way to fish categories, then try either live eels or live bunker. Nothing beats feeling a live bunker or eel getting really nervous at the end of your line as it is being ambushed by a large bass. Rig the eel or bunker on a fish-finder rig or egg sinker and get it down close to the bottom. A pickup will be very distinct. Allow the bass to swim a bit before rearing back and setting the hook.

Diamond jigging can be effective, but in my opinion is nowhere near as fun as live baiting, or parachute jigging. Diamond jigging also might give you more bluefish activity than you want as well.

For trolling and wire line jigging parachutes, a 6-1/2- to 7-foot rod rated for 20- to 50-pound test will work well. Ken also prefers a metal reel seat and metal gimbal, plus braced guides. Match this to a good quality reel and you are in business. Ken also mentioned that most anglers who troll the area still use the old standby Penn 4/0 with a chrome spool. For live bait fishing, I like the Penn Legion rated for 15 to 30 matched to an Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 7000C3. I spool it with 30-pound Sufix or PowerPro and finish it with a 50-pound mono or fluorocarbon leader. Most importantly, Ken suggests you change your wire once per year. The cost is minimal, especially when poor wire quality may cost you a $30-plug.

The South Ferry area is not just for boaters either. The area offers prime surf action, but parking can be a bit tricky. When working the beach Ken feels the rule of thumb is simple. As long as you can properly “work” a topwater – fish it! As the sun sets, move to whatever swimming style plug you are comfortable with – SP Minnow, Super Strike Darter, Gibbs Swimmers or large metal lips.
South Ferry is located at the north end of North Haven in the town of Sag Harbor. For shorebound anglers, South Ferry Road off Route 114 is the easiest access. For boaters, there is a public boat ramp on Bay Street. It is free for residents while non-residents pay a $15-daily fee.

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