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PECONIC BAY BLUES

A quick run south across Long Island Sound produces a slammer of a spring bluefish trip.
By Toby Lapinski

I was mid-retrieve with an Al Gags underspin, helping my son keep his rod held high enough to hold it over the top of the wooden railing on the pier, when my phone began to ring. It was an evening of fishing with Aiden so I let it go to voicemail to be checked later once our outing was done. We worked up and down the dock, casting jigs and spooks into empty water, but it was more about having fun than catching and we were both pleased with our results.

It was several hours later that I finally checked my voicemail and heard the message from Capt. Greg Dubrule of the Black Hawk. He planned to try something he hadn’t heard any local boats doing in quite some time, and that was to set up for some night time blues on the chunk over in Peconic Bay, New York. He invited me along for the trip two nights later, and I happily agreed to join him.

We left the Niantic River a little after 5 p.m. and set a course south/southwest across the Sound. Passing some familiar striper spots along the way including Plum Gut and Orient Point, we eventually entered Gardiners Bay where we began snaking our way towards our final destination well inside Peconic Bay. We made a quick stop to test the drift with diamond jigs on a rip that had been holding blues in recent days, but the current wasn’t yet moving so we quickly moved on. The next drop saw the first indications of a drift and a large striped bass pushing 30 pounds was brought boatside, only to spit the jig just as the mate readied the net. We moved around, looking for bait and signs of fish for a while, but the conditions were not setting up as planned.

Once full darkness set in the Captain gave the word for everyone to change over to 3-wayed bait rigs and chum pots were hung around the boat. The current was starting to show signs of cooperation and a slow drift began. The first spot produced a sea robin and a few bumps, but still no blues. Was it simply not to be? I had faith in our captain and stayed positive, filling my camera with pictures of a full deck of still happy customers.

And then it began; slowly at first with a fish here and cut-off there—signs of life and an air of success starting to show itself. The boat was repositioned to drift back over the fish and the rods began to bend up and down the rail. Fish bags were starting to fill and blood was on the deck—signs of a good party boat trip in my book!

Within a few minutes of coming tight on the line and the chum slick having been given time to work its magic, the scene was nothing short of controlled melee as there was little that could be done to avoid the voracious predators below.

It was now time to anchor up, and within a few minutes of coming tight on the line and the chum slick having been given time to work its magic, the scene was nothing short of controlled melee as there was little that could be done to avoid the voracious predators below. And what was even better was that these were not the small, 3- to 5-pound blues that had been harassing the daytime rigs meant for fluke, porgies and weakfish leading up to the trip; oh no, these were instead legit choppers that beat up both angler and gear. Fish from 8 to 15-plus-pounds were coming over the rail just about as fast as the three mates could buzz around the deck. Things got so hectic at times between retying rigs and netting and bleeding fish that I left my post on the upper deck with the Captain and lent a helping hand to the crew down below. I was happy to get my hands dirty as I never got a chance in my younger days to mate on a party boat despite having always dreamed of it being a good summer job from my childhood home which seemed too far away from the salt.

For several hours—maybe three or four but I wasn’t really counting—the scene continued as chunks of sea herring and bunker were sent down into the darkness and in short order exchanged for ill-tempered, yellow-eyed demons of the deep. It had been quite a few years since I was onboard a party boat for a true bluefish slam, and I was pleased to be back in the thick of things. Here and there I took a moment to drop a jig down into the slick, but these blues were so keyed-in on the meat that they wouldn’t touch my shiny metal; and in all reality that was just fine by me.

From the happy, smiling face of the one lucky kid on board all the way through the 30-plus customers on the trip, not a single one went home without a bag full of fillets. Some landed a few fish while others filled their limit, but every one of them felt the same satisfaction that comes from being near exhaustion from duking it out with heavyweight bluefish for several hours.

While many northeast anglers turn their noses up at the bluefish in public, privately we all enjoy a good battle with them every once in a while as they fight to the end and pound-for-pound pull harder than a lot of fish twice their size. Capt. Greg plans to run the Black Hawk over to Peconic Bay a few more times this spring depending on how long the bite holds up, so keep an eye on his weekly reports or give the Captain a call and get in on some Peconic Bay Blues of your own this spring!

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