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Some of the best herring action can occur at night in locations with lights over the water, however dawn and dusk seem to be the preferred times for most locations.

By Fred Golofaro  |  December 10, 2019
Magnolia Pier in Long Beach is one of the more popular locations for herring on Long Island.

Pickled herring are a welcome treat on the holiday tables of many Long Island, Metro New York anglers, while some take advantage of the herring run to freeze away bait for the coming season. They also provide sport to anglers not content to be stuck indoors during the off season, and provide a welcome reprieve from the winter blahs. Fortunately for anglers in our area, there are a number of easily accessible shore locations that have the potential to produce good herring action during any given season. Herring typically show in our waters by early December and fishing can carry right through March, however the best fishing often occurs from December into early January and then again in March.

Sabiki Rigs are by far the most popular tool used to catch herring and are available in most tackle shops that remain open during the winter months. Some anglers prefer to tie their own herring rigs by simply tying some flashy material like strips of Mylar to a size 4 or 6 gold, beak-style hook and attaching anywhere from two to four of them to dropper loops spaced out on a three to four foot leader. A snap is tied to the terminal end of the leader, where a diamond, jig, sinker or any shiny metal lure can be attached. The weight of the lure or sinker is dependent on the strength of the current and depth of water of the area you are fishing. Deep water locations may allow you to simply drop your rig and jig it, while shallower locations may require you to cast and retrieve your rig. In either case, keep you rig off of the bottom. A six to seven foot medium action spinning rod will cover most situations you are likely to encounter. If you are looking to have some fun catching herring, some locations may allow you to fish very light spinning tackle and target one fish at a time.

Some of the best herring action can occur at night in locations with lights over the water, however dawn and dusk seem to have been the preferred times for most locations in recent years. When the fishing is good, it is not uncommon to catch them throughout the day during prime tides, especially if the sky is overcast. Some of my better days have occurred during the middle of the day with snow coming down.

The quality of the fishing in a specific location can vary greatly from season to season so if you are not having success in one area, it pays to move around. Once good fishing is established in an area, it often carries through the prime periods. Likewise, Non-productive locations may remain that way throughout the winter.

Out east, the Shinnecock Canal can be productive some years and void of herring others, but is always worth checking out. So too is the back end of the west jetty at Shinnecock Inlet, and the neighboring commercial dock west of the inlet. East End Bait & Tackle (631-728-1744) and White Water Outfitters (631-594-3336), both in Hampton Bays are good sources of info for these locations.

In the Fire Island area, the Robert Moses and Captree Overlook piers have the potential to produce good numbers of herring some years. Last season was not one of those years, but some good reports have already filtered in from this area this year. Saltwaters Outfitters (631-539-9422) in West Islip, Chasing Tails (631-563-3474) in Oakdale and Bob’s Bait & Tackle (631-842-7573) in Amity Harbor are both open all winter and keep tabs on this area.

Moving west, the Jones Beach Piers, Green Island and Magnolia Pier in Long Beach are popular herring spots, with Magnolia boasting a long standing reputation as one of the better locations in the region due to its proximity to deep water. Lights on the pier make it a popular nighttime location. Causeway Bait & Tackle (516-785-3223) in Wantagh and Long Island Outdoorsman (516-678-5554) in Rockville Centre are good sources of information for all three locations.

On the extreme west end, the Coney Island Pier is probably the most popular of several potentially good herring spots in the area. Very good reports were already coming from the pier as this was being written and it has been one of the post productive and consistent locations in recent years. Some winters, the Canarsie and 69th Street piers, and the Sheepshead Bay boat basin also provide good herring action. You can get all the info you need on these locations from the crew at Bernie’s Bait & Tackle (718-646-7600) in Sheepshead Bay.

Up on the North Shore, Mt. Sinai Harbor is a popular location for herring and it seems to produce to some degree every season. Two of the better locations in the harbor are the commercial ramp and F-Dock. Miller Place Bait & Tackle (631-849-5430) is the place to go for info in December and March. They are closed during January and February.

In the Northport and Huntington area, the town dock in Northport can be productive some years, while the bulkhead behind the Halesite Fire Department in Huntington has been known to produce good herring action on a fairly consistent basis. One of the better locations in this part of the Island is the Mill Dam Bridge in Centerport Harbor, especially during December and into mid-January. Cow Harbor Bait & Tackle (631-239-1631) in Northport and Campsite Sport Shop (631-271-4969) in Huntington Station can both fill you in on the specifics of fishing these areas.

In the western Sound, Bar Beach in Hempstead Harbor was already yielding good herring action in early December when we spoke to Mike at Fishing East Coast Bait & Tackle (718-631-2196) in Little Neck.