Spanning the eastern complex of Jamaica Bay from Howard Beach in Brooklyn to Rockaway Beach, the North and South Channel Cross Bay Bridges set the stage for some fine all-around action on a variety of species through the course of the season. According to the guys over at Bernie’s Bait and Tackle on Emmons Ave. in Sheepshead Bay, a key to why the bridges are so productive, in addition to affording prime structure, is that they are a migration center of sorts. Fish entering through Rockaway Inlet and destined for the eastern reaches of Jamaica Bay must pass through the bridges. The same applies when the fish are looking to exit the bay. Aside from this, current breaks and ambush opportunities for species such as stripers, blues, weakfish and fluke are contributing factors as to why this area attracts plenty of fish life. Water depths surrounding the bridges range between 8 and 20 feet with the bottom consisting mainly of sand and some rocky fringes. Currents run swift through the area and sinker bouncers can expect to employ up to 6 ounces of lead to hold bottom during peak current times.
Flounder action is a shade of what it once was but there are still some hardcore flatfish fans who kick off the season in April with the beginning of flounder season. The action kicks off with flounder coming out of the creeks and canals of the bay where they have spent the early season. They then begin congregating around the bridges until they are driven out by rising water temperatures. Chumming crushed clams or mussels at anchor with worms, clams and mussels on the hook should get you enough fillets for dinner.
As the month draws to a close, stripers move into the area feasting on the massive schools of moss bunker that take up residence every spring. Drifting live bunker or fresh chunks on 3×3 rigs as April turns to May should draw the attention of stripers, particularly during the early morning hours. Some years see weakfish show in enough numbers to target them during May and June but predicting their appearance is a crap shoot at best. Kayakers skilled enough to work the bridge abutments effectively, often score both bass and weaks when the yellowfins do show.
Throughout the summer, bucktails and leadheads tipped with soft baits or Gulp!, as well as rigs baited with spearing, sand eels and squid do a number on the local fluke population. The waters around the bridge have produced numerous quality fluke the past couple of seasons, including a fair number of double-digit doormats. One- to 2-ounce pink or white Spro bucktails tipped with a long strip of squid or fluke belly, or a 5-inch Gulp! Minnow have been responsible for many of these bigger flatties. Bernie’s has weighed many fluke in the 6- to 10-pound range through the course of the last few seasons from the waters around the bridge.
Fall action can be sensational with bottom dwellers such as porgies, sea bass, kingfish and blowfish. The best action is typically found as the current slackens or before it builds, preferably the last one to 1-1/2 hours before high slack, and the first hour of the outgoing. For more info on fishing this area from boat or shore, contact Bernie’s Bait & Tackle at 718-646-7600.