Both shores of the Island offer opportunities for land based anglers to take advantage of the fall blackfish season.
With the fall blackfish season underway, now is the time to hit the water in search of hard fighting, great tasting blackfish. Although most blackfish anglers prefer going the boating route, there are a lot of options for shore bound anglers on Long Island. Whether you prefer the rocky structures found on the North Shore or the rock strewn jetties and bridge abutments of the South Shore, you can bet your bottom dollar, there are blackfish lurking in both areas.
Blackfish love structure, plain and simple. They use the structure to seek shelter, ambush an easy meal and most of all, pick away at barnacles and crabs found hidden amongst it. With their impressive set of teeth, blackfish can easily crush open a crab or mussel for an easy meal.
There is a wealth of knowledge to be found at your local tackle shop if probing the shore for blackfish is your game plan. For this piece, I picked the brains of several local shops – North and South shores – in search of tips and tricks that will aid in your success.
East End Bait & Tackle, Hampton Bays
Beginning in the Shinnecock area, I spoke with Scott Jeffrey of East End Bait & Tackle. In Scott’s neck of the woods, there are really only two solid options for blackfish in the fall. The first would be the Ponquogue Bridge, with Shinnecock Inlet the second choice.
Both spots however are early fall spots, so if you plan on heading there, hit them as early in the fall season as possible. Once mid-November rolls in, these spots become fairly quiet.
Scott feels the outgoing tide is the best timeframe to be there, with a simple hi/lo rig tipped with a small whole green crab, or a larger green crab cut in half. If the current is slacking, or slack, a blackfish jig is a better option. Work the jig as close to the old bridge pilings as possible. In the inlet, stay close to the rocks at the base of the jetty.
Dick’s Bait & Tackle, Mastic Beach
In Dick’s area, the two best spots for shore bound blackfish are Moriches Inlet and the Smith Point Bridge. Both areas offer structure blackfish love. Again the simple hi/lo rig and bank sinker is the preferred option on the rig, but the baits can be any combination of green, Asian or even calico crabs. Dick started using calicos a few years ago and says the work great! Another option is the Berkley Gulp peeler crab. A blackfish jig can also be used in place of the sinker during slower tide/current periods.
At the bridge the key is the last of the flood tide and trying to land your cast as close to the first or second piling in from the center of the bridge. In the inlet, Dick likes a cast of about 10 feet off the base of the rocks. In both areas, the key is to keep a taught line, which will enable you to feel the bite, then the crunch. The crunch is when you set the hook!
Saltwaters Bait & Tackle, West Islip
In Great South Bay, Mike McGee of Saltwaters says the best fall hot spots are the Robert Moses Fishing Pier and the old Oak Beach Inn Dock area. These two spots yield keeper blackfish every year for the shorebound angler. The Moses Pier features an abundance of rubble at the base of the dock and surrounding area. The OBI Dock offers similar structure, but with a sand bottom mixed in as well.
On the bait side, you cannot go wrong with green crabs, with hermits a great option also. Rig the baits on a standard hi/lo rig, with either a bank sinker or blackfish jig. The key according to Mike is to wait for the “tug” not the bite. The tug is when the blackfish has inhaled the bait to its back crushing teeth, making for an easy hook-set. The best tide is the beginning of the outgoing.
Miller Place Bait & Tackle
Jim Flora at Miller Place says if you want blackfish on the North Shore, and you want to fish from shore, head to the jetty at Cedar Beach or the open beach along Oldfield Point. Both areas are loaded with fish attracting boulders and structure, and an ample supply of crustaceans for a hungry tog to chomp on.
In this area, Jim likes the tide period an hour before and after high tide. This will allow the blackfish to get into the shallower areas, and still have an ample supply of water over their heads. It will also allow them to probe every inch of the structure in their search for food.
Best baits are green crabs and Asian crabs, with Asian crabs a little better options as they are in and around all the structure on the North Shore. Jim also is a fan of the S&S Blackfish Jig in green with weights between 3/4 and 1-ounce preferred.
Cow Harbor Bait & Tackle, Northport
Up in this area, the two best options according to Phil McGowan are the LIPA Jetty behind the launch ramp and the open beach along Caumsett State Park. Along Caumsett State Park, searching out boulders and structure at low tide can make for easy targets when the tide is at its high point. A little time doing some re-con work will surely come in handy when it’s time to fish.
Phil likes the incoming tide stage and either green or Asian crabs on the bait end. Phil believes, especially the jetty area, is loaded with Asian crabs, making for a more natural meal to unsuspecting blackfish.
I asked Phil what would be his best tip for an angler and he replied, “You have to be patient, but also willing to move. If you have not gotten bit in several minutes, move down 5 to 10 yards, or to another section of the jetty or beach.” Phil also feels that the best place to find blackfish is the exact location you caught porgies during the summer months.
The game plan has been laid out whether you want to head to the North or South shores. Do you have the right rod and reel for the area?
On the South Shore, with swifter currents and the need for heavier weights at times will dictate a heavier rod. Something rated for 20- to 40-pound test with a fast taper, but stiff backbone in the 8- to 10-foot range. However, there will be times when you fish slower currents. For this, add a spinning rod in the 8- to 10-foot length and rated for 15- to 25-pound test. Whether it is spinning or conventional, make sure your reel is in good working order, and the drag is smooth.
On the North Shore, if you fish the jetty area, chances are the currents will still be nowhere near those found on the South Shore. For this, the rod can be in the 15- to 25-pound class and 7 to 10 feet in length. On the open beach areas, a 9- to 11-foot rod rated for the same will suffice, with a smaller 8-footer best for times when you are using a jig instead of hi/lo rig with bank sinker.
Several years ago while sheepshead fishing in South Carolina I learned a neat trick to aid in hooksets while bottom fishing. This method could be used on blackfish and any of the baits used for them. Simply pick up a pair of women’s stockings. Cut a small piece, then wrap whatever bait you are using in the stocking. The bait will stay on the hook when cast, plus make it more difficult for the blackfish to suck it off the hook.
Blackfish season is here. Pick a day, watch the tide and head to your favorite haunt for a chance at some hard fighting, great tasting tog.