Freeport Mixed Bag And Trophies! - The Fisherman

Freeport Mixed Bag And Trophies!

striper
A quality striper finds its way into the net within a stone’s throw from the Verrazano Bridge on the Corazon.

One port with plenty of different fishing options from inshore to offshore.

Freeport boats and anglers have incredible opportunity and can target just about every Northeast species because of access and topography. Generally we launch out of Jones Inlet and can also utilize Debs if we want a western route.  The Freeport location allows us to easily access the waters of the NJ/NY Bight, Fire Island Inlet, all the midshore tuna hotspots west and east and the Hudson Canyon.

Convergence Of Water Bodies

Freeport water patterns are influenced by the NY Bite and surrounding inlets (Jones, Debs, FI, and Rockaway). The NY bight is a 90-degree ‘corner’ with water moving through NY Harbor, Raritan Bay, NJ Coast, Jamaica Bay, Western LI South shore. In my opinion this structure and the many inlets lead to baitfish getting ‘pinned’ in the corner — which is why we see baitfish and predators take residence outside our inlets.

When the season kicks off in April/May there will be whitebait, herring, bunker and a myriad of other species in our waters. The bunker settle into our waters off Jones, Debs and further west between the shoreline to 100 plus feet of water.  As the summer progresses, spearing, peanut bunker and other assorted baitfish invade the bays and pour out into the ocean in the fall.  This rich ecosystem fuels our healthy fishery to the point that we have whales residing just off the beaches. The area also has a rich tuna fishery from the midshore to Hudson Canyon region due to the bait and bottom contours.

NY Harbor historically also has been one of the world’s largest ports.  As a result we have a high number of underwater wrecks that have accumulated from unfortunate events and military conflicts.  Even more – there are numerous mature artificial reefs strategically placed at different depths.

Tuna-Fishing
Tuna fishing is an excellent option during the summer months out of Freeport.

Fluke And Sea Bass Fishing

This fishery is one of the staples of summer that both sharpies and novices can enjoy.  The quality of the fishery has dramatically improved over the past decade.  Freeport sees strong fluke fishing all year long with limits of large fluke peaking in August.  Recent equipment innovation is incredibly impactful in our area because it leverages the techniques that are deadly in Freeport.  We have structure, abundant fish and drift speeds less than 2 knots most of the time. These are optimal Slow Pitch Jigging conditions.

Catching fluke and sea bass is best around structure. Find the fish and repeat your drifts once the fish are located. The lighter equipment that is available today lets the angler use hi-lo rigs with bucktails to ‘work an area’.  This technique is effective around sticky bottom and helps to distinguish a fluke hitting a bait.  On my boat we utilize Daiwa Lexa HD reels with Harrier Slow Pitch 400 gram rods for ocean fishing.  We also utilize Fish Bites EZ Squid Baits and 6-inch grubs. The EZ bait is a 12-inch strip which we cut down to 3 or 4-inch strips which also work excellent for sea bass. We like the larger grub baits on the top hook for trophy fish.

Electronics are especially useful for this kind of fishing. We utilize our chart plotter displays to mark waypoints for every short drift.  We also leverage radar to look at prospective areas we want to fish with less angler pressure.  We look at the radar targets over our waypoints to determine how many others are in the area so we are not competing so heavily.

Captain Anthony Gillespie from the Captain Lou party/head boat fleet states that “Our Ocean Fluke fishing is Excellent.  I never thought it would look this good.”  He further explained that his most successful guests use slow pitch rods and braided line hi-lo rigs tipped with artificial grub-like baits when party boat fishing.

Captain Al Capbianco from the Miss Marie targets the reefs and uses whole squid rigs when fishing in the deeper water for his fluke trips. Whole squid is one way to cull out the bigger fish at times and can put more limits in the fish box by the end of the day. The captain also suggests that when you are jigging for sea bass and you see your fish finder light up, drop a jig (tin or bucktail). Often the bigger fish are off the bottom and on top of the biomass of smaller fish.  You are more likely to score a bigger fish on a jig than on a traditional bait rig. Keep your jig as light as possible, while still being able to get down to the bottom and continuously being able to work that strike zone.

Captain Bob Schmidt of the Sea Rogue suggests the following when fishing from a smaller boat: Anchor when the fluke drift is too fast (especially in smaller boats) to fish sticky bottom to avoid losing endless rigs.  That way you can effectively work prime rough bottom with lighter tackle and/or bucktails which is not only more fun but also more productive.

fluke
Inside the bays and outside on the reefs and wrecks of the west end of Long Island, fluke provide a great summer action.

Striper Opportunities

Striped bass fishing has become banner in the area, especially over the past 10 years.  The striped bass season consists of the spring and fall run with some fish residing over the summer in our area.  Live bunker fishing is the top fare for size, fun and uniqueness to our area.  Flutter spoons and jigs work well and is also is a lot of fun. Trolling is incredibly effective with Tony Maja Mojos and bunker spoons.  Modern equipment makes trolling much more enjoyable, e.g. large level wind reels for wire line trolling.

Utilize your toolset. There is no ‘best or single’ way to catch fish.  If you want to be consistent know how to jig, live bait and troll.  Trolling is a great way to scout an area if there are no obvious signs of bait.  When trolling look for bunker or birds, have your gear ready to switch over quickly.  Catching fish is about maximizing fishing time in a productive environment.

Capt John McMurray from One More Cast Charters noted the striped bass fishing out of Freeport has been off the hook these past 3 years — particularly in the fall — October and November, from Fire Island to Breezy Point seems to hold the largest body of fish on the east coast. As the fish migrate back west they seem to settle in the area for an extended period of time. This past 2022 season saw fish from Columbus Day through closing day.

outfits
Having select outfits set and ready to go helps with being efficient and catching more fish.

Making The Tuna Run

Tuna fishing is the crown jewel of the Freeport offshore big game scene.  They are available throughout the May to November window with several different species on the menu.

Jig and pop innovator Capt. John McMurray from One More Cast Charters told me they generally start looking for “life” 15 to 20 miles due south or southeast. Whales are a really good indicator, large schools of dolphin too, but birds like storm petrels (tuna chicks), shearwaters, etc. are good signs that tuna are around too. Get all three of those in the same area and it’s usually game on.  Even when not seeing tuna on the surface, he gets lots of strikes blind casting plugs.  Likewise, even if there are no marks on your sounder, they still drop jigs down and catch plenty!

WHAT ABOUT THOSE COBIA?

The cobia fishery is up and coming and only increasing in the past few years.  The 2023 season will be a good indicator on this being a consistent fishery outside of Freeport. As of now the way to catch these fish is to target the bunker pods in a similar way that you would target stripers.

ONE SETUP DOES MOST

Reuse your tackle setups to avoid having to buy multiple outfits. I utilize Diawa 2 speed Saltiga Lever Drags w HarrierX XH 5-foot 8-inch rods. These work for Mojos when striper fishing, Cobia and Jigging Tuna.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Capt. Doug owns/operates Corazon Fishing with his son as first mate and has over 30 years of fishing in all NY waters.  He specializes in lifetime personal best inshore/offshore fishing and has 2 IGFA records sailing out of Freeport, NY on HIS locally rebuilt 35-foot Duffy Downeast.

Capt. Paul Niederauer from Cannonball Charters is a mid-shore and Canyon specialist who emphasized being safe and utilizing the numerous weather forecasts and weather apps like Sirius/Bouy Weather/Windy to make sure you have a safe window. Also pay attention to the wind speed, direction, wave height and frequency. Furthermore, to plan your location, check the sea surface water temperatures and salinity charts as well as RipCharts for temperature breaks.  There is variability here and even a 1-degree difference may be enough to hold fish. Concentrate on contour lines and get out early (keeping safety as a priority). They setup before sunrise and Run ballyhoo/Joe Shutes at different depths across a full spread.

I suggest being comfortable with all techniques. Troll before sunrise into the morning and put some fish on the boat.  Once you have the area dialed in, be ready to jig and pop if the opportunity presents itself.  Also give yourself options. If you are having a tough day with tuna, drop in for tilefish in the Canyon or sea bass and cod on some deep wrecks.

There you have it!  Freeport has it all — make sure it stays fun!  There are so many options and much to learn while exploring the waters out of this port.  Your outcome will get better over time.  If you ever want to shortcut the process you can always fish with one of the Captain’s in this article.  Tight Lines!

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