Great South Bay: Grand Slam Fishing - The Fisherman

Great South Bay: Grand Slam Fishing

2018 5 Grand Slam Fishing Catch 3
May is prime time to hit a four-bagger inside the friendly confines of Great South Bay.

In order to qualify for an Atlantic Inshore Grand Slam the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) requires an angler to catch a bluefish, weakfish, striped bass and a bonito or false albacore in the same day. That is tough to do but not impossible. However I would rather try for what I call a Great South Bay Grand Slam. Substitute the small tunas with a fluke. Once again tough to do but not impossible. Remember I’m calling it the Great South Bay Slam because you must stay in the bay while you catch all four species. We have all heard the term “size doesn’t matter,” and when it comes to achieving this feat I will agree. Just catching all four is hard enough, so if you are up for the challenge keep reading.

Weakfish

I realize you need all four species to complete the slam however the weakfish requirement is the key to you pulling off this feat. It’s not easy finding weakfish most years, so you need to optimize your time. Get out early and hit every known weakfish spot. Don’t neglect the north side of the bay. The Connetquot River and the Heckscher Flats are great places to find weakfish. If you prefer to stay on the south side, make sure you hit the Ocean Beach area, East and West Fire Islands, West Channel, Kismet Reef and the State Boat Channel. Other spots worth a look are where ferries come in and out of. Weakfish love drop-offs and deep holes. Hint – hint: the ferries need deep water so they don’t run aground. If you don’t find any weakfish in the morning don’t give up. You may still have a shot, as these fish begin to feed once again during dusk. Your tackle bag must haves are: jig heads, soft plastics and small bucktails from 3/8 to 1 ounce.

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The unpredictable nature of weakfish could make them the toughest challenge to completing the slam.

Striped Bass

This is another fish that I would target in the morning, with the evening hours my second choice. When you head out looking for bass concentrate your efforts on the outgoing tide. Try drifting live bunker near Ocean Beach and buoy 10, which is located right in front of East Fire Island. You can also try trolling an umbrella rig up and down the State Channel. If you want to anchor up and clam chum try the Robert Moses (Fire Island Inlet) Bridge or you can anchor up current of one of the many rips that form during the outgoing tide. If the back of the bay is void of brown tide it’s worth a shot. Last year I was catching bass and blues on bunker pods and swim shads off of Bayport. If bass are the only fish left to complete the grand slam and you get desperate, you can always throw bass assassins under the bridge at night. Your tackle bag must haves are: swim shads, bucktails, a pencil popper and a Danny plug.

Bluefish

If I’m looking for bluefish that means I’m live-lining adult bunker. If you don’t have a livewell, try chunking with them. If you are chunking avoid using the heads. Bluefish do not like heads. That is also the reason why I hook a live bunker in the middle instead of the head. The hardest part about catching bluefish is finding them. They roam the bay as if they are in the open ocean. Besides live-lining, another great way to find them is using a popper. Try a popper that causes a lot of commotion and throws off a lot of water. Fish it along the edge of the flats opposite the lighthouse, and always be on the lookout for bird activity. Don’t be surprised if you happen to catch a bass while targeting bluefish with a popper. If you want to fish “dirty,” anchor up and deploy a can of bunker chum. Yep, the same tactic that you would use while shark fishing works, however in the bay you want to anchor up. Your tackle bag must haves are: basically any top water plug, a “Kastmaster” type lure and wire leaders, the latter applies especially if you are fishing bait.

2018 5 Grand Slam Fishing Catch 2
Some of the best bluefish action of the season has been occurring in the spring. Follow the birds and you should have no problem checking bluefish off your list.

Fluke

Unlike bass and weakfish, this is the species that you should target in the middle of the day. When I plan a day of fluke fishing I never head out at sunrise. Reason being, I never seem to have much success early in the morning. Let’s be realistic, with all of the party boats that come out of Captree it’s pretty easy to tell if there is a bite going on. If you don’t like crowds there are plenty of options. When it comes to fluke I choose to stay on the south side of the bay. Once again I hit Ocean Beach—it’s actually a much overlooked area. The deep channels along the south sides of East and West Fire Islands hold plenty of fluke. The Kismet Reef is a great spot, however keep in mind the bottom is very “sticky.” If I could pick just one place in the bay to fluke fish it would be the Fire Island Inlet Bridge. The bridge provides great coverage for fluke to ambush its prey. I caught my largest fluke (11.25 pounds) near the bridge. Make sure you fish both sides of the bridge. It seems most fishermen only focus on the south side. During the incoming tide the north side of the bridge can be very productive for fluke. While fluke fishing you may come across some sea robins. In years past they would be looked upon as a nuisance fish, however this year The Fisherman Magazine has included sea robin as a category for the Dream Boat Contest. So before you throw that bird back, take a quick minute to weigh it to see if you have a possible contender. Your tackle bag must haves are: Gulp! (swimming mullet), bucktails and Fat Cow fishing jig strips.

2018 5 Grand Slam Fishing Catch
You don’t need a doormat like this one displayed by the author. With no size restrictions, even a short fluke will do.

What makes this feat even more difficult is the fact that these fish are usually in the bay together for a short period of time. You will get a realistic shot twice during the 2018 season. First, from May to early June all four of these species will be found somewhere in the bay. Second, when summer weakfish show up they usually stick around through September. With fluke season not ending until September 30, you have a legitimate shot at the grand slam again in case you struck out earlier in the season. Throughout this article I have laid out a map of where in the bay these fish frequent. Now it’s up to you to figure out when these fish will appear. So grab your spouse, your kids or your buddies and take up the challenge. There are no plaques, pins or trophies, just the satisfaction that you have accomplished something that most other anglers have not. If you are wondering if I have ever accomplished catching a grand slam, the answer is no. The best I’ve ever done is landing three out of the four.

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