Settled on an 187-acre peninsula tucked between Noyack and Little Peconic Bay’s, Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge, better known by anglers as Jessup Neck, boasts exceptionally diverse habitats consisting of sandy and rocky beaches that fringe the peninsula, while wooded bluffs overlook the Bays. The refuge consists of upland forest, fields, ponds, a salt marsh, beaches and a lagoon. These habitats are used by a variety of wildlife including piping plovers, which make the beach off limits to visitors during their nesting period during the spring and summer months.
Although the plovers have the rights to the beach over much of the suds surfers during the peak of the fishing season, boatmen gets the party started as Jessup Neck is always one of the first hot spots to heat up for East End anglers, as each spring sees huge numbers of porgies, black sea bass, striped bass, fluke, weakfish, and bluefish pass the deep depths north of buoy 17 as they enter the Peconic’s from Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Activity at Jessup usually starts up with the presence of baitfish as early as mid-March with bunker being the first to show followed by silversides, bay anchovies (rain bait) killifish, sand eels, squid, and blueback herring which the herring usually spend the entire winter in the local waters.
For recreational fishing, the first gamefish to arrive in the Jessup area are generally small stripers rarely much larger than 18 or 20 inches, which cruise tight to the shoreline of Jessup and hold just off the point, well inside buoy 17 which marks the steep 70-foot drop into deeper water. One-ounce Smiling Bill bucktails or 5-inch Albino Shad Bass Assassins on a 3/4-ounce leadhead jig are most effective. Their presence in the shallows remarkably close to shore also makes them inviting targets for fly anglers looking for the first sight-fishing of the year. Light colored sand bottoms usually draw sight-fishermen to the east side of the peninsula, but there are always more fish on the west side where the bottom is mottled with rocks and grass.
Big sea run porgies are the next to show as early as mid-April, although the bite usually kicks into high gear just west and east of buoy 17 in 40 to 60 feet of water by mid-May. Weakfish are next to show and can be found on the same grounds as the scup and are willing to accept clam, worms and squid strips just as the porgies on porgy rigs. By mid-May bluefish are merciless inside the rip line along buoy 17 with 2 or 3-ounce diamond jigs getting the job done. At the same time, the big cow bass to over 40 pounds have moved into the Jessup area with jigs and plugs catching the big bass just before the sun comes up.
Some monster fluke are also lurking the area and are usually taken as a by-catch by bottom fishermen. Some jumbo sea bass are also taken before the season opens taken on jigs intended for bluefish and weakfish. The summer and fall sees scup, bluefish, and summer weakfish as the mainstay. Indeed the evolving migration of both predator and prey fish that passes Jessup Neck presents a nearly complete picture of Long Island’s diverse marine biomass. In addition each summer sees a healthy mix of exotic visitors that include Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, cobia, sheepshead, black drum, and the occasional tarpon (some in the 100-pound range that have been taken by fishermen in recent years).