Location: (41 03 06N / 73 06 01W)
Boatmen sailing from Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson, and as far west as Hempstead Harbor will set their sights for the lighthouse planted in the middle of Long Island Sound, which at one time warned ships and freighters of a dangerous line of shallow water known as Stratford Shoal or more commonly known as the Middle Ground today. Each season, exceptional fishing for stripers and bluefish along with the trio of togs, sea bass, and scup keep anglers knee-deep in action here.
The name Middle Ground was derived from Stratford Shoals being midway between Long Island and the Connecticut shore. The Middle Ground is an area approximately three miles in radius— surrounding a high spot exposed on low tide—hence the name Stratford Shoal.
A lighthouse is sitting on the shoal, making it easy to sight and locate well before approaching the area. It is located just six miles north of Port Jefferson Harbor. The Stratford (Middle Ground) Shoal (41 03 06N / 73 06 01W) is made up of a variety of bottom contours creating all sorts of rip lines and drop-offs anywhere from 15 to 65 feet of water, making it an oasis for bass and bluefish—especially from the end of August and well into October. Fishing across the rips will produce bass and blues coming into and drifting off of the shoal. Diamond Jigs are the first choice for drifting the rip lines. However, chunking with fresh bunker and anchored up tide of the shoal will certainly put fish in the box as well.
Just southeast of the shoal is a terrain about a mile in diameter of hard rocky bottom that gets plenty of play throughout the summer and fall. Porgies and quality sea bass are the mainstays from June through October. Concentrate your efforts between 35 and 65 feet of water. Porgies can pile up pretty thick in patches jotting anywhere in the vicinity. Therefore anchoring near the piles and a bit of clam chum will draw the scup and sea bass under the boat for one-stop shopping.
September and into October see lots of false albacore frequent the area. For those anglers that bring spinning outfits armed with Fat Cow Epoxy Jigs, Joebaggs Resin Jigs, Crippled Herring jigs, and Fish Lab Flanker jigs can have a blast with the speedsters early in the a.m. before the mosquito fleet arrives.
Mid-October through the month of November, the Middle Ground becomes land of the togs as plenty of quality toothy critters become a statistic by proud and victorious anglers with some double-digit fish in the mix. Green, Asian, white, and hermit crabs will all contribute to putting a limit of quality togs in the box. Current is swift in this area, especially as the current clashes with the shoal. Therefore sinkers in the 4- to 8-ounce range are required to keep a rig on the bottom and close to the boat. Closer to the slack period, try using a lighter 1- to 2-ounce jig for the blackfish.
Always watch the weather—the Long Island Sound can change its mood as fast as a flick of a switch and can become quite bumpy at the change of tide depending on the direction of the wind.