As I look back at 2017, I had good year fishing as a result of diversifying. Long Island is a great place for multiple types of fishing and fish species. From trout to stripers to fluke and largemouth bass, I pieced together enough success to be pleased with my overall season. Many of us can get hung up pursuing stripers or others may just like to fish on party boats. That’s great, but after a few bad outings it’s nice to change gears and catch some different fish.
I took advantage of some warm days last winter and got into the revamped Connetquot Preserve for some outstanding trout fishing. Catching several 3- to 4-pound rainbows, brookies or browns was typical per four-hour session. Streamers, nymphs and mop flies were the tickets for me and the other anglers who frequented the river. In addition to the giants, there were plenty of other decent size fish to keep rods bent. This is pretty easy fly-fishing and a great place to break in. If the long wand doesn’t interest you, there are plenty of other stocked lakes, ponds and streams to fish for trout with a spinning rod. Casting small spoons, spinners and minnow like lures is a good bet. Worms, dough or Power Bait will also work as well. White perch is another good winter option. Many of the south shore brackish water creeks and rivers can produce some quality perch. Of course there are plenty of open boats running cod trips from Montauk through the west end.
Moving to spring, I did allot more trout fishing in the preserve and the many other stocked lakes along with the beautiful Carmans River. Another plus to Long Island is its proximity to famed trout rivers like the Beaverkill and the Upper Delaware. I’ve fished these plenty of times, so I mixed it up and took a trip to the Farmington River in Connecticut. This is a great, well-stocked and managed fishery. My friend and I were a little early for the mayfly hatches but we did catch some quality fish. Wooly buggers and various nymphs kept our rods bent enough to call it a good trip.
On the surf front, starting mid to late May its gorilla bluefish time at the Smith’s Point Bridge. I fish strictly poppers here, and the explosive take is amazing. I’ve been finding the spring striper run in the surf a little weak in recent years so this top water bluefishing fills in nicely. Little Neck Super Strike poppers along with Cotton Cordell pencil poppers are my go-to plugs. Of course, tins, bucktails and swimming plugs will all work.
I also had a few decent outings at the Robert Moses Bridge on a friend’s boat. While clam bellies and chum are popular and effective, I prefer casting bucktails and Bass Assassins. This is great at night when the bridge lights are on and a shadow line is cast on the water. Cast up current and parallel to the bridge and work the shadows up to and between the pilings. I find stripers slamming artificials is just more exciting than the bait and wait game. I also surfcast the north side of the bridge as it’s an easy walk from the Captree Overlook parking lot.
I also had a blast fishing the Jamaica Bay kayak tournament. It was my first one and a great experience. The fishing was tough but my group pieced together plenty of blues, pre-season fluke (released) and some short bass. Captain Kayak (Jerry) has done a phenomenal job with this event for many years. However, he did mention that it was the last one he will run. The whole kayak fishing community thanks him and really hopes someone else takes over.
Moving to summer, it was fluke and largemouth bass time for me. My favorite summer flatty fishing I do is from my kayak in Shinnecock Bay. The vast shallow water flats and channel edges produce big and plentiful fluke. Bucktails and teasers are the tickets here. I like a 6- to 7-foot medium/heavy baitcasting or spinning outfit spooled with 20-pound braid. A long fluorocarbon leader is a must here as the flats are crystal clear. Using a white half-ounce bucktail and a green or chartreuse teaser about a foot north did the trick all summer. Tip the bucktail with a spearing/squid combo, Gulp! or a single spearing on its own. On the teaser, a small spearing is your best bet. Weighing down the teaser with heavy bait inhibits its action. Bounce your offering on the bottom with a sharp twitch as you drift. I launch my kayak on the bayside of Shinnecock East County Park or the north side of the Ponquogue Bridge. I have also launched here at first light and worked poppers for some nice stripers and blues.
To the west, there was a good run of nice size fluke on the backside of Robert Moses in August. I hopped on a friend’s boat and had a great day catching a nice 7-pounder along with a bunch of other keepers. All summer, fluking is best done on the last of the flood and start of the ebb. The cooler ocean water turns on the bite like a light switch.
Getting back to some summer sweetwater, I was catching some nice bucket mouths up top on frogs. I was getting a little tired of slowly fishing soft plastic baits. I launched my kayak on one of the Patchogue lakes and stuck with retrieving frogs across the weed beds. After the first explosive take on top, that’s all I fished the next three trips. I caught a couple of 3- to 4-pound fish each trip and had plenty more blow-ups. The Live Target frogs retrieved at a medium speed worked better for me than hopping or twitching them. Vary your cadence and action you give the frog and see what works. Long Island bass fishing is underrated, and it’s pretty safe to say that every lake and pond on the island holds some largemouth bass.
With the weather and water temperatures remaining summer-like late into the fall, things started extremely slowly. Then it seemed to be the tale of two cities, comparing surf to boat fishing. Invasion of the schoolies was the theme from the surf, while the boats getting just outside the inlets were pounding quality stripers diamond jigging. The Great South Bay had some nice striper action over on the north side from Bay Shore to Patchogue. This has been a great pattern a few years in a row now for a lot of schoolie to keeper-size fish. Live bait in the inlets such as spot, bunker and eels were putting fish in the box also. The blackfishing at the Moses Bridge was excellent this year too, adding yet another great inshore option.
I made the trek to Montauk for a weekend of surfcasting and caught the tail end of a very lack-luster striper run. However, putting in a few long days and evenings, I pieced together a couple of keepers and enough smaller fish to keep it interesting. Upon my return west, school bass had invaded the beaches in big numbers. I was catching at least a dozen 16- to 22-inch fish each outing down at Robert Moses. This was the case from the Hamptons to the Rockaways. To keep it challenging, I started scaling down my gear and using a 7-foot spinning outfit and my 9-weight fly rod. The fish were in tight, all within a 30-foot cast. Swimming plugs, bucktails and soft plastics all produced fish. I fished mainly dusk into the night and the small Yo-Zuri Mag Darter was clearly my most productive plug.
With the Captree party boats reporting one great day after another, I decided to hop on the Captree Pride. It was pretty much non-stop action all day. Easy boat limits were caught and a ton of smaller fish kept everyone happy. Many of the keepers were in the 25-pound class and the shorts ranged from 16 to 27 inches. After a great morning, my friend and I stayed aboard for a half price afternoon trip, which duplicated the AM trip. I also won the pool with a nice 27-pounder, really making it a banner day. This red-hot diamond jigging lasted until the striped bass season ended on December 15.
So with a little research and advice from any of our Island’s bait and tackle shops, why not get out of your comfort zone and break into another type of fishing? Or, how about changing where you usually fish? I keep a couple of rods and some gear in my Jeep ready to go. This way I can just stop and fish at a lake or make a quick run down to the beach. When you boil it down, fishing is fishing. Finding bait and structure, figuring out patterns and matching the hatch all come into play regardless of what you’re fishing for. Yes, getting out on the water fishing is always nice, but catching is whole lot better!