Every spring brings new beginnings, and by late May into early June, massive schools of sand eels pave the shoals and shorelines along our North Fork beaches. Around the same time, countless schools of sea porgies join the sand lance, also seeking refuge in the rocky shallows to drop and fertilize their eggs. The grand fiesta draws in crowds of assorted size fluke and bluefish looking to cash in on all the easy pickings.
Fortunately for anglers who trailer their boats, the Department of Environmental Conservation has a well maintained State Ramp that is a hop, skip and a jump from Mattituck Inlet and only minutes to some first class fishing where not only is the area lightly fished, but the ramp is free of charge with plenty of free parking for all New York residents.
First off, a good eye and a good navigational chart bring opportunities to savvy anglers to spots that they can truly call their own. Call me old fashioned, but I still prefer to break out the paper charts to “read” the water. There’s a lot of ground out there and by examining a chart, you can have a detailed idea of the fishing grounds and pin point potential fishing spots. It is always beneficial to study a chart before heading out to an unfamiliar area. Look for deep-water drop-offs adjacent to shoals, as well as shallow edges and ridges that lead to or from a shoal. These make excellent locations for finding fluke.
Slippery When Wet
Although Long Island Sound can be as flat as a lake, it can also become quite lumpy. A tight chop can make for a wet and bumpy ride or uncomfortable drifting conditions. Since some of the hotspots are a 6- or 7-mile hike from Mattituck Inlet, getting to and from the inlet can become quite a challenge. Therefore be sure to check out NOAA weather reports for sea conditions and wind velocity. Keep in mind that winds from both the north and east produce tight chops against hard moving currents, whereas a southwest breeze makes for calmer seas.
Mattituck Inlet and its surrounding waters boast a long reputation for producing quality fish and fishing, especially when it comes to jumbo fluke, big scup and quality striped bass. You can also toss bluefish and a few weakfish in the barrel, but the shocker and the species that deserves a roll out of the Red Carpet are black sea bass. Not only have the indigo beauties returned to the area in recent years, but they have done so in numbers and sizes that have never been seen in the Sound. To limit out on a catch of 3- to 5-pounders hardly raises an eyebrow these days. Early in the spring when sea bass must be released, the 30- to 40-foot depths off the Shooting Range, which is a couple of miles west of the inlet, and the Motels, which is approximately 3 miles west of the inlet offers exceptional action. The biscuits are just an unintentional by-catch while pursuing fluke, which also ply the same grounds. Later, as spring rolls into summer, the sea bass move off into the deeper water and a bit more east, with the 60- to 80-foot depths offering the best fishing off Horton’s Point, which is a 6-mile hike east of Mattituck Inlet. Those jumbo biscuits hold the fort off Horton’s until the blackfish take over in the fall. You can also count on plenty of big scup keeping those rods bent, if you happen to have some chum and clam bait.
Although the quality of the sea bass action is enough to draw anglers to these grounds, the big sell continues to be the quality and quantity of fluke. At times the fluke may be just outside Mattituck Inlet, but if you desire lots of action and are not overly concerned about size, a 6-mile steam west to Roanoke Shoal (buoy 5) will find flatfish paradise during June. Roanoke Shoals provides habitat for a variety of species, including blackfish, striped bass, fluke, bluefish, scup and black sea bass. The area hosts a diversity of shellfish, including rock crab, calico crab and hard clam. Drifting along the shoal in 20 to 25 feet of water produces well at peak tide, however as the current slackens, focus your efforts on the edges of the shoal since many of the bigger fluke will be waiting for your offering as you slide off the shoal and into the 45-foot depths. On peak tide, the bite can be fast and furious. Much of the fluke here will range from shorts to 5 pounds, and there are always a few that stretch out to 10 pounds over the course of the season. While both tides produce here as long as there is a steady drift, the outgoing tide may keep everyone a bit busier. Winds from the west and an ebb tide make for ideal conditions as long as the wind is under 15 knots. Winds from the east with an incoming tide also produce good drifting conditions, but watch the weather closely as winds from the north and east can roughen up this part of the Sound rather quickly.
As for tackle in this area, light spinning combos delivering Spro bucktails from 3/8 to 1 ounce, along with Tommy Teasers, see a lot of play in this area. Tommy’s Teasers are outright fluke killers throughout Long Island waters. Captain John Capuano and Captain Deena Lippman of the Shinnecock based open boat Shinnecock Star witness on a daily basis how well these teasers work their magic as the day’s pool fish is often decided by fish caught on a Tommy Teaser. Tom’s custom teasers are handmade and can only be purchased from Captain Deena or John aboard the Star. If you are interested in putting a few of these beauties in your bag, give Captain John a call at 631-728-4563 or see Deena at the boat.
If you prefer your fluke on the larger side and would like to add some humpback sea bass and jumbo scup to the box, then steam 6 miles east to 41.05.100/ 72.26.700 where you will arrive at Horton’s Point. There the bottom consists of plenty of rocks, mussel beds, and some big boulders. The action here is not nearly as fast paced as Buoy 5; however double digit fluke are not uncommon here. The 40-foot depths produce many quality fluke each season, as well as many big sea bass and scup. For fluke, Spro Prime bucktails between 2 and 5 ounces remain a top choice. Since the current pushes harder, and the water is deeper off Horton’s, you’ll need the heavier jigs in order to bounce the jig properly along the bottom. Berkley Gulp! 4- or 5-inch Swimming Mullets threaded onto the bucktail jig produce just as well if not better than natural baits. As for tackle, you’ll need to beef up the rod a bit to handle the heavier payloads. While the bucktail and Gulp! work remarkably well for sea bass, clam, squid strips or sandworms on a basic porgy/sea bass rigs should fill out the cooler with scup if you desire.
In recent years, Horton’s has been quite productive for striped bass to 30 pounds for those drifting eels in the rips on ebbing night tides. Later, in the fall, plenty of top water action commands the daylight as the fish migrate, providing exciting light-tackle and fly-fishing opportunities. False albacore also show in the rips here during September and October, responding enthusiastically to epoxy flies or thin-profile tins. Bluefish are also present during the daylight hours, and you are just about guaranteed an encounter with the yellow eyed choppers from late spring through the fall.
The DEC state ramp site is just minutes away from Mattituck Inlet. The Mattituck Creek Waterway Access Site is the third and largest boat launch site operated by DEC to provide public access to the waters of Long Island Sound. The facility features a two lane ramp where two boats can be launched/retrieved at the same time. Parking is available for up to 60 cars and trailers. There is a fishing pier and a separate dock designated for kayaks and canoes. The facility also features picnic tables, rest rooms, interpretive materials, wildlife viewing and loading docks. All features are accessible to people with disabilities. The entrance to the facility and main gate is open to the public 24/7.
Let me give you a heads up. Make sure your inspection and registration stickers on both your vehicles and boat trailers are updated. The Southold Police Department performs frequent checks throughout the day and issues summons for violations. Make sure you are up-to-date on all of your registrations and inspection, and you will have no problems.
To get to this site, take Sound Avenue east through the Town of Riverhead. At the first traffic light in Mattituck, turn left onto Cox Neck Lane. Stay on Cox Neck Lane to Breakwater Road, turn left, follow to Naugles Road and turn right, entrance is one-quarter mile down on left side. If you use the ramp, you will pass Mattituck Fishing Station on your way to the inlet, and they can take care of your bait and tackle needs. You can reach them at 631-298-8399.
This fishing season along the Mattituck shoreline promises to be a good one. With a bit of knowledge of the area, putting some quality fluke, porgies and sea bass in the cooler should not be difficult. As always, please practice self-restraint, or at the very least stay within the confines of state regulations, so that our kids and grandkids will get to experience this great sport for years to come.