For some surefire action, try the Shelter Island bounties and the Peconic Bay hot spots!
It occurs each spring. The invasion of giant sea porgies and weakfish that head inside the Peconic Bay estuary from May through June. Both species enter the estuary with two missions in mind: to spawn and then chow down before heading back into the deep, cool waters of the ocean. Both Great and Little Peconic Bays are structure-rich bodies of water, making the ideal residence for various species each season. While there are fish throughout the bay, one stop over during and after a tiring spawn is the surroundings of Shelter Island, where a myriad of bait and shellfish are able to feed and satisfy a slew of species that spawn or visit these two great bodies of water that include weakfish, striped bass, fluke, porgies, jumbo sea bass, bluefish and of course let us not forget to mention the ever-present sea robin, which no longer can be ignored as they are eligible for the 2023 Dream Boat Challenge along with several other species listed.
Early & Late Arrivals
By mid-April/early May, big sea porgies and some weakfish set up their spawning nest in several spots surrounding Shelter Island. Although Shelter Island has become the main circuit of spawning for several species, spawning may not occur until the full moon of June, possibly as late as July. In late April and early May, weakfish travel through the Shinnecock Canal and congregate around areas such as Robins Island, Jessup Neck, and Noyack Bay in order to spawn off their eggs. In the meantime, large sea porgies look to bump heads with the sea trout situated along the same area to drop their eggs and feast out as well. Shallow water and the ideal habitat of the Peconic estuary are key factors as to why weakfish and porgies continue to return here year after year to lay their eggs.
Since water temperature and salinity control the survival and viability of the two species’ eggs, one can only estimate when the actual spawning will occur. Once the spawning cycle is complete (usually by the end of June), the majority of the large fish will vacate the area and head for the deeper cool waters of the Sound and ocean, where they will spend the summer and early fall season. Shortly after the departure of the spring run fish, the younger smaller siblings of the porgies and weakfish will fill the void and situate in similar habitats as their parents during the summer months.
Hotspots Of May
The past two seasons have seen Noyack Bay as one of the hottest weakfish spots, while Jessup Neck and southward of the western end of Shelter Island is where the jumbo scup reside. Last season saw incredible catches of weakfish from late May and ran into August. By the looks of things, this spring and summer should be a repeat of last season. Anglers have reported fish to 8 pounds and a catch of as many as 30 a person per tide. The area of the Green Lawns has been where the sea trout have settled.
Aside from weakfish, you have a bit of everything, with jumbo porgies chewing down squid and clam strips. Bluefish and even some big stripers are frequent visitors at the same time as the big scup. During the summer and into autumn, kingfish, blowfish, summer weakfish, snapper blues, bay porgies, and even some quality sea bass are all in the kettle for those anchoring and clam chumming anywhere along the drop-off along the Lawns. The current is moderate at peak speed, with 3-ounce sinkers and 1-ounce jigheads usually sufficing. If you find, for some reason, the Green Lawns area is not producing, wait until the current begins to ease and head over to buoy 17 by Jessup Neck and try fishing the 70-foot depths that are on both sides of the buoy. You’ll find more of the mixed bag here, where the current pushes much harder. Therefore, don’t waste your time until either tide’s last or first hour. Be advised that the sea robins can drive you nuts should you land on a nest of them by buoy 17. Then again, there is also some mighty big sea bass there as well.
More Silver & Gold
The waters off Nassau Point is an excellent area in May that often produces good size weakfish and jumbo scup. Depths fluctuate enormously off Nassau Point as the average water depth surrounding the point is between 25 and 35 feet. However, approximately three-quarters of a nautical mile east/northeast of red buoy 22 lies a deep pocket of water between 60 and 70 feet. Excellent weakfish action can be found here on any moving tide during the day. Generally, the start of the outgoing definitely has the edge. Just opposite Nassau Point, Rose Grove gives way to excellent scup and weakfish action that really lights up from May through September. Also, don’t ignore the southern tip of Robins Island (South Race) close to the bell buoy 25 and the nun buoy at 26, which are chock full of scup and spurts of weakfish. This area should be drifted coming on or off the drop-off south of the island, where it will drop or rise (depending on how you drift) from approximately 18 feet to 30 feet of water. The current can rip through here, so fish this area as the current eases, especially on a tide change.
Lastly, the area surrounds Roger’s Rock, which is chock-full of rocks and strewn bottom, which is tailor-made for scup. Since this is a relatively large area, you can run into a school of porgies at any given time. If you are looking for a starting point, try just east and north of the obstruction buoy or along the edges of where the rocks meet the sandy bottom in 20 to 25 feet of water along the north side of the rock. Anyone heading to Rogers Rock for porgies should anchor on the backside (east side) of the rock in the 10 to 15-foot depths and make sure to have a couple of chum pots filled with frozen blocks of clam chum in order to draw the scup to the boat for some fast-paced action. While clams and squid will often work just fine on the scup, having some sandworms on hand can be a day saver as porgies will rarely pass up the red meat, especially when the barometric pressure is high.
Light & Lively
On the tackle front, conventional or baitcaster outfits in the 15 to 20-pound class filled with a good quality braid or mono line will suffice. As for rigs, standard hi/lo and porgy rigs are properly suited for the Peconic pork chops. Clams, worms, and squid are the chef’s recommendation to fill a cooler with scup. If you are set on employing bait for the weakfish, pendent-shaped squid strips applied to a hi/lo rig will certainly catch the attention of the weakfish. Sinkers from 2 to 4 ounces will round out the terminal end.
On the flip side, Fin-S Fish, Bass Assassins, and Berkley Gulp fished on ½ to 2-ounce lead heads are just a few choices that will put a beating on the weakfish, and when the stripers are around, they’ll slam them as well. While the top choices are a few goodies, the Squid Tails by Spro stands above the rest as they produce phenomenal results. The Spro Squid Tail is designed to mimic squid. The lifelike action of the soft plastic squid tail really did the job on the weakfish jigged right along the bottom. Best of all, we fished them without any help of enticers on the hook. The Spro Squid Tails come in several different weights (1/2 to 3 ounces) and several colors. We found the 1/2 and 3/4-ounce white, glow, and pink equally effective. The Squid Tails also feature a custom-designed Gamakatsu 3x strong hook for sharpness, strength, and durability.
The Squid Tails’ unique shape of the head and placement of the eyelet make these center-balanced jigs unique in the way they bounce along the bottom. Add in the bulging eyes, holographic finish, and blazing colors, and you have the perfect elements to keep the rods bending with weakfish. These jigs don’t fall or hang straight down, as is the case with most jigs. Its gliding motion through the water acts as if it is swimming along. When jigged along the bottom, its body stays almost parallel, giving the jig a very natural appearance. While the Squid Tails may be perfectly suited for jigging weakfish, don’t be fooled, as they also do a superb job of duping fluke and sea bass as well.
So for some sure-fire action, why not try the Shelter Island bounties and the Peconic Bay hot spots? Please practice self-restraint and obey the law limiting the cooler to what you are going to use.