Bait, bait and more bait has been the theme of the year. We started with a crazy number of herring in May. The smaller squid in our waters then seemed to explode. We’ve had more mackerel than many remember and now it seems as if we can walk on Sand Lances. They are large and everywhere!
What does bait mean, bait means fish. You find bait, you find the fish. The easiest way to look for bait is to look for birds. Birds can see everything and love a good feast. The bigger the bait, the bigger the birds. When we had herring, we had big gulls and Gannets everywhere. As our bait has become smaller, we now have more terns and shearwaters in the mix.
So, why so much bait? The real answer is I don’t know, but we have a theory. Our regional waters have had almost two years of no pressure from the commercial fishery. Simply, there wasn’t a market in our Covid economy. Whenever you let a natural environment reset itself, its amazing what can happen! We’ve seen it with the resurgence of Striped Bass in the 1990’s, we’ve seen it with wolves in Yellowstone and its my opinion that we are seeing it first hand in our fishery now.
A lot of people have asked me about the boats you see off the south shore. These are all commercial boats targeting squid. They sit in federal waters, three miles off our coast and are towing nets for squid. There are between 30-40 boats down there and they have been there for close to a month. I’ll be curious of their catch rates; they should be very high! And what that means for the future of the bait. I’m writing this paragraph not from a position of opposition of commercial fishery generally, nor in opposition of that fishery specifically, but I sure hope we are managing an incredible resource responsibly. For several years there have been groups advocating to push the fleet further offshore, to allow more bait into our local waters. It has been shown that we are a prime reproductive habitat for squid. Let’s hope that the bait levels stay high in future years and we can all work together on fishing our local fishery.
So, more bait means more fish and fishing has been awesome. It’s highlighted by bluefish as it should be headed into the Fourth of July! We are seeing a lot of fish and some really big fish as well. These fish are super active on the surface and put on a show. The best part is that we are seeing bluefish and bass feed together in many locations and below there are even Black Sea Bass in the mix. If you see birds being active on the water, you are likely to find fish under it. Normally this time of year, we are seeing fish set up around structure, and they are, but we are seeing a lot of fish in open water.
The west end of the Island continues to hold bass in all the edges. We saw this continue through the season last year, so I see no reason why we won’t have this continue. There are a lot of bluefish mixed in as well, so you’ll see plenty of action. The rips at Old Man and Pochick are now almost exclusively holding bluefish, but they are huge. There are many in the 10 lb category! The South Shore has also filled in for the boaters and is loaded with bluefish on the surface.
The bigger bass have moved into the cooler waters out east and the those rips are very active. Also in those rips is incredible bottom fishing, so while we normally base our fishing experience on the tides, there is a good reason to stay out during the slack and fish the bottom. There are plenty of Fluke to keep you entertained.
From the beach, we saw our fifth year in a row with a Bonito being caught. Noah Karberg was fishing the beach at Coatue, when bam! A fast toothy critter knocked his plug. You never know what’s going to happen, so be prepared and Noah was!
The beach continues to fish well. We are not seeing many bass caught during the daylight hours, so if you are bass focused, you had better start fishing later or earlier in the day. The bass fishing is still extremely good at sunset and into the night, all the way to daybreak. This includes the harbor which has seen a lot of steady action! The south shore also has plenty of fish for the night owls. Those fish are generally more active with some surf and action.
Go enjoy this amazing and diverse fishery. Remember, find the bait and you’ll find the fish! Tight Lines.