The Early Fall Blues

Bluefish get a bit of a bad rap
Luke Fichthorn landed and released this false albacore off Montauk Point. Capt. Paul Dixon

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. After a week of rain and wind, the sight of the sun was a welcome relief. It was a glorious morning to take in the chill of the early fall season and do a local fishing trip. 

It had been too long since I last dropped a line into the water to catch some dinner. In fact, it was mid-August when I went on an offshore trip for codfish. Many dinners were secured and since appreciated.

The six weeks since my last fishing exploits had flown by.  

On Saturday, it was time to untie the dock lines and head westward for a 20-minute cruise to Jessup’s Neck to sling a four-ounce diamond jig for some bluefish. 

Bluefish get a bit of a bad rap. I don’t get it. Small blues, when promptly bled and iced down, make excellent table fare. Oily fleshed, they are also particularly well suited for smoking. Even large-size blues are just fine when prepared this way. One of my fishing partners is an expert when it comes to this, and I’m more than happy to provide him with some fillets for his smoker, no matter the size.

That morning, the only thing noticeable on the flat, calm surface of the water were the wakes from the two South Ferry boats crossing in opposite directions between North Haven and Shelter Island. The murky, brown water of summer had been replaced by water that was now gin-clear in Shelter Island Sound. It was nice to see.

Nearing buoy 17, at the northern tip of Jessup’s, I noticed a rip line. But the tide was still ebbing strongly out of Little Peconic Bay and the blues, for whatever reason, have only fed on the incoming tide this season. My timing was poor.

A small center console boat was nearby on the drift, but was focused on porgies. The two anglers were doing well on the large, silver-sided fish. 

“Good fishing,” one of them shouted over to me,” as he reeled in another fish. “We only got here 30 minutes ago and we have picked up a dozen.” Alas, I neglected to take along any clams or squid, so porgies were off the menu. It was blues or bust.

Not surprisingly, the screen of my fish finder did not pick up any recordings of my intended prey. Not a good sign. And after two hours of repeated drifts, I had only picked up two sea robins and a snagged porgy. Not willing to wait for the turn of the tide, I decided to call it a day, as did the anglers on the center console, who had dinner in hand. Still, it was a special morning to be finally out on the water.

I will make another trip next week for some blues. But I will make certain to read my tide chart more carefully before heading out. And I’ll take some bait, too.

As far as other fish are concerned, “The false albacore are everywhere,” remarked Sebastian Gorgone of Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton. Gorgone said that the fast-swimming fish can be caught on flies or light tackle, with the ever-popular Deadly Dick tin being particularly successful.

“Snappers and porgies are also around,” he added. “And striped bass are being taken from the ocean beaches.”

Capt. Paul Dixon, a light-tackle guide of To the Point Charters, concurs with Gorgone on the excellent run of false albacore. “The albie action has been really good,” he said. However, the veteran captain warned that it’s best to fish during the weekdays to avoid the crowd of boats chasing the fish on Saturday and Sunday. 

Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett also noted the abundance of false albacore. “Gardiner’s Bay is full of them and there are plenty off of Montauk, too.” Bennett was also enthused by an uptick in the action for striped bass of late. “Bass were biting well a bit east of Gurney’s with a number of fish over 33 inches taken in recent days.” Bennett said the porgy fishing remains top-notch and that snappers remain in good supply at just about any dock or bulkhead.

In his continuing quest to secure new and used baseball equipment for underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic, Bennett has widened his search to include school and art supplies, as well as shoes and shirts. “There is truly a shortage of basic supplies down there,” he said. “The education system is not well funded and items that we take for granted here are desperately needed there.” Donations can be dropped off at his shop on Montauk Highway.

Out at Montauk, Paul Apostolides of Paulie’s Tackle Shop was also encouraged by the strong showing of false albacore. “The jetties at the entrance to Montauk Harbor has been a hot spot of late,” he said. As per striped bass, Apostolides said the action has been a bit picky, but he hopes for a strong fall run. “The waters are warm and there is plenty of bait around, so we shall see.” 

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Lise Bacon landed this 39-inch striped bass last week near Hither Hills in Montauk.