In Friday’s Newsday column I touched on summer weakfishing. The action this year has been pretty good, as noted, but the pattern is different than in years past. Sure, there are a decent number of weakfish in the usual haunts and deep holes inside the bays and harobrs, but there also seem to be a fair number of fish on the flats and out in open water – and quite a few are being caught at mid-depths rather than close to the bottom.
Indeed, on my Peconic Bay weakfish trip last week with Capt. Tom Federico of Surfmaster Charters (631-377-6619), accompanied by my son, Ryan, and Tom’s daughter, Natalie, two of the four weaks I hooked were at roughly the 15-foot mark in 30 feet of water. One struck as I was reeling up to check my bait.Another difference between this year’s weakfish and the usual summer run is size. Summer schoolies usually run two to three pounds with a four-pounder being noteworthy. Most of the weaks being reported so far this year have fallen in the 20- to 26-inch class with a surprising number in the five- to six-pound range.
“I’ve had a few weakfish recently in Jamaica Bay around the Marine Parkway Bridge,” said Elias Vaisberg of Brooklyn, who is fast earning a reputation as one of Long Island’s premier kayak fisherman. “Thing is,” he continued, “there has been no rhyme or reason to the encounters, no real pattern to count on. The weaks have simply mixed in with the fluke. Most of the weaks have measured 24- to 26 inches.”
If you haven’t been weakfishing in a few years, there are a couple of thoughts you might want to keep in mind when heading out. First, be aware that the minimum size limit is 16 inches and the creel limit is only one fish per angler each day. That means you’ll need to get most of your catch off the hook and back in the water quickly. Use a pair of pliers to remove hooks more expediently – and save the photo opportunities for fish you plan to keep. Weakfish are somewhat fragile so a little extra care is required when letting them go. Be sure each fish is fully revived before releasing your grip.
Setting the hook is one point where anglers often need a little coaching. It’s important to let these fish chew a little bit before setting the hook when using squid or fish strips for bait. When you feel a bite, lower your rod tip, crank up any slack, then lift until you feel weight before setting the hook firmly but not too hard. Set the hook more like you would for fluke than for stripers or blues.
While tides play an important role when it comes to targeting big spring weaks, the summer residents will bite all day long, especially under cloudy skies. The best action, however, usually takes place in the first or last two hours of moving water. Give the edge to incoming, but outgoing is okay if that is the only time you have to fish.
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Those fluke Vaisberg has been catching continue to check in on the big side, with most of his trips seeing at least one fish in the 24- to 26-inch range. Berkley Gulp! swimming mullets impaled on a bucktail have been his weapon of choice.
If fluke are your passion, right now would be a good time to get on them in either Moriches Bay or out at Montauk. In Moriches, the bite on the flats has been quite good for those using bucktails in Harts Cove, the East Cut, and along the channel edge leading into Seatuck Cove. There has also been some good bucktail action on the Shinnecock flats west of Ponquogue Bridge. Work the edge of the channel on the north side for keepers. Hot pink teasers and bucktails seem to have an edge right now over chartreuse or white but that can change on any tide.
Out at Montauk, the fluke action is spread through the North Rips and down along the South Side. There are plenty of fish at the tail end of most rips but the doormats seem to be holding just ahead of turbulent water. Get well ahead of your target area, drop long strip baits down to the bottom, and be ready before your line enters the primary strike zone.
The other big news at Montauk is that stripers continue to strike with abandon. Anglers drifting live eels are scoring both day and night with fish in the 30-pound class not unusual and quite a few pushing the 40-pound mark. Coming off the full moon this week the action should remain solid as long as the weather continues to hold in the current pattern.
Over on the North Shore, there have been a smattering of weakfish reports from Northport Bay, Centerport Harbor and from 20-foot depths right in front of Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. Rather than drift here with Gulp! you might try a high-low rig baited with squid to increase your chances of catching the weaks, locating porgy schools and adding some tasty sea bass to your cooler (sea bass season opens on Tuesday.) The squid strips will also cut down on the number of strikes from school blues. If you remember where you caught weakfish off Asharoken Beach in decades past, now might be a good time to try a few drifts there in the early morning, late evening or even after dark – you never know…
One spot that has come alive of late with action on stripers, porgies, sea bass and fluke is Orient Point. Captain Mike Boccio on the Prime Time 3 reported that his fares have been seeing a good shot of stripers in the day, along with a mix of fluke, porgies and blues. At night, the boat has seen limit catches of late with the action on bucktails. Captain Richie Jensen of the Orient Point charter vessel Nancy Ann IV also noted a big improvement in bass fishing of late so now would be a good time to look into making a summer trip to stock up on linesiders fillets.
As for porgies, Capt. Dave Brennan’s Peconic Star Fleet in Greenport continues to see solid action. “It’s been very, very good of late. We’re catching a lot of big scup with plenty of two-pounders just an hour or so from the dock,” he said. “We’ve also been throwing back some four- and five-pound sea bass. Those fish will be legal starting Tuesday and we’ll start hitting some locations where they mix in readily with the porgies. It should be a lot of fun later this week.”By Tom Schlichter
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