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Fishing

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin speaks up on behalf of local anglers at Mascot Dock in Patchogue April 8 to refuse the Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission’s decision to cut the state’s sea bass allocation. Photo from Lee Zeldin’s office

Local anglers aren’t taking the marine fisheries commission’s bait.

After learning the Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission decided it would cut New York’s sea bass allocation quota by 12 percent while increasing that of neighboring states, small business owners and local fisherman joined forces with politicians to make a plea in Patchogue.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) was with state Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) April 9 at Mascot Dock to take what they called an aggressive stand against an unfair decision, saying the cut is coming even though black sea bass stock has rebounded — currently 240 percent greater than target biomass, or the volume of organisms in a given area. By issuing its own set of regulations for black sea bass fishing this season and entering into non-compliance, the state can take a stand against what many are saying is an inequitable decision that could further harm New York’s already struggling anglers.

“Going into non-compliance is never the first option, but it may be the only one in taking a stand for New York anglers who year after year continue to get screwed,” Zeldin said. “With the vast majority of Long Island fishing taking place in waters shared with New Jersey and Connecticut — such as the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound — it is unfair that New York anglers are, once again, being penalized with smaller fishing quotas than neighboring states.”

He pointed to the fact that two boats fishing could be sitting next to each other with one allowed to catch up to double the amount of the others.

“The hard working recreational fishing community is rallied together in an attempt to keep New York anglers on par with its neighboring states,” said Huntington captain James Schneider. “The Sea Bass stocks are extremely healthy. This is a valuable resource for all the citizens to utilize, just like the corn in Iowa and oil in Alaska.”

Long Island’s largest one-day fishing event also took place at St. Joseph’s College the same day in Patchogue, bringing together fishermen and stakeholders of Long Island’s maritime economy from across the Island.

New York State plans to sue the federal government if it loses an appeal against the restrictions on the recreational fishery for black sea bass, state officials have said. Last year, the state of New Jersey successfully fought quota restrictions on fluke and won once going before the U.S. secretary of commerce.

“The people of the marine district of New York will not accept or endorse any options with a cut to our sea bass regulations in 2018,” Center Moriches captain Joe Tangel said. “The time is now for the state, it’s stakeholders, and our representatives to take a stand.”

DEC marine resources chief Jim Gilmore warned that noncompliance, if rejected by federal regulators, could lead to a shortened or eliminated season for 2019 if there is overfishing this year.

For those less fortunate who require meals provided by a Port Jefferson based soup kitchen, fresh-caught fish is a luxury. But thanks to the generosity and hard work of the crew of a charter fishing boat from Port Jeff and Welcome Friends, a soup kitchen that feeds as many as 75 people daily five times per week at local churches, that luxury became a reality.

The plan started with a phone call from Amanda Peterson, third-generation owner and captain of the Osprey Fishing Fleet. She reached out to Margaret Tumilowicz, president of Welcome Friends, and asked if her guests would enjoy fresh fish to be caught and donated by her customers on a June 12 fishing trip. The company offers seats on one of their two charter ships — the Osprey and Osprey V — for day trips into the Long Island Sound to catch fluke, porgies, bluefish, striped bass, sea bass and blackfish, depending on what’s currently in season. Typically a few dozen people are on board for a given trip, and they’re allowed to take home up to 30 fish each. This time, everyone on board was there to catch fish for people in need.

Peterson said in a phone interview she got inspiration from a trip she had taken with the Lady Reelers fishing club, a local group that at least once a year donates all of their catch from an outing to the food bank Long Island Cares. This was the second attempt at a massive catch-and-donate plan, after the first in the fall fell through due to bad weather. Peterson explained why she decided she wanted to hold a similar event to the Lady Reelers’ with her business.

“It’s such a great way to give back to the community,” Peterson said. “We’re a business that’s solely supported by the community. We want to find different ways to say thank you for keeping us in business.”

On June 12, about 35 fishermen and women lined up on the dock at the Port Jefferson Marina to help the worthy cause. Visitors of Welcome Friends weren’t alone in receiving a special meal though, as the participants of the trip were also instructed to bring $25 worth of nonperishable food items to be donated to Maryhaven Center of Hope Catholic Health Services or $25 worth of dog food for the Brookhaven Town Animal Shelter. The only other fee for prospective fish catchers was $10 to offset the costs of bait and fuel for the charter.

Members of Peterson’s crew were on board to donate their time to help catch the fish, as well as filet and debone them. The trip yielded more than 1,000 porgies in about an hour and a half. The arduous task of prepping the fish for cooking took the crew of the Osprey about five hours.

“I understand going without, so it’s good to take that feeling away for somebody,” deckhand for the Osprey Fleet Travis McRae said in an interview. He joked it was easy to convince people to attend the event because everyone likes fishing.

Tumilowicz reiterated it’s a rarity for guests to have the opportunity to enjoy a dinner of fresh-caught fish.

“It makes me feel really good,” Peterson said when she heard Tumilowicz had said that.

The soup kitchen president tried to put into words what the generous gesture meant to her.

“Can you imagine — god bless them,” she said. “We cannot say enough to describe the incredible generosity of Captain Amanda and her outstanding crew as well as their customers. Because the Greater Port Jefferson community supports our soup kitchen and other like-minded local organizations, we are able to provide for our neighbors in need.”

Tumilowicz said the bounty would provide about 500 meals for needy members of the community. Once the fish were caught and fileted, Welcome Friends’ team of volunteers, including cook Arty Shertzer, Mickey Cantwell and Tumilowicz’s husband Bob prepared the meals and bagged and froze fish for future meals.

One more positive outcome came from the June 12 outing. A three-year-old pit bull named Bella who was in need of a home at the Brookhaven Animal Shelter was brought aboard for the trip and was since adopted by Eddie McRae, who was on the charter that night. Peterson said about 1,000 pounds of dog food and 500 pounds of canned goods were also part of the yield.

Photo by Charles Shemet

Photo by Charles Shemet

Catch of the Day!

Eric Huner of East Setauket and owner/operator of Captain Fish Port Jefferson, a fishing charter that runs out of Port Jefferson, caught this 35-lb striped bass Aug. 13. Using live bunker, Huner reeled in the striper at Stratford Shoals by the lighthouse in the middle of the Long Island Sound at sunrise.

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com.

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Garret Warren, left, celebrates the largest fish ever captured at the tournament. Photo from Carole Paquette

By Joseph Wolkin

The bait came out and so did smiles across the faces of 43 children on Saturday, June 11.

The 14th annual Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve’s Junior Angler Fishing Tournament was a big catch for Smithtown’s youth. As the bait flew into the water, the kids battled one another to see who would catch the most fish, the largest pan one, along with the biggest “other” fish.

One of two natural preserves on Long Island, Caleb Smith State Park Preserve sits amidst 543 acres in Smithtown. Named after Caleb Smith, who was a judge for the Court of Common Pleas of Suffolk County, along with being a member of the state assembly in the 18th century, the property was dedicated in his name when it was acquired by the state in 1963.

At the end of the tournament, Garrett Warren, 11, came home with the largest fish of the day. Warren set a record for the largest fish caught in the tournament’s 14-year history, catching a 19.5-inch bass and shattering the previous record of approximately 15 inches.

“The fish cooperated and nearly every child caught a fish,” Tom Tokosh, president of the tournament, said. “Last year, we were in the neighborhood of maybe 32 [kids]. It goes year-to-year. I think we did better with marketing this year. I went to some trade shows and put flyers out and stuff.

“We also had a high participation rate. Last year, we had 25 people sign up for the afternoon session, but only 18 showed up. It depends on the weekend I think.”

10-year-old Erik Trovitch ended the day with the most fish caught, reeling in 17 creatures during the afternoon session for kids 9 to 12.

Parents were not allowed to help their children during the afternoon session. However, during the morning round, parents could cast the line, but the children needed to reel the fish in and bring them to shore.

During the morning session, which featured children from ages 5 to 8, 6-year-old Anderson Martinez won first prize for catching a morning-high 12 fish. Additionally, Veronica Leitner, 5, caught the largest “other” fish, bringing home a 14-inch bass.

“All of the fish were released,” Tokosh explained. “We might have hurt a few getting the hooks out, but basically, all of the fish were released. The kids had a great time, and it’s a good experience for them with their parents to bond and do stuff together.”

At the completion of the tournament, 204 fish were caught, measured and released, breaking the previous record of just under 200 fish caught during the tournament, according to Tokosh.

Among those also winning trophies were 9-year-old Gianna Valenti in the largest pan fish category and Brendan Lee-McGraw, 6, in the same section but during the morning round.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to fishermen in Northport. Photo from Marisa Kaufman

Black sea bass is back on the table, as of June 27.

After public outcry for an earlier start to summer sea bass fishing, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced this week the season will start 19 days earlier than the previous July start date.

The DEC has blamed federal regulations and management for the reasons behind originally closing the fishing season during June, despite plentiful numbers of bass.

“In spite of abundant populations, DEC is being forced to alter the commercial and recreational fishing seasons in order to meet federal quotas,” Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement. “By allowing for an earlier June opening, we’re trying to strike the best possible arrangement for the recreational fishing community.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for modifications to the summer fishing period last week at an event on the North Shore, speaking against what he called “inflexible” and “outdated” federal regulations for black sea bass fishing.

Fishing in Port Jefferson/photo by Elana Glowatz
Fishing in Port Jefferson/photo by Elana Glowatz

“After a slow start to the black sea bass season, mostly due to weather, our Long Island commercial fishers are ready to bounce back and access the plentiful supply of sea bass,” Schumer said at the event. “But instead they might fall flat if the feds and the state don’t throw them a line and let them do what they do best — fish.”

And Long Island fishermen said the July start date was hurting their livelihood.

“It’s a disaster for conservation and the economy,” said James Schneider, a boat captain in Huntington. “It’s crushed us.”

Schneider is catching other fish since the last black sea bass season ended on May 31, and said he has been forced to throw back the bass he inadvertently catches. Those die shortly after, he said, further contributing to a loss in potential profits.

Some fishers were also upset that Connecticut’s black sea bass season, which opened on May 1 and runs through Dec. 31, allowed fishermen to start earlier than in New York, as they share a body of water in the Long Island Sound.

Sean Mahar, the DEC director of communications, last week acknowledged fishing got off to a slow start in New York. Through May 21, only one-third of the May quota had been harvested, “with approximately 42,000 pounds [still] available on May 21,” Mahar said in an email. “However, the harvest rate increased dramatically the last week in May,” and the DEC had to receive more population data before deciding to open the summer fishing season earlier than July.

Although fishermen like Schneider can now get back to bass fishing earlier, the DEC has also increased the minimum size of the bottom feeders caught by 1 inch — making the new minimum length 15 inches — and reduced the daily possession limit from eight fish to three. However, that latter change will only affect the fishing season through August, so fishermen can have up to eight in September and October, and 10 in November and December.

According to the DEC, it also considered a July 8 opening with a five-fish limit, but anglers opted for the earlier start with a three-fish limit for a longer season.

Fishers can now catch black sea bass earlier this summer, but the minimum fish length has increased an inch and the number they can catch is limited for the first month.

The DEC also said the federal government’s population assessment of sea bass has caused scientists to “exercise extreme caution when determining harvest limits,” which has forced New York to reduce sea bass harvest despite an “abundance of fish.”

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is one of three organizations that jointly manage black sea bass fishing, by determining the quota for sea bass each year. The quota this year was set at about 189,000 pounds.

Kirby Rootes-Murdy, that commission’s senior fishery management plan coordinator, said obtaining accurate population data on black sea bass poses a challenge because black sea bass are a hermaphroditic species, meaning they change sex from male to female.

“The reproductive life history characteristics … of black sea bass make it difficult to develop an accurate abundance estimate, ultimately limiting the ability to develop reliable catch limits,” he said in an email. “Assessment scientists are working hard to develop models to address these issues facing black sea bass management.”

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Event organizers and participants come together for one big group photo during the event. Soldiers on the Sound has been an annual celebration of thanking American heroes. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

On Saturday, the St. James community continued to show their appreciation toward active members of the military as the eighth annual Soldiers on the Sound Fluke Fishing Tournament hit the waters of Smithtown Bay.

Since 2009, the tireless efforts of the event’s organizers – all volunteers – make for a day of gratitude for those in uniform, camaraderie and smiles, and, of course, friendly competition out on the fishing boats. With each passing year, the event gets bigger and better, drawing in more boats, contributors and donations, to help give back to those service men and women who sacrifice their lives everyday. This year’s tournament was its biggest yet, drawing 61 boats, all donated and hosted by local captains and mates, and 150 registered soldiers, representing the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard based in Westhampton.

After fishing, all soldiers returned to the Smithtown Bay Yacht Club, where they were treated to a large barbecue, a hot food buffet and a slew of raffle prizes generously paid for by companies and individual donors. The prizes included gift cards, coolers, speakers, 40” flat screen TV’s, Billy Joel tickets and a weekend vacation at the Hawks Cay resort in the Florida Keys, to name a few.

According to the event’s president and founder, Mark Garry, the only thing asked of the soldiers is that they have a good time.

“That’s what it’s all about – everybody hugging and high fiving, and thanking us sincerely,” he said. “They’re gonna go and eat like rockstars. We buy 800 cigars to give them. They have food, sodas, beers. It’s good, it’s very simple and rewarding.”

Photo by Kevin Redding
Photo by Kevin Redding

The conception of the event hit Garry when he was watching war coverage on the yacht club TV and saw soldiers reduced to lying in the sand, resting their heads on their helmets. He immediately went to work, focused on honoring those currently serving our country and giving them something relaxing to come home to. It didn’t take long for he and his “army” of volunteers to get the event underway, calling on everyone from military liaisons to boat captains to fundraisers.

“I’m retired Air Force and I knew the unit out in Westhampton,” said Skip Heine, the only founding member with a military background. “Mark called on me and we invited them the first time and they’ve been involved since. It’s great because back in the Vietnam days, you were not revered at all by the public, so it’s nice to see the people that protect get the recognition.”

Even though he didn’t have the best of luck catching fluke, active Marine Felix Torres was grateful for the event.

“To me personally, I feel like this is a great thing,” he said. “To have whole bunch of soldiers and Marines and Navy guys all go out together and fish, have a good time…it just shows how together we all are.”

The winning fluke of 6.4 pounds was caught by Captain Andy Smith and his boat crew, which included Air Force Mjr. Jesse Fritz and Tech Sgt. Nathan Dean.

“We’re very fortunate to have a community-based program like this,” Fritz said. “Being a military member out here on Long Island, there is not support like this everywhere so it’s amazing to be part of something like this, to be part of the community and see the support. Yes, it’s a fishing tournament and it’s fun but it means so much to see the support and how it all ties into the community. We’re very grateful.”

Fishers across the North Shore are angry with limits to black sea bass fishing. File photo

Something seems fishy this black sea bass fishing season.

Local legislators, fishers and state organizations alike agree that there are issues with how black sea bass fishing is being regulated.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for modifications to what he said are “inflexible” and “outdated” federal regulations for black sea bass fishing, which some North Shore fisherman said are hurting their wallets because they have to wait to fish during this crucial fishing period.

Schumer said at an event in Northport last Wednesday that the bottom feeders are not being fairly managed, and the next permitted fishing period should be allowed to start in June instead of July to put people to work at harvesting the plentiful populations.

“After a slow start to the black sea bass season, mostly due to weather, our Long Island commercial fishers are ready to bounce back and access the plentiful supply of sea bass,” Schumer said at the event. “But instead they might fall flat if the feds and the state don’t throw them a line and let them do what they do best — fish.”

“They might fall flat if the feds and the state don’t throw them a line.” —Chuck Schumer

Three organizations — the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Mid-Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission — jointly manage black sea bass fishing, by determining the quota for sea bass each year. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation then determines the quota distribution through the state and periods throughout the year when fishermen can fish for black sea bass.

The quota this year was set at about 189,000 pounds and the most recent period for sea bass fishing ended on May 31, with the next slated to begin on July 1.

According to the Atlantic States group, “The objectives of [management] are to reduce fishing mortality to assure overfishing does not occur, … promote compatible regulations among states and between federal and state jurisdictions…and to minimize regulations necessary to achieve the stated objectives.”

Kirby Rootes-Murdy, that commission’s senior fishery management plan coordinator, said it works to ensure that the black sea bass population stays at a safe level.

But Schumer said the break in June is only hurting fishermen.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to fishermen in Northport last week. Photo from Marisa Kaufman
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to fishermen in Northport last week. Photo from Marisa Kaufman

“Below-average black sea bass catch rates … have made it so the total catch at this point of the season is well below the allowable quota limits,” Schumer said, “which is why it is critical to allow these struggling fishermen to continue catching black sea bass this month.”

Sean Mahar, the DEC director of communications, acknowledged fishing got off to a slow start, and said the DEC is committed to re-opening the season before the July 1 date, as long as it’s accurate that anglers are below quota — the agency is still investigating that.

Through May 21, only one-third of the May quota had been harvested, “with approximately 42,000 pounds [still] available on May 21,” Mahar said in an email.

“However, the harvest rate increased dramatically the last week in May, and the state is still awaiting data from the commercial fishermen and dealers that are required to submit landings and sales reports to DEC to determine the how much of the quota was actually harvested. If there is quota leftover, we will open the season again sooner than July 1.”

Mahar also said the DEC has pressed federal regulators, including the Atlantic States commission, to implement changes to improve fishery in New York, including the system for tabulating bass populations.

“The increasingly restrictive measures demanded of Northeastern states are inequitable and cause great socioeconomic harm to our anglers and related businesses,” DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement. Regulatory agencies “must revise their management strategy and not keep New York … at a competitive disadvantage while the black sea bass population continues to grow.”

“It’s a disaster for conservation and the economy.”
—James Schneider

Rootes-Murdy said these decisions on quotas are based on population projections for the species but black sea bass pose a challenge for accurate projections, as they are a hermaphroditic species, meaning they change sex from male to female.

“That aspect makes it difficult to develop a population model around,” Rootes-Murdy said.

North Shore fishermen said the break in the season is hurting their livelihood.

“It’s a disaster for conservation and the economy,” said James Schneider, a boat captain in Huntington. “It’s crushed us.”

Schneider is catching other fish in the meantime and said he has been forced to throw back black sea bass he inadvertently catches. Those die shortly after, he said, further contributing to a loss in potential profits.

Northport fishing captain Stu Paterson said he agreed that he has had to throw back many sea bass during the off-season, as they “are all over the Sound right now.”

He also questioned why Connecticut’s black sea bass season, which opened on May 1 and runs through Dec. 31, allows fishermen to start earlier than in New York, as they share a body of water.

Sofia Pace of Smithtown shows off her catch of the day — an 18 inch largemouth bass caught at Willow Pond last summer. Photo from Paul Pace

By Rita J. Egan

Once the warm weather arrives, it can be a challenge when it comes to keeping children busy. Teaching them how to fish is a fun way to get them outside and have them connect with nature. Fortunately, for Long Islanders, in addition to water surrounding the region, the area is home to the Nissequogue River as well as other fish-filled waterways.

During fishing season, budding anglers can bring their poles and barbless hooks to the north side of Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown and fish in the park’s Willow Pond, which empties into the Nissequogue.

The preserve’s environmental educator, Linda Kasten, said the park has offered children’s fishing since it opened in 1974, and little anglers can take home a fish depending on its size. A sign by Willow Pond lists the requirements that fish must be nine inches or larger, except in the case of a trout or largemouth bass, which must be more than 12 inches. Anglers who catch smaller fish are required to release them back into the river. 

Kasten said families who come to the preserve for a day of fishing are asked to sign in at the Caleb Smith House on the property and then return at the end of the session to let the staff know what fish they caught and how big.

From left, Sofia and Angelina Pace of Smithtown with a bluegill they caught last summer at Willow Pond. Photo from Paul Pace
From left, Sofia and Angelina Pace of Smithtown with a bluegill they caught last summer at Willow Pond. Photo from Paul Pace

When a child catches a fish, the educator said, “They think it’s the coolest thing.”

The park employee said she has seen children catch pumpkinseed fish, bluegills, largemouth bass and occasionally rainbow trout. Most of the fish that the junior anglers catch at the park are the panfish variety, which are small enough to cook in a pan yet still large enough to meet the requirements of fishers not having to release them back in the water.

Depending on the age of the child, fishing could keep them busy for a couple of hours or more, according to Kasten. “When they come with friends, they’ll sit out there for hours,” she said.

Last year the educator said there was a group of five young teenagers who would come to the park practically every weekend, and they always caught fish. “They were so excited just to be with each other, let alone fishing and catching stuff,” Kasten said.

Smithtown resident Paul Pace has been bringing his two daughters, Sofia (7) and Angelina (3), to fish at the park for the last two years. It was during a visit to the preserve, which features walking trails and a nature museum in the Caleb Smith House, that the father, a fisherman himself, saw the sign and thought it would be a great idea to teach his girls the sport.

Pace said his daughters will spend a good two hours fishing. He said he loves that, “it gets them away from computer-driven things. It’s real life. They breathe in the fresh air, see some animals, plants, birds, and do some exploring.”

However, he said they don’t find a lot of time to explore the preserve because they are very lucky fishing there. “We catch a lot of fish so there’s always some action,” the father said.

Pace said one day last year, his oldest caught an 18-inch bass, and they were able to keep it and cook it. He said his daughters are developing a love for the sport and can’t wait until they are older and can fish from a boat. “They get really super excited. They love it; they’re reeling them in. Especially that big one — they both freaked out!” he said.

Besides fishing being a fun family activity, Pace also believes that it can teach children some important life lessons. “To cast the line takes a lot of practice and patience and determination. Sofia, she was casting last year … really good. There’s always something to accomplish,” Pace said. 

’[Fishing] gets [kids] away from computer-driven things. They breathe in the fresh air, see some animals, plants, birds and do some exploring.’
—Paul Pace

Each year before the season begins, the preserve offers fishing clinics so young anglers can learn some useful tips. The Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve also hosts an annual Junior Angler Catch and Release Tournament at the park. For $15 per participant, children 12 years and under can compete for prizes for the most fish caught and largest fish reeled in. This year the event takes place this Saturday, June 11, when children  ages 5 to 8 will compete in the morning and kids ages 9 to 12 will cast their poles in the afternoon.

Fishing season at Caleb Smith State Preserve Park, 581 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown, runs from April 1 to Oct. 31. There is no charge for fishing; however, a parking fee of $8 is in effect, except for Empire Passport holders. Children do not need a fishing license but are required to bring their own equipment. Fishing at Willow Pond is for anglers 15 years and younger, and children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. For more information about fishing at the preserve or the Junior Angler Catch and Release Tournament, call 631-265-1054 or visit www.nysparks.com/parks/124/.com.

Crab Meadow Beach in Northport. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Three boys got more than they bargained for on Monday when they paddled their canoe toward the Long Island Sound with the hopes of fishing and met powerful winds that blew them 1.5 miles offshore.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the Huntington Station kids — brothers Davin Miles, 12, and Kenyon Miles, 10, and their friend, 12-year-old Chris Gurr — launched the canoe from Northport’s Crab Meadow Beach early in the evening but as the paddled away from the shoreline, the wind picked up and they were blown out 1.5 miles.

Marine Bureau officers Michael O’Leary and Charles Marchiselli, on SCPD patrol vessel Marine Bravo, were on routine patrol on the Sound when they discovered the kids and brought both them and their canoe aboard.

Police said the boys were all wearing flotation devices and were uninjured, but had been unable to paddle back to the beach because of 15 to 20 mile-per-hour winds and 2-foot waves.

O’Leary and Marchiselli brought the kids to their parents, who were waiting at Crab Meadow.

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Fishing on the Long Island Sound will bring many rewarding catches this September. Photo from Angelo Peluso

By Angelo Peluso

September marks the beginning of meteorological autumn. It is a time when we bid farewell to summer and embrace the magnificence of the fall migratory run of local game fish.

This is a time eagerly awaited by all Long Island anglers, as amassing baitfish and pursuing game fish move into high gear. The stage has been set all around Long Island for the grandest spectacle of the fishing season. Although no place is more representative of this activity than the fabled waters of Montauk Point and the beaches of the South Shore, the open Long Island Sound and the beaches of the North Shore can give anglers a solid opportunity at some terrific fall action.

While North Shore fishing may not be as frenzied, concentrated or sustained as it is at the end of Long Island, there is, nonetheless, some fine fishing to be had for those who put in the time and are willing to move about to find fish.

Angler Craig Scail with a fine brace of local, Long Island Sound black sea bass. Photo from Angelo Peluso
Angler Craig Scail with a fine brace of local, Long Island Sound black sea bass. Photo from Angelo Peluso

A decade or so ago the North Shore of Long Island would boast respectable spring and early fall runs of striped bass. Conditions related to cyclical weather changes, baitfish movement and the migratory patterns and behaviors of game fish, most notably striped bass, have somewhat altered the landscape of the fall run in the area of the central Long Island Sound. It seems as if the last half dozen years or so have brought stronger spring fishing than prolonged fall runs, especially those runs that occur close to the beaches, whereas the fall run would often last a few weeks. Now, some of the best late-season inshore bass fishing can often be measured in days, not weeks. The exception to this is that whatever bass remain in the area congregate off many of the deep-water drop-offs to bulk up on bait that follows the same path. At this time of year, diamond jigging is king.

But all is not lost to the shore-bound angler.

One of the keys to scoring bass and big blues from September to the end of the season is mobility. A body in motion should stay in motion until such time as fish are located. Too many anglers spend too much time remaining stagnant, waiting for the fish. There are many time-tested spots where the probabilities are high that fish will move in as certain phases of the tide or current movement, so spend time fishing those locations.

Obviously, these situations vary with the seasons, but time on the water and consistent previous successes are good barometers of future potential. That said, from September until the end of the season, any of the central Long Island beaches from those in and around the Huntington Harbor/Eatons Neck area, out to the beaches of the North Fork, can turn on any given day with bass headed east and close to the edges of the surf line. Many of the bass that linger west of Huntington in Nassau County tend to move west and back out into the New York Bight, but those movements are not always easy to predict as they are on the South Shore, where fish move east to west. Bass and some large blues can be seen in the Sound moving both east and west, so who knows how the fish decide to leave the Sound.

That movement, though, argues for the angler to remain in motion and to keep tabs on the whereabouts of fall bait. While not all parts of the Sound enjoy prolific concentrations of bait throughout the season, the cooling down of water temperatures and the shortened hours of daylight in September will stimulate various baits to amass into large rafts. Sand eels, spearing, bay anchovies and white bait like finger mullet will motivate the bass and blues. Most bait will be found along deep-water drops, moving out from the harbors or cruising the surf line. All scenarios present productive fishing opportunities.

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