Weakfish Resurgence, Solid Start For Fluke


Last chance to get your tickets to the annual waterfowlers barbecue in Water Mill next Wednesday, May 15. A bunch of shotguns and a pile of fishing and hunting gear will be on the raffle tables, and mountains of chicken and burgers will be coming off the barbecue as fast as you can grab it.
Tickets are $35, and all proceeds go to benefit Ducks Unlimited, courtesy of the Eastern Suffolk Chapter. Whether you’re a hunter or not, don’t miss this fun event. Contact Kelly Gang for tickets at (631) 902-4967 or kgang67@hotmail.com.

Fishing really took off this week. Surf fishermen enjoyed maybe the best weakfish bite in 20 or 30 years, for a couple nights at least. Fluke fishing got off to a pretty solid start, and plenty of big porgies are in the mix as well, giving anglers a chance to take advantage of the early opening to those seasons.

The talk of the town this week was the hot weakfish bite off the shores of Shinnecock Bay. On Wednesday and Thursday night last week, some anglers caught as many as a dozen mid-sized weakfish, and there was a steady pick throughout the weekend. Most of the fish were small to medium-sized fish, between 3 and 7 pounds—no jumbo mamas yet, though there are certain to be a few lurking about.

The bite seems to have quieted now, but just those couple of nights of good fishing have many anglers talking about the possibility of another weakfish resurgence. No word on whether there have been any in the Shinnecock Canal yet, which used to see weeks-long stretches of epic fishing for weakfish, but the good run into the bay and sightings of dead weakfish on the ocean beaches a couple of weeks ago has many anglers eagerly anticipating even bigger numbers of weakies showing up in Peconic soon, which traditionally is expected around Mother’s Day.

Weakfish are one of the most up-and-down species of fish we see around here. A few years of abundance and then they will all but vanish for several years, only to pop up again in force seemingly out of nowhere. Because they spawn in tidal estuaries, they are likely very sensitive to climactic variations that dictate whether the young-of-the-year struggle out of the larval stage or burst forth in great numbers.

They grow quickly, and the huge number of baby weakfish seen in the bays last year has a lot of locals optimistic that we’re going to have a healthy population of weakfish again for a few years now. The story should be told in the next week or so.

Fluke and porgy season opened last Wednesday, and the nice weather late in the week had plenty of boats plying the usual grounds. The Greenport-Southold stretch of Shelter Island Sound produced a decent number of keeper fluke—aided substantially by the size limit being lowered to 19 inches this year—with a few of the jumbo porgies that are sure to flood into the bay this month. East winds and some rough water made the grounds off Montauk Point a little challenging, but it seems there’s a solid supply of fluke there as well. The Shinnecock Inlet boats did pretty well in the ocean there also, before the winds drove everyone up to the Shelter Island area.

The striped bass are taking their sweet time showing up in good numbers, though there were plenty of keepers to be had on the beaches and in the bays this week. Chilly waters that aren’t warming up much under cool days and cold nights probably have slowed the advance of the schoolie fish that usually haunt the bays this time of year. In another week or two, the spawner fish will start flooding out of the rivers and making their way up along the coastline.

Somewhat more worrisome is the dearth of small bait species in the local bays—and throughout Long Island, for that matter. Shiners and rain minnows have been noticeably absent from the marshes they should be spawning in by now. I haven’t seen many killies yet, either, although since they hang out in the scant layers of tidal waters left on the marshes by the dropping tides, they might be waiting for nighttime temperatures to stop dropping into the 30s regularly before they make their move. Squid are making a lackluster showing too, and with the arrival of bluefish this week, the chances that they are going to appear seems unlikely. So whether the shiners show up eventually or not, frozen fluke bait is going to be expensive this year, and the lack of an inshore squid run means most guys don’t have their own fresh supply stashed away.

East winds look to be hanging around for the foreseeable future, so surf fishermen should be plying the beach structure.

Game on.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

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