Fish on: Bucktails and bluefish, a winning combo

COURTESY PHOTO | Blues are biting on white bucktails.
Blues are biting on white bucktails.

About four days of heavy winds out of the east, with a general lack of enthusiasm for spending $5 a gallon on marine gas looking for fish that are here one day and gone the next, and you’ll understand why fish catching reports from last week’s activities are sketchy at best.

Near Shelter Island there have been some reliable reports of small stripers being picked in the Smith Cove area on plastic jerk baits. There are also a fair number of 2 to 4 pound bluefish eating well in the last two hours of both the incoming and outgoing tides at Jessups. Mike Anglin, at Jack’s Marine, tells me there is still a pretty good porgie bite going on in all the usual places; some kingfish are being caught on Shell Beach and we can both testify that the snapper bite is going great guns all around the Island.

All the fishing activity, or lack thereof, that I’ve seen has been restricted to Gardiners, Plum Island and Plum Gut. I’m sorry to report that the gorillas that were terrorizing the Gardiners’ rips two weeks ago have moved and I haven’t gotten a hit on my last three trips there. Neither have the guides I chatted with when they came by.

On the other hand, Plum Gut is absolutely alive with small to mid-sized bluefish that are intent on killing everything that swims on the last two hours of the outgoing tide every day. If you want to really enjoy “blitz” fishing conditions, put away the heavy jigging or trolling gear and rig up a medium spinning rod with a stout 3-foot leader (like 40-pound test) and tie an all white bucktail directly to the leader.

The fish are gorging on 2-inch butter fish and are readily hitting small (1/2 ounce) white bucktails (see photo) cast into breaking fish or under the wheeling terns. Try just cranking it along at a moderate speed and if that doesn’t produce quickly, try working it back with a jerking motion and the fish will let you know how they want it!

If you let your lure sink for a count of five, you might even hook up with a bass or two, enjoying whatever floats or is chased down to them compliments of the bluefish.

I mentioned using a 40-pound leader. There are several reasons for using one that heavy. First, as you are fighting a hooked fish and it has the lure protruding from its mouth, another fish may think it is something to eat and will try to take the lure away from your fish, cutting a light leader in an instant. The second reason for a stout leader is to help handle the fish without getting close to those sharp teeth.
If you’re releasing most of the fish you hook, grasp the heavy leader and control the thrashing blue (kinda!) and then use a dehooker or pliers to remove the hook without even bringing the fish into the boat.

The concept of not bringing bluefish in to release into the boat is a very good idea! You might have noticed that after bringing a caught bluefish into the boat, they like to disgorge everything they’ve eaten for the past week all over your deck, plus many bleed a bit from the hook wound. Both of these circumstances make the boat unsightly and the deck slippery so I’d advise keeping a scrub brush and a bucket handy to dip some seawater and slosh the deck to get the offal flowing out of the scuppers. Then, use the brush to scrub off the blood while it’s still fresh. Dried bluefish blood on fiberglass is one of the hardest things in the world to remove.

We have an important fishing event taking place on Shelter Island today!

Well over 20 years ago, I was the co-founder and president of the Shelter Island Fishing Club, which was comprised of a varied group of anglers from the Island. For several years we met two or three times each summer to swap fishing tall tales, discuss what was happening on the local fishing scene and get to know each other a bit. Over the years, mostly because of conflicting summer schedules, it got tougher to get everyone together and the SIFC disbanded.

But, it did leave behind a legacy that is still thriving, namely the annual Snapper Derby. It is now sponsored by the Lions Club Foundation and local businessman Darrin Binder and his group of volunteers.

There will be another great event for the kids here on the Island on today with the official “weigh in” at the American Legion Hall at 5 p.m. sharp.

There is no entry fee, there will be free food and “Snapper Derby” T-shirts for all participants and trophies for winning contestants 14 years of age and younger in four categories.

The winners will be those who have caught the largest snapper (not over one pound), largest bluefish, most snappers caught and best Snapper Derby sign. The most snappers caught prize is based on what the angler reports and is in concert with the important conservation concept of “catch and release,” so that we don’t kill lots of snappers that will become the big bluefish of the future.

It is important that contestants participating are encouraged to release as many as they can, keeping only the single largest of their catch to be weighed in. For those who have not participated in the past, this is really a fun event with lots of excitement and enthusiasm.

I hope to see your young fisherperson(s) on Saturday!