This year Sally and I arrived back from our winter in Florida to Shelter Island on June 2, a little later than usual, and I called around to find out what kind of fishing was going on.
It seems fishing for bluefish and striped bass are off to a strange start around our Island, Plum Island and even the Gardiner’s Rips and Shores are pretty slow considering how they should be this time of the season. I heard that there was an exciting large spring bluefish rodeo during the mid-days followed by some nice bass being caught in the evenings but the action pretty much dropped dead as the water warmed up and the fish went back to cooler temperatures.
I was happy to hear of several caught bass meeting the newly instituted legal limits that run from April 15 through December 15, with a slot size limit of one fish of 28” to 35” with all others, (shorter than and longer than), having to be released letting a fair number of legal fish go on their jolly way.
After that, however, it has been tough going. In the first two weeks of my return I made six short trips to usually hot fishing places in Coecles Harbor and just outside and managed to catch only one single bass on each of the trips and lost only two. Like, it was dead out there.
I started to feel some pressure to find fish and caught only one of two small fish in the Gut and around Plum and that was it, until our great-grandchildren came to visit. Oliver is 7 and lives in Pittsburgh with his 4-year-old sister, Eloise. All they wanted to do is go out on their grandfather’s boat and catch fish.
We planned two trips on the 24-foot Whaler with hopes of calm waters and lots of fish, put safety gear on the kids, the dog on the boat, and off we went to Plum Gut hoping to cast plugs to the shores for stripers. We went zooming out on calm, ebbing water and got past the lighthouse on the south side of the Gut. There were gulls bombing the water, trying to pick up baitfish pushed up by scads of bluefish chasing them from below.
Since I was not the captain, I grabbed my rod, took off the bass plug with trebles and replaced it with a floating popper with only one trailer hook and cast it into the melee. I cranked the reel handle about three times to make a splash in the water and hooked a bluefish and called for help. Oliver was there in a split second trying to get that first fish in with his father holding him around the waist as he fought it closer and closer to the boat. When I got the chance I netted the fish. We were in business. It was a perfect hour of a terrific “blitz.” We lost at least 10 fish with a single hook, but we also landed and released another 10 after the photos. They were all between 2 and 4 pounds and fought like crazy.
Day two was a complete reversal, with no activity in the Gut and a hard, outgoing tide. There were no bluefish blitzes and the tide caused us to move too fast along the shore for bass fishing with a popper and treble hooks.
We made our way around the corner out of the fast-moving water and started casting the popper along the beaches there. After 10 minutes we’d hooked and lost three bass and finally landed one of about 2 pounds, which we released. After that we had a good 30 minutes of action and caught and released seven more bass before we decided to head over to where the seals have taken refuge on the southeastern end of the Island.
We coasted up to them and counted 21 in the water around us. While they’re fun to watch as they put on a show for you, they’re also involved with their mission to wipe out the fish population. Even the commercial fishermen with their fishing nets coming out from the shores to the place where the fish get trapped are up in arms since the seals have been raiding their traps and eating all the fish they can find in the nets.
Can we say we had a great two days in grandpop’s new boat? Even their dog loved the action and kept barking at any fish that came on board. My advice is to get out around the south side of Plum and cast into the rocks as you go and then do the same thing around the other side of the Island.
If you see a sky full of wheeling birds diving on bait, get some surface plugs in there and the bluefish with their razor sharp teeth will make sure there’s no paint left on the lures after they finish with them. I’m off to give that area a going over and I’ll let you know how it goes next time.