If it floats, it's leaving the dock starting tonight.....
It is hard to believe that the 2010 fishing season will be coming to an end over the next few days. As one of the worst blizzards has dumped two feet of snow over much of the northeast region, a few fishermen have told me that they have tossed in the towel as far as getting off the dock on till the weather warms up in the spring. But I will point out to them that the week just after Christmas can offer some of the finest fishing of the year if you make your way down to one of the party, charter or even your buddies boat if the conditions give us a little break.
Lets take a look of what is out there to catch.
The finest sea bass fishing you will see during the year is during the early winter months as the biscuits make their way offshore and stacking up on many of the big wrecks and rock piles off of Montauk to the southern tip of New Jersey. If one is looking to catch their biggest 'Bo's' of the season the time is right now especially as the sea bass is coming to a closure on 0001 hours January 1st, 2011.
At this time of the year, usually it is only a matter of dropping a jig or any bait ranging from skimmers, squid or one of the favorites that is used by commercial fishermen in the state of Virginia, salted mackerel chunks. Rigging up is very straight forward as it only requires the tying of a few dropper loops and stringing any hook with a sharp edge from size 3/0 - 7/0, along with a heavy sinker on your bait rigs. I keep telling anyone who listens to disregard the axiom of using the lightest sinker possible when fishing in water depths 30 fathoms and deeper. The key here is to quickly getting down to the bottom with as little scope in your line as possible, and then make a crank or two off the bottom and hold your rig there.
For those who love to jig sea bass, it is a more effective method at this time of the year for catching the Bo's then bait fishing. But I will also pass along that though I prefer this method since it consistently loads up your rig with bigger sea bass, there are times when the biscuits will not take the tube and jig rig that I was shown by the fishermen above, and want to chew on the bait rigs. All you need for this rig is some smallest size surgical tubing in the colors of either flo red, flo green and a color which seems to outshine both those two others, flo yellow. A regular chrome hammered jig preferably in 8 oz's works best, but I highly recommend bringing along 10 oz hammered jig when deep dropping on wrecks in depths deeper then 40 fathoms.
One other bottom fish you will encounter on the offshore wrecks especially if you are fishing on a party boat out of New Jersey, is jumbo sized scup. This winter season the size of the scup seen is the finest in memory and I have heard from a number of fishermen that you could have your own personal minimum size limit of around 16 inches and you would still easily make a NJ scup limit during the trip.
If one is looking for one hook that seems to do everything for catching both sea bass and scup on the offshore grounds, take a look at what has become the SUPER HAWKS favorite hook and one that we use here during the fishing season, a 3/0 size 4x strong BEAK hook with 2 slices in the shank. This hook is strong enough to hold the biggest pollack, but fits right in the mouth of these big scup and believe it or not, some of the jumbo winter blackbacks that you catch around the wrecks.
Within the day, I will try to get up a article that looks closer at the hooks and rigs used for offshore sea bass fishing.
I know the biggest question that is being asked now is if the heavy winter snows will put a big kibosh to the blackfish season. I highly doubt it at this time, and I know that it is only a matter of getting off to the winter grounds to find out. This may be a 'off the cuff' answer to that question while sitting at a key board, but I know from years of winter blackfish that you will always find some blackfish biting if you fish certain areas and certain wrecks.
Just this morning I got off the phone with Captain Steve BIG M who is now fishing out of New Jersey for the winter, and he even said that the only thing holding anyone back from going blackfishing is the roads leading down to the marina where the fishing boats are.
Depending on the area where you are fishing, it may only be a matter of fishing some of the deeper wrecks in water depths of 120 feet and deeper, and for those boats that travel further south, do not be surprised if you find good blackfishing in water depths as shallow as 75 feet.
One of the biggest things to have with you or on the boat you fish upon is white crabs. It has been proven time and again that the white crab can make a very noticeable difference in what you catch along with the size of the fish you do catch. This is not to say that green crabs do not work....they do, but white crabs are like putting a filet mignon in front of a blackfish during the late fall and winter months.
Rigging up for this time of the year is almost the same, except that one should use one 5/0 size Octupus style hook, since the size of the fish caught tend to be bigger. Snafu rigs are a favorite for using when fishing with white crabs, but the Jersey two hook sliding hook blackfish rig also works fine, as long as the leader does not become chaffed from the eye of one of the hooks sliding up and down its length.
For those private boat black fishermen, let me just give you a heads up....everyone has this utter fixation for running out to 17 fathoms, believing that they will have an Xacta filling trip by anchoring up on one of the various pieces of bottom in that area. I can say from years of experience doing winter black fishing that you will be very surprised on how shallow you can find some trophy sized blackfish during this time of the year. A little prospecting along the way out to the offshore grounds, and paying attention to whether you have incoming and out going water along with being armed with some white crabs in your bait pail, and I know you can dig up a few mules like this:
Looking at cod fishing during the winter months, it can be divided up into 3 separate fisheries especially during late December through early February. Off the south shore deeper waters off Long Island, the winter fishery out of Montauk and Rhode Island and the west end inshore cod fishery in the NY BIGHT.
All 3 fisheries happen to be pretty similar in that the only significant difference is the the type of tackle chosen as one could use striped bass tackle for the inshore cod fishery we now see along the south shore of Long Island in water depths of under 120 feet, to the standard cod fish tackle one would normally bring along when fishing off of Montauk due to the depth of water and stronger currents then what we see to the west.
One major question I am continually asked is on what makes the perfect codfish outfit and I know there are many here who can recite the finest custom rods, smoothest cranking fishing reels, the best fishing jig and the sharpest hooks on the market....right?
But before I go any further as far as tackle, is everyone on the same page as far as having an outfit like this for winter cod fishing made up of a Lamiglas MB 114 3F cut to a 12 or 13 tip, a Newell 229 or 332 or Diawa Saltist 30H, 40 to 50 lb mono or braid, and an Octupus or Beak style hook either in size 4/0 or 5/0? I own and a number of others I know own this outfit and I can tell you that it works fine for catching any cod fish we may encounter in this region during the season.
One thing I want to emphasize about codfish.....it is not as much the tackle (though I love the custom built Super Seeker Ralph Rodwinder made for me for this type of fishing), but more so the PRESENTATION of the bait then anything else when we talk about consistently catching respectable size codfish.
I know many out there love to use expensive jigs, fancy teasers, tubes and rigs to entice the winter king to bite their line, but keep in mind these are the same fish that are very content on sucking on a circle hook attached to a heavy leader on bottom longline gear. Don't go 'over board' as far as trying to buy what one of the so-called experts tell you that you need in your tackle bag. If I can just quickly give you a short list of terminal tackle that has been proven to work, it would fall under these categories:
- Rubber squid like squirts especially the soft 'GITZIT' tubes
- Rubber 6" curly tails in white, pink and amazingly flo green
- Hammered Jigs between 6 - 12 oz depending on the area fished
- Small surgical tubes that look or swim when slow squidded like Sand Eels
For those who still have trouble rigging up with a standard Hi-Lo rig for most of the cod fishing we do in this region, here is a picture to give you a good idea on the height of the tide hooks. If anyone questions how this rig is made up, I recommend you direct all you comments to one Captain Richie Kessinger, long time south shore cod fishing legend and now retired owner of the Starstream out of Freeport Long Island. This rig works very well as I have personally witnessed on a number of special wreck trips with him.
I also like to point out a jig which was given to me by the late Steve Torksman, which I believe was made by one of the fishermen from up north and is a very reasonably priced jig that would be something I would have in my tackle box. This size jig and I believe it is a 6 oz's, is just right for the local inshore cod fishing we do here. There is no need to go out and buy any jig for this type of cod fishing that costs more then a few dollars!
More then any other winter species especially down west of Shinnecock, these three fish made up the bulk of the winter fishing for many years right up to the mid to late nineties. I know there are many like myself which long for the days when you measured your catch of ling, mackerel and whiting during the months of December and January in how many barrels you would fill, then in what we see these days where a respectable catch is a full 5 gallon pail and that any whiting seen caught on a party boat is a very big deal.
Normally one should bring out a some plastic tubes and smaller hooks in 2/0 and 3/0, along with jigs in the 4 - 6 oz range if you wanted to catch these fish. There is little to say here since these are some of the easiest fish to rig up and fish for if the boat you fish upon can find some in their travels.
With the current regulatory environment that we must all abide by these days, you may run into some marine law enforcement officers in their stylish orange work suits who just happen to want to check what you have in your pail. Depending on what state you land your catch in, along with the amount and size of the fish you have in your possession, may determine if you go home with some 3 x 6 inch yellow, orange or white pieces of paper with a court date on it. A word to the wise to know what your keeping in your fish container, whatever that may be.
Remember lets not make it difficult for the captains and crews who have enough to deal with in providing you with a enjoyable fishing day....they shouldn't have to be a fishery enforcement agent on their own vessels. If you want to keep it, then it is up to you to take responsibility when these marine law enforcement officials start to push the boundaries of the 4th Amendment on board a vessel, your personal fish containers or on your person.
I am looking forward to getting out with a few of my buddies and doing our own little fish hunts, or jumping on one of the local party boats for a ride, if I could get out of my driveway which still looks like Ice Station Zebra here in Brooklyn. I do know that we should have a nice early showing for a few local cod along the beach to make things very interesting.
So don't miss out on what could be some finest winter fishing you may see this season. As always, looking forward to the reports about your day on one of this areas fishing boats.