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MORICHES BAY STRIPERS: WORKING THE NIGHTSHIFT
May 22, 2007
by Tony Salerno

Angler Mike Barone thanks pal Paul Nilsson for a good netting job!
It was definitely one of those nights when you could really enjoy the comforts of home. The type of evening where the whisper of a raw and chilly easterly was slapping rain on the window sill and the gust reminded me that those drafty windows needed replacing. Then of course there are my buddies Paul Nilsson and Mike Barone, two hardcore, die in the wool, bass fanatics that weren't going to make some silly old easterly deter them from facing the elements for their quest for trophy stripers. Just like a couple of neighborhood kids calling for their friend to come out and play, the duo were doing all in their power to coax me from the snuggly comforts of my Serta mattress for an exchange of a set of Grundens and a conventional outfit. "You know how good the bite is in these conditions," Paul stated. He was right. I'm well aware of just how good the bite can be with a dropping barometer. So within an hour, the three of us were hightailing across the bay and into Moriches Inlet via Paul's boat in order to catch the start of the ebb tide. By the time we arrived, the tide was just beginning to ebb while the rain and wind began to let up a bit making conditions quite tolerable. As the current became stronger, so did the fishing as the three of us enjoyed nonstop action for the next three hours with bass to 30 pounds. While the fishing gods seemed to be smiling upon us on that chilly evening last May, action like this is a common occurrence throughout the spring and fall. Therefore, with a few fundamentals of the Moriches Bay complex, you can be in the thick of the action as well.



SMALL AND PRODUCTIVE



A complex of approximately 9,500 square acres, Moriches Bay has long stood out as a flat fisherman's paradise, especially the spring's flounder run. Then as the flattie population began to dwindle, anglers began seeking other alternatives for the flounder woes, which at one time dominated Moriches Bay spring, summer and fall. With the flounder fishery in dire straits, it didn't take anglers long to realize the caliber of striper fishing that awaited in areas just inside and outside the inlet as well as the West and East Cuts, just to name a few. The reason for this phenomenon is the massive influx of forage that corridors through the inlet each season, settling and spawning in areas of the bay that they may consider a safe haven. Unbeknownst to these poor little critters, there are no safe havens in Moriches Bay since, fluke, bluefish and weakfish join the list of gamesters found gallivanting anywhere in the bay in their never-ending quest for a hearty meal. Adult and peanut bunker, mullet, juvenile weakfish, spearing and sand eels are just a few of the myriad of baitfish that are attracted to the Moriches Bay complex. Although stripers can be found at any given time, anywhere in the bay chasing bait, the consistency still remains at the inlet area and therefore that'll be where we will focus our attention.



NIGHT LIFE AT THE INLET



Indeed striper action can be exceptional during the daytime hours, particularly in early spring and especially for those dispensing clam bellies and feeding whole clams at anchor. For the majority of the season, however, the big girls really turn on at night. Savvy anglers confine their activity to the hours of darkness with each having their own favorite method of tempting these revered game fish. I must warn you that Moriches Inlet is often unstable and hard to read, especially at night. This piece of water can change from tranquil to dramatic from one tide to another, even challenging the most experienced boaters. Therefore use common sense and be aware of your surroundings. A fish is not worth taking chances for.



BASS WITH A WHOLE LOT OF GAS



A voracious, carnivorous and opportunistic predator, the striped bass feeds heavily on small fishes, including large quantities of herring, bunker, flounder, as well as invertebrates such as worms, squid and crabs. This selection of entrees is always available in season at the inlet and therefore bass will be close by. Funny part is, even with all that strong current, stripers prefer not to exert themselves when the dinner bell rings. They prefer to lie and wait and let the inlet's current deliver the meal. This is especially true of fish exceeding 18 pounds, which are less prone to schooling up with their smaller siblings, which are bit more athletic. On the flip side, once a bass from these strong currents is hooked, they are like little freight trains and the bigger the bass, the tougher. Therefore you better hold on to that rod. Too often I've seen even the best of rod holders donate some quality outfits to real big fish because anglers were not tentative. That reminds me; make sure the drag on the reel is not clamped down too tight. Too tight of a main drag is usually the culprit for a rod that flies over- board or snaps in the holder. Adjust the drag to the test of line on the outfit, and you will have a fun night on the water.



TACKLING TACTICS



Baitcasters or conventional outfits in the 15 to 30-pound class are perfectly suited for the task at hand. My favorite outfit is a 7-foot Tri-Flex Graphite Inshore series by Lamiglas, model TFX7030C ideally matched with a Daiwa Saltist STT30T conventional reel filled with 30-pound Stren Super Braid. Whether bouncing bucktails to 6 ounces or dragging eels through the rips, this combo has the muscle and durability to handle the toughest linesiders that swim. Rigs should be kept plain and simple. I have great success employing a 3x3 rig consisting of a 5-foot leader of 60-pound mono snelled to a 5/0 super sharp Gamakatsu Octopus Hook. The leader from the sinker is sized down to 30-pound test and a distance of about 12 inches from the sinker to the swivel. Sinkers round out the terminal end and should vary between 3 and 6 ounces depending on the speed of the current. Make sure to have a handful in the box as a few will succumb to the inletís bottom. Bucktails can be tied directly to the main line; however, if it is braid that you are using, I suggest tying on a six foot leader of 30 pound fluorocarbon line as the braid is visible even at night and can deter a bass from slamming the artificial.


Mike and Paul display the biggest fruits of their labor after a night of fishing Moriches Bay. These stripers were a little better than 30 pounds.


SLIME TIME



When live bait and nighttime is concerned, nothing beats live eels. Sure live lining a bunker or a legal-size porgy may persuade a fish or two; however, these baits are better left for the daytime hours. Besides, eels can be purchased at just about any tackle shop and are easy to maintain. The majority of complaints by anglers when employing eels are their tendency of balling up and tangling up in the leader. Many anglers opt to place the eel on the hook and then give them a good whack against the deck or gunwale in order to calm them down. I strongly advise against this method as it will challenge the effectiveness versus a naturally swimming eel. The more effective solution to the problem is to keep the eels cold. This is done by keeping them on ice. Not directly though. Instead, I prefer to place the ice in sealed, watertight baggies and place them among the eels in a 5-gallon container. This will slow the eels down quickly and not allow them to panic and ball up while being placed on the hook. By the time they hit the water and become frisky, they are relatively calm and rarely a problem with tangling the line. In turn this leads to more hook ups and a lot less headaches. When applying an eel to the hook, always place the hook through both lips.



A BANG FOR YOUR BUCK



Aside from eels, bucktails are extremely effective during the nighttime hours. Since the current will be cranking, you'll need jigs up to six ounces. Spro's Prime Bucktail Jigs are just what the doctor ordered. The unique shape of the head and placement of the eyelet help bring the Prime Bucktail to life. Stripers are very often duped with these jigs due to the life like bulging eyes, holographic finish and blazing colors. The Prime Bucktail comes in a variety of sizes up to six ounces and in an assortment of colors. For the night striper bite, the red/white, dark and blue shad are among the hottest colors in Spro's Prime Bucktail family. Make sure to entice the bucks off with a strip of Uncle Josh 70-S Sea Strip either in purple or blood red pork rind. These colors are a couple of the hottest for night bass in the Moriches area.



VERY OUTGOING



While incoming tide has potential to produce a few cows in Moriches Inlet from time to time, it is the ebbing tide that really makes this place come alive. Quite often during a flooding tide, bluefish will dominate the inlet area feasting and terrorizing on feeble prey that is haplessly overtaken by the inlet's strong current. At this point, stripers will seldom compete for dinner prospects against the insatiable bluefish. Instead, the linesiders will wait to do their feasting once the bluefish move off on their merry way. This occurrence usually happens as the current begins to ebb hard, at which time the blues cleverly move just outside the inlet chopping away at anything smaller than them that is flushing out of the inlet. In the meantime, the bass begin to set up ambush stations just inside the inlet in areas that clash with the current. These areas include drop-offs, rock piles, and the backside of shoals and along the edges of sandbars. Some nights, the bite can last the entire tide while other nights may see action at different stages. Only the stripers can make that call, therefore plan your trips on the nights you have the whole ebb to play with.



TO MOON OR NOT TO MOON



The moonís gravitational force can create currents between 5 and six knots at the inlet, particularly during the new and full moon. This means that on ebb tide the current will suck a boat out of the inlet in minutes, which is all well and good on calm nights, but when the ocean is brewing, it can present a challenge. Therefore while the tide is at peak, work over the backside of the inlet like the West and East Cuts, and as the tide eases, you can confidently move back to the inlet area.



STRIPERS THE MORICHES WAY



Quite simply, the key to success in Moriches Inlet is location and timing. Formulate the two and you're in for a wild ride. We have established the fact that the outgoing tide is the ideal time to hopefully put a cow in the box. Some of the better spots to work on the ebb is Mary's Hole located just southeast of buoy 6W, the 60-foot hole just south of the West Jetty, the backside of Cupsquogue State Park and the first rip line just northwest of the East Jetty. These are just a few areas that will produce well during the night; however, I suggest you poke around and work any of the countless drop-offs and holes where plenty of quality action awaits.

Remember anchoring in the inlet at night especially without an anchor light is a death wish. Worse yet, some boats will have their running lights instead of the anchor light. Drifting over the structures will produce a lot more fish and everyone can work in sync with each other. Also extend courtesy, there are countless amounts of productive structure in the area; therefore, there is no reason to crowd a boat in.

Well that's it for me. All this talk of striper fishing has my blood flowing so off I go. Hopefully I'll see you Nor'easter's on the water tonight. Please practice self restraint, a good night on the water doesn't mean a cooler of fish. As you know, today's release is tomorrow's catch.

Editorís note: Tony Salerno is our Moriches Field Editor.


Angler Paul Nilsson is having a great moment after landing this beautiful bass.
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