John Skinner is the author of Fishing the Bucktail and A Season on the Edge. He’s the creator of the fishing log software FishersLog. He’s a consistent producer of trophy striped bass and holds the current New York State false albacore record.
If you listen to NY Mets games on the radio, you'll get the title of this blog entry. It's how the longtime announcer, Howie Rose, closes out games. Given the almost total domination of our beaches these past couple weeks by bass that could fit in your pocket, coupled with weather more normal for late January, I imagine a lot of Long Island surf anglers are packing it in for the year. It's always a tough decision as to when to call it a season. Some anglers will just keep at it until well into December. Others who have fished very hard over the preceding months come to the realization that it no longer makes sense to lose sleep and burn gas to fish in the cold for the chance at a keeper size fish. Many anglers at this point are just plain tired and welcome the rest. The absence of good sized bass in the Montauk rips at this point of the season is surely not a good sign that there's another body of fish to move down the shore. However, anyone who's been at this long enough can recall a mid to late November lull before quality bass exploded on the beaches on herring. This seems like a long shot at best given the current fishing, brutal cold, and a long-range forecast with almost nothing beyond a 40-degree daytime high. There is something to watch carefully though - that coastal storm forecast for Tuesday night into Wednesday. The forecast wasn't quite firm yet as I wrote this, but a deep low pressure system with a strong onshore wind can work some magic. All of the better bass have not cleared the Long Island coastline yet. It may seem that way from the past week of beach fishing, but there are undoubtedly still some better fish in deeper waters and coming down from the North. The middle of the week could be interesting depending on what the storm does. I'm doing a 4-part video series of fishing bucktails under different conditions. Here's number 2 of 4. The others will follow in the weeks ahead.
The seasonal progression seems to be in overdrive this past week as I've watched 10- to 15-pound average bass shrink to those that average about 18 inches. It's part of what happens in the fall, and the small fish are widely accepted as a sign that things are starting to wind down. Maybe the fat lady is warming up, but I wouldn't be cleaning off gear just yet. In the infrequent years when we've had substantial herring runs, we've gone through the small fish run of mid-November only to have 15- to 30-pound stripers blasting herring schools on the beach in the first week of December. For now, it seems as though the nice body of fish that were on Long Island's East End over the past few weeks has been replaced by smalls. We might as well fish on those anyway because in another month, and then for the next four months after that, there won't be much to do. Even though bucktails don't look much like sandeels, they still produce very well when sandeels are the predominant bait. I've had some excellent sessions bucktailing this current sandeel run. Over the next month or two I'm going to put out a series of videos on bucktailing the ocean sand beaches under different water and wind conditions. Here's the first one on bucktailing calm wind and surf.
Are we having fun yet? If you're a Long Island surf angler, it's pretty hard not to be having fun right now with bass gorging on big sandeels along pretty much the entire South Shore. The quality is decent too for a sandeel run. The only problem is it's never safe to leave the beach because the good action can be happening anytime of day or night. Most anglers are throwing diamond jigs and tubes, and these are producing fine most of the time during daylight hours. As anyone who pays attention on the beach has noticed, there always seems to be a few guys who are doing much better than others. I've been on both sides of this - the guy with the frequently bent rod, and the one scratching his head while watching someone else set the hook every other cast. Depth is important. I've seen instances, especially in rough water, where your offering had to be right on the bottom. Other times they wanted a faster and higher retrieve. There have been other times, much to my delight, where bucktails and other lures could far outproduce the metal. One such day was a calm overcast early afternoon a couple weeks ago when the run had just taken hold. Some cormorants made me curious, and after a tin didn't raise any interest, I started throwing a Tsunami Sandeel. These are simply awesome lures. They have great hooks, hold up very well, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a better sandeel imitator. Enjoy the video.