July OTW Magazine Eastern LIS Fishing Forecast
July in Long island sound can be a magical time of the year for Saltwater anglers! Striped bass should be found in their usual summer spots, and almost every other target species should be catchable as well. My personal best striped bass, bluefish, fluke and black seabass have all been caught during the month of July over the past several years.
When targeting seabass, the most challenging aspect of filling the cooler tends to be working your way thru the shorts. Sometimes finding that rock pile covered in hungry fish isn’t quite enough and you’ve got to get a little extra creative. As I mentioned before, one of my own priorities is to find spots off the beaten path that aren’t getting hammered by other anglers. This tactic can also help quite a bit to avoid smaller seabass and catch more keepers. If I’m on a spot catching shorts, the first adjustment I’ll make is to move just to the edge of the rock pile, often away from the current (when possible). Sure, it could be my own superstition, but I’ve always had a hunch that the bigger seabass aren’t as willing to sit in heavy current as much as the smaller fish might be. If fishing the back edge of the rock pile still isn’t producing keepers, I’ll try the front edge for a bit. If shorts are still the only thing on the hook, it’s always incredibly hard to leave fish in search of new spots and new fish. But when it comes to black Sea bass, sometimes you’ve got to break your own rules to put a few fish in the cooler.
For summer flounder my tactic for keepers is similar but more difficult to execute. I realize that the overwhelming majority of fluke anglers find their keepers in deep water, and I’m not saying their wrong. However, I’ve caught all of my personal best fluke over the past five years in less than twenty feet of water. I’ll admit there’s not a huge number of doormats in shallow water, but as I explained last month, sometimes you’ve got to rethink what everyone else “knows”. Even in those deep water notorious fluke spots, try shifting your focus a little off to one side or the other. Finding a drift that the other boats have been missing can mean a few big fish that haven’t seen that bucktail recently. Even with the flatfish, I look for big schools of small baitfish and concentrate my efforts below the bait. I’ve pulled several 26-30″ fluke out of 15-20′ of water using this tactic in spots that other anglers thought I wouldn’t catch anything.
Only time will tell what the blue fish will do this year. Last year the summer of 2018 seemed to be almost completely devoid of sizable blues. Tactics for these yellow eyed devils haven’t changed much, but in July it’s going to be a question of whether or not the devils have returned to long island sound. Personally I’ll be on the lookout for bunker, knowing that the bluefish are likely to stay nearby. The smaller, smoker-sized blues are almost always available for anglers near the power plant outflows. The big gator blues are a bit unpredictable as this column is being written. If you do find some big bluefish, just remember how much we all missed them last year, and think twice before you curse their name for chewing on your nicer plugs.
My most important note for everyone targeting stripers this summer is to please please please consider how much the striped bass population has been struggling. Most anglers I know and fish with are exclusively catch and release, and a growing number of small vessel charter guides are doing the same. If you do want to keep a striper for the cooler, please consider keeping those smaller keepers, such as the 30-34″ fish. Larger fish, especially those 40″+ are the breeders and I would strongly encourage all anglers to release these breeders safely and quickly. Surfcasters and kayakers can land and release these bigger bass without ever removing them from the water. Boat anglers should consider taking a little extra time to revive these bigger fish before release, especially in the warmer summer waters.