October OTW Magazine Eastern LIS Fishing Forecast
Winter is coming, but it’s not here yet!
October is a bittersweet time of the fishing season for me. On one hand, it signals the end of the season as the fish are fully focused on their fall migrations. But on the other hand, October is still one heck of a fun month of fishing! (depending on the weather of course)
The fall run of stripers not only means that fish are heading south for their warmer winter hangouts – it also means the bass are on the move. As they move from spot to spot, river system to river system, working their way south, bass have to feed to keep up their energy and prepare for cooler weather. And if they’re feeding, that means you can catch them. While I have personally not caught any of my biggest striped bass in the month of October, I’ve had some of my most memorable days of fishing during this “end of the season” stretch.
Bass and Blues should be taking advantage of adult bunker, peanut bunker, butterfish, and Atlantic Herring in large numbers. Surface feeds in October can quickly turn into all-out feeding frenzies as the larger predators are trying to fatten up. Deeper water jigging with diamond jigs is almost always a sure bet, but the insanity that ensues during a good blitz is what gets my heart racing! October is a fantastic month to come home with sore backs and tired arms from lots and lots of striper and bluefish action
Based on the past few seasons showing excellent funny fish runs, the first half of October should still be primetime for Little Tunny. Even if reports of Albies have dwindled, I’d always recommend having a rod or two handy rigged up and ready to go for funny fish. During 2018 my last Little Tunny of the year was the last week of October, and during the fall of 2016 I even caught an Albie on November 13th! Just like the month of September, anglers should be prepared for anything – especially early in the month.
Assuming we can avoid any major storm systems this month, there’s still plenty of good opportunity for Black Sea Bass. Contrary to my tactics during the more active months, I generally head to deeper water this time of year. As I’ve said before, I spend a lot of time in my Hobie kayak, and deep water is not a ton of fun from a kayak. Make sure you’re using enough weight to hold your rig near the bottom and in the strike zone – depending on the depth and the current this could mean as much as 12-16oz. Also, make sure you’re using a rod that can handle that kind of weight and the hook set, because few things ruin a day a quickly as an expensive broken rod.
Mid-October also means it’s time for Tautog! As a transplant from further south myself, I find it funny how anglers can be so black-and-white with Blackfish. It seems to me that most anglers I’ve met are either obsessed with Tautog or refuse to fish for them. Like I’ve said before, I always recommend re-thinking what you “know” about your spots and your target species.
I’ve been on the water with guys that swear by spinning reels for Tautog, some guys that only use jigs, and other guys that only use circle hooks. Point being, the window for excellent Tautog fishing is always a narrow one – if things aren’t working right away, don’t be afraid to try something new. And definitely make sure you check your hooks/rigs often. Nothing destroys hook points faster than trying to fish inside a rockpile for wary Tog.
On a different note, I have another odd little suggestion for anglers as your season starts to wind down. Suggested to me a few years ago by a friend, I’ve found the tactic to be quite useful and productive. Obviously no one wants to take a reel in for service or a rod for repair right in the middle of the season. But I was often guilty of waiting too long thru the winter. This month as you’re out on the water, start taking notes of any issues you might be having with your gear. And this can mean a squeaky reel, an issue with the boat, a possible leak in your waders, anything.
Over the past few years I’ve tried to make notes on index cards as soon as I get home from each fishing trip. October and November might mean the last time I use any particular rod or reel. By take notes like “Cabo 40 line roller noisey” or “New cutters for bullnose pliers” – I can get things fixed and ready for next season well before procrastination ever has a chance.
I’ve also made a habit of keeping tabs and notes on any leader material that’s running low, terminal tackle I’m running short on, hooks that I need to restock, etc. This allows me to stock up on proper items throughout the late fall and into the winter and avoid last-minute purchases. These little notes have also helped me buy the right tackle – items I’m actually in need of (instead of just buying everything I think I might be low on) ultimately helping save money each winter.