Fishing Guy: What’s Biting Ahead of the Fall Run

A 12-inch cocktail bluefish caught fishing at Cupsogue on September 17
A 12-inch cocktail bluefish caught at Cupsogue on September 17
Guy Morales

Here we are again! Another summer gone and that chill in the air means the striped bass fall run is here again at last. The waters are full of bait and with this new moon cycle, there’s hope for a great start of this fall.

Out east at “The End,” Montauk has been relatively slow with some short stripers coming up on topwater plugs off the surf. The boats and charters are seeing plenty of fluke still, and some nice albies — false albacore — have been coming up as well. Weakfish, bluefish, sea bass and blackfish are all in season, coming up mostly offshore in decent numbers. Some nice gator blues to be caught, hitting on poppers mainly.

There are large fluke being caught on the boats and off the beaches in Montauk on spearing and clam strips or using a simple gulp setup. With a pretty good chill in the air at night and in the morning out here, you’re going to want to break out your cool weather fishing jacket before heading out.

It’s also snapper time. I grew up snapper fishing with my brothers off a boat dock in East Islip and still love it at 53. A fun and easy way to teach kids about fishing. Right now, there’s plenty of those juvenile bluefish to be caught locally from the docks. Pick up some spearing at the bait shop and be sure to bring plenty of it for those hungry, yellow-eyed monsters.

Shinnecock Inlet has seen some albies pop up as well this last week, proving to be as elusive as ever this season. Bonita — another name for false albacore — move in fast and move out just as quickly. They are widely sought after by anglers from all around the globe. A much-desired game fish yet not very good eating, you’re more likely to land one from the boat than off of the rocks.

Cupsogue has been hit-and-miss with short bass and blues in the inlet. Much like everywhere else this time of year, the nighttime is the right time … for striped bass anyway. Topwater plugs again have been the best for targeting bass and here is no different. Stalking the back bay is your best chance to land anything in the keeper size range (28–35 inches).

The back bay has been producing some large fluke too. Light tackle with a bucktail and your favorite gulp will do just fine, but bait works just the same for fluke. I’ve been using a simple snap-jig setup with a 5-inch gulp for the big ones. Moriches Inlet and Smith Point have been getting their share of striped bass and bluefish off the rocks. It’s still early but the slow start can most likely be attributed to the hurricane sitting off the coast. There’s plenty of fluke action from the beach and on the back bay at Smith Point.

Like everywhere else, you can have a blast snapper fishing off the docks here. Snapper poppers are a major favorite for these fish making for a bait-free fun day of fishing. There’s some 8–12-inch fish coming up on the docks most days. It’s non-stop!

Top water plugs are the answer for a quiet beginning to this fall run here. Patience is key waiting for the striper run to kick off, but there are plenty of other fish biting to keep fishermen busy. Fluke, fluke and more fluke on the charter boats and in the bay. Even from the beach, there’s lots of fluke left to catch till the season ends on October 9, so enjoy this last week.

There’s tons of bait in the water and some cocktail blues chasing bait schools making this moon cycle look really promising. I’ve had my best luck during the last of the outgoing tide this spring catching my biggest bass yet.

The next few weeks should be memorable if this spring was any indication of what we can expect of this coming fall run for striped bass. I hope everyone catches their personal best this fall so get out there and drop a line.

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