With the kids back in school and a slight drop in nightly temperatures signaling that the fall blitz of surface feeding stripers, blues and false albacore is but a few weeks away, it’s easy to overlook the massing of bottom fish that builds around submerged structure, humps and mussel beds even before the true fall push gets underway. Nowhere is this more evident than in the super porgy fishing anglers experience during September – a pursuit that’s ideally situated to the open boat angler.
LIBERAL LIMITS, BIG TIME ACTION
As September sees water temperatures begin to steadily drop from summer highs, scup, as porgies are also known, go on a serious feeding binge. When you consider that these feisty bottom feeders tend to be hungry even during the heat of summer you can imagine the mayhem that abounds along the rails as this intensified porgy bite gets underway over mussel beds, around humps and near just about any submerged structure in deep bay or near shore ocean and Long Island Sound waters. As the porgy schools continue to tighten with each passing day, the fish grow more and more competitive, which equates to no waiting when it comes to dropping your baited hooks to the bottom.
Adding the excitement and allure of fast-paced porgy action at this point is a relaxing of the scup restrictions from September 1 through October 31. Whereas the standard creel limit for porgies throughout the season stands at 30 per day with a minimum size limit of 10 inches, the party and charter boat regulations are relaxed through this two month stretch to allow 45 per day (the size limit remains at 10 inches.)
Being that this year has seen an incredible run already of huge porgies often measuring between 14 and 18 inches – with a few serving plate sized jumbos actually breaking the 20-inch barrier – it stands to reason that 2015 is going to be one banner fall for open boat scup fans. Toss in a bunch of sea bass, a couple of triggerfish, bluefish and perhaps a stray doormat fluke (still in season through September 21) and you’ve got the makings of some serious fish dinners looming ahead.
THE IDEAL DAY
Porgy fishing has been solid throughout the summer, especially in Long Island Sound, around Gardiners Island and on the South Shore reefs where he evening bite was quite pleasing in August, so hope for a super fall season seems to be a reasonable expectation. Still, you’ll want to maximize your productivity while on the water, especially if sailing aboard an open boat.
To that end, look for calm, overcast days that match up with the start of outgoing water and moon phases between the first and third quarters. The calm winds and overcast skies are especially important early this month as the fish may still be holding in relatively shallow water and can still be somewhat timid when moderate to heavy seas kick up. By early October, with most of the action on hard structure in deeper water, wind and sky conditions matter a bit less.
HAUL ‘EM UP!
Through the summer months, porgy anglers strive to get their lines to the bottom and then keep their baits relatively still as they await a bite. On these late-season trips that approach will likely find you re-baiting empty hooks every few minutes. With the action so intensified now, these soft mouthed scavengers become exceedingly aggressive and will generally have your bait in their lips before you can engage the spool. In other words, this is “lock-and-load” action. Wait for a bite and you’ve already missed your chance.
“The best porgy fishermen at this time of the year,” explains porgy expert Captain Dave Brennan of the open boat Peconic Star in Greenport,” engage their reels as the line strikes bottom and lift slowly expecting to already feel weight at the end of the line. If you feel a little something extra, or your line comes off the bottom feeling slightly sluggish, set the hook – you’ve got a porgy on already.”
A second tip that Brennan offers is to let your quarry struggle for several seconds near the bottom before you start cranking it toward the surface. When using the standard high-low porgy rig, this will allow enough time for a second fish to grab onto the free bait, resulting in a double-header catch.
One big advantage of fishing on an open boat is that you can also keep an eye on the veteran anglers to see what they are doing right. Notice, for example, how they lift rather than snap the rod when they get a bite. Most beginners are too quick to set the hook and they tend to set it too sharply.
IT’S OKAY TO BE SELECTIVE
Whether you fish shallow or deep, from shore, small boat or party boat, a standard two-hook tandem rig seems to work best for porgies on a day-in, day-out basis. On days when the fish prove picky, you might want to switch over to a hi-low rig. Place the low hook two to four inches above the sinker and the high hook no more than a foot above the low hook. Either way, expect to need 2- to 3-ounce sinkers in shallow water and 4, 6 or even 8 ounces in heavy currents or strong tides.
When it comes to baiting up, clam or squid both work fine this time of year. Just avoid overloading your hooks. A huge piece of clam provides these fish with an edge to pull at until it becomes a free meal. Use a single slice of clam or short strip of squid. Keep things simple and you’ll connect with ease.
From Brooklyn to Montauk and Orient Points, along the south and north shores, plus Peconic Bay, Gardiners Bay and Montauk, porgy season is already in full swing.