Jamaica Bay for Cocktail Bluefish
By Paul Rudolph
Located on the extreme western south shore of Long
Island, Jamaica Bay is known for its winter flounder in the spring and
its weakfish in the summer and early fall. What is not generally known
is that its fishing for cocktail bluefish can be fantastic throughout
the summer and fall.
There has been a nice run of fish over the past
couple of seasons. While the lion's share of the action has been from
boats, there were times when fly rodders had the fighters right in front
of them on the shoreline.
If you're fishing off a boat or from the shoreline,
the best all-around fly rod for cocktail blues is a 9-weight. It gives
you some backbone in case you tangle with a bigger bluefish, and it also
makes it easier to combat the wind. If you are on a boat, you can step
down to a lighter fly rod, even as low as a 5-weight which I've used occasionally.
Full fly line or Shooting Head, the best sink rate to use is an Intermediate.
This gives you the option to work both surface and subsurface patterns.
All of the standard saltwater patterns, such as
Deceivers and epoxy flies, work to catch these fish, but the most consistent
producer is the Clouser. An olive/white 2/0 Clouser can be deadly on bluefish.
There are also times when a white popper is effective.
Please note that when you are targeting these fish.
you should have a selection of patterns already rigged with wire tippets.
Bluefish can do a number on monofilament, and even a heavy shock tippet
may not be enough.
The only disadvantage of using wire is it minimizes
the possibility of catching any wary striped bass or a weakfish that might
also be in the area. In order to prevent this problem, I fish with a monofilament
tippet until I lose a pattern or two to the choppers, then I switch to
wire. However, you still run the risk of losing a fly even after making
the switch. I had one blue on while I watched another trying to bite the
fly out right out of the fish's mouth.
In general, bluefish can show up anywhere, at anytime,
and start to feed. There is no telling exactly where they will be on any
particular day. There are times when Jamaica Bay's blues are like that,
but they also make their rounds with some degree of predictability.
I have found that the fish show up consistently
during the last two hours of high tide, usually in the back of the bay
in the Silver Hole area. I have also found that they feed around the Cross
Bay Bridge and where the A Train Bridge crosses the bay. There are some
really nice rip lines that form there, causing causes baitfish to become
confused and disorientated. The bluefish are usually waiting in the rips
to take advantage of the situation.
After the tide floods, I have found that the fish
often show up slightly west of the Silver Hole area off the northwest
corner of Barren Island. This is called Raptor Point. When the tide starts
dropping, the fish move around the island and pop up off another point
on the southwest corner of Barren Island where there is a beautiful rip.
The rip sets up an ambush for the bluefish to feed on baitfish coming
out of the bay. When the tide just about bottoms out, it is worth it to
take a ride and see if there is any action at the mouth of Jamaica Bay
around the Breezy Point jetty.
It may seem as if bluefish aren't afraid of anything,
but that's not necessarily the case. When you locate a school of bluefish,
you want to be sure not to spook them by roaring in with a loud boat engine.
I suggest you get ahead of a school of feeding fish, turn off your motor,
and drift through the school of feeding fish, silently.
When you don't have any luck on the main Jamaica
Bay bluefish spots, stop and look in the creeks. Sometimes the bluefish
will trap baitfish in these creeks and you can have some great action.
The last tip is to get out early in the morning.
You want to be first on the water so you don't have to compete with other
boats that may eventually scatter the schools.
If you don't own a boat, you're not out of luck.
Fortunately, Smitty's Fishing Station is there to outfit you with a small
skiff and motor at a very reasonable price. These boats give you access
to all of the spots I've mentioned. For more information, contact Smitty's
Flyrodding the shoreline is more of challenge,
but it's definitely worth the effort. In order to gain the most access,
you will need to obtain a Gateway National Recreation Park-wide Fishing
Permit. Call 718-318-4300 for all of the information. This permit will
allow you access to fish on Barren Island, where Floyd Bennett Field is
located, and the federal-owned land around Breezy Point. I have fished
these waters since I was a child and have found some highly likely bluefish
Starting with the last two hours of the incoming
water, the first spot to try is Barren Island where Floyd Bennett Field
is located. I suggest you fish at the boat ramp located to the left of
the Marine Parkway Bridge. I've always have some type of success whenever
I've hit this spot.
After the tide starts to drop, walk back towards
the bridge and all the way to your right to the southwest corner of Barren
Island. You'll soon come to a point with that beautiful rip I mentioned
earlier. This a consistent bluefish spot for shore anglers as well.
When you reach the half-way point of the dropping
tide, the next spot I suggest is the bay side of Breezy Point. In order
to fish this area, you will need to cross over the Marine Parkway Bridge.
To fish this area, you'll have to park at the Beach 222nd St. parking
lot, walk to the bay, and work your way left. This spot gives you an excellent
chance to catch a mixed bag of bluefish and striped bass.
Over the past couple of seasons I have taken the
time to tag some of the bluefish that I've caught. It's an easy and worthwhile
process. Most anglers think the American Littoral Society is interested
only in tagging stripers, but that's not the case at all. Bluefish, fluke,
and other species also fall under the littoral banner. If you're interested
in participating in the tagging program, contact the American Littoral
Society, Highlands, NJ (908-291-0055).