October is a magical month in the NY bight! The first thing anglers notice is that change in first light means sleeping later and fishing into the premature dark longer. The nights begin to chill, the day’s highs start in the 70’s and struggle to make the high 60’s by months end. The ocean, however, holds on to the summer heat a little bit longer. The first of the month sees water temps in the 70’s, then the 60’s are commonplace by Halloween. What all this really means is that the bleak of winter is coming and fish are on the MOVE. October boasts the largest migration of fish in the region. The summer-warmed waters are still holding summer residents, but they feel the temps dropping and are ready to migrate south to stay in the warm. Knowing this they strap on the feed bag and gorge themselves in preparation for the long trip. But that’s not all! The migratory fish that spent the summer in the colder waters of New England are also passing through this month on their way south to more temperate winter water temps. All setting the stage for NY/NJ anglers’ favorite month of the angling year!
Let’s examine the summer residents first. Inshore the bonito, false albacore, and Spanish mackerel are feeding all day, readying themselves for the trek south. Armed with a BV300 and some metal jigs, I doubt any angler would pass up a day of “Runnin and Gunnin” for these speed demons. This month they pop up feeding on small rainfish and spearing on the surface. Anglers in fast center consoles will chase these schools all day with countless casting opportunities and seemingly limitless hookups. The sheer speed and power of these fish make them incredibly addictive and just downright fun!
Further offshore, the triumphant return of the bluefin tuna is anticipated. Here anglers can troll, cast and chunk these fish as they invade the mid-shore range. Trolling wide tracker bars and daisy chains usually produce early morning and savvy anglers use the troll to find the concentration of fish and then go on the chunk. BV400’s and Tern 500’s are tailor made for this! Butterfish chunks, spearing and live peanut bunker are thrown in the slick as well as used as hook baits. Don’t skimp here, FLOUROCARBON leader is necessary! Once the fish are going in the slick, slow-pitch jigging can outproduce the bait sometimes 3 to 1. If you haven’t tried this method, your missing out!
Finally, the NE Canyons begin to light up (literally) while they have been pounded on the troll all summer for big eye’s and marlin with the occasional yellowfin, now is the time for the overnight chunk. These 18-24-hour trips to the edge of the continental shelf can be epic. With many nights the canyon wall looking more like city of lights than 70 miles offshore. The “Gold” (pun intended) standard of heavy 50 class reels is something of the past. Now armed with BV2-1000’s, anglers can drift back baits all night long and not have arm cramps. Yellowfin and longfin tuna begin to feed knowing they need to move with the warm water as well. So, they feed all night on squid and mackerel, as well chunks of butterfish and sardine. But the tuna are not the only player on stage every night. October is the best swordfish month we get in this area. The cover of dark brings the gladiators of the deep up into range. A well-placed rigged squid just above the thermocline connected on the other end to an ATD-50 is damn near a sure bet!
Finally, the star of the inshore begins to make its way into our waters in October. Marone Saxatilis, the striped bass, makes its return to our waters, albeit passing through. Arguably the most popular fish of the NY/NJ area, more anglers target these fish in October than any other fish, period. The means in which to catch these fish run the typical gamut, trolling, jigging etc. However, most would agree that livelining an adult bunker (menhaden, pogie) for mammoth stripers is about as exciting as fishing can get. Bunker are in tremendous numbers this month in the region. They have had all summer to build up the fat and oil reserves and they are primed to feed the masses. Anglers will either throw large cast nets and fill livewells with them or will opt to cast weighted treble hooks and snag them. Either way a live menhaden is like a snickers bar to every striped bass out there. A BV300 is perfect as perfect gets for this fishery. Then throw in the masses of 10-15-pound bluefish and you begin to understand why October is truly the angler’s favorite month in the area.
If you have never fished here now is the time! Book a charter, jump on a head boat or hit the beach. No matter how you do it, October is the month to do i,t so get to it as there are only 31 days to enjoy it!
By Darren Dorris