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Sheepshead Bay Stripers
By Rich Johnson

Capt. George Aswad eased our fishing platform from her slip last season in Sheepshead Bay as a gentle fall night lay before us with great anticipation of some striper action. The evening greeted us with barely a breeze, a half moon over the water and gentle temperatures for this time of season. My TV crew and I joined a dozen or so other anxious anglers for a night bass trip to Rockaway Inlet aboard the Sea Queen IV all with the hope of setting the hook into a big linesider. Striper fishing had been spotty the previous few nights, but in the fall you never know what’s going to happen. It's with this thought; anglers across the Courier Life & Bay News area eagerly jump aboard their favorite party boat or their own boats to get in on this great fall bass fishing

Most striper fanatics will be drifting eels in hope of cow bass, which is what we were using for bait aboard the Sea Queen IV. Capt. George says the three best baits for bass are eels, eels and sandworms, but in the fall the larger fish do come on the eels. Inlets such as Rockaway, Jones, Deb's and Fire Island can have some very productive nights this time of year and bass can be caught day or night in all of them using eels.

TACKLE. When fishing eels, I prefer six to 7-foot conventional rods, stout in nature. I know some anglers use 30 to 80-pound stand up rods, heavy-duty conventional reels spooled with 50-pound test and just yank bass in when they hook up. I don't go quite that heavy, but I’m not too far off either. I use my Abu-Garcia Ambassadeur 7000 spooled with my favorite line, Berkley Big Game, in 25, 30 or 40-pound test. As for hooks, go with small, short shank tuna hooks in sizes' 3/0, 4/0 or the Daiichi D18Z hooks in 6/0 or 7/0. I snell all my hooks ahead of time to a three or six-foot piece of 50-pound test mono. Mono is softer and I believe, gives a more natural presentation. You’ll also want to snell a few in five or six-foot lengths for those times when the current is running hard.

RIGGING. You have a choice of going with a three-way swivel or a loop system. With a three way swivel, connect a 10-inch piece of 10 or 15 pound test mono for your sinker. This allows you to pull out of snags, keeping your leader & hook, or better yet a fish. Of course, the leader with baited eel goes to one end of the swivel and the other to your running line. If using the dropper loop method, tie the dropper loop the same distance from your sinker loop, but use 40-pound test for your running line, so it will with stand the wear & tear of this set up. You can also use fish finder rigs, which is what Capt. George and his mates used on this evening’s trip with good results. This allows you to float the eels out behind the sinker, sometimes up to 100 feet, getting the eels out of the glare of the lights of the party boat.

BAIT. I use larger eels in 12 to 16-inch sizes and dark or black eels I feel work best. I don’t like "shoe string" eels. They bring too many small fish, including skates and small bluefish. If I’m going to lose sleep bass fishing, I want to make it worth while. When storing eels keep them in a black container so they’ll retain their pigmentation. Use burlap bags, or a piece of fine grain sandpaper to grip the eels before you hook them through the chin and out an eye socket. If a bass hits your eel, or you’ve caught a bass and your eel remains on the line, use it again. Bass have a knack of hitting eels that have been previously attacked. I’ve caught as many as four or five bass on a single eel!

OUTGOING TIDES. This tide is the best possible time to fish these inlets and the reason why Capt. George and the Sea Queen schedule their trips on the outgoing tides no matter what time it is. One week the boat may sail at 6 or 7 p.m. and the next at 11 p.m. or at midnight. Each trip is a full tide (6 hours) or more to put his customers on the best possible striper action.

If on your own boat, these ar3 the prime tides, but if you have work and family consideration you can fish the incoming tides if the timing is not perfect for you. It’s just that the outgoing is the preferred tide. On our trip this evening we started at 6 p.m., which put us on the last three hours of the outgoing and the first three of the incoming and fish were biting on both! Drifting through Rockaway inlet with the Manhattan skyline behind is an awe-inspiring sight.

RESULTS. Not a bad night by any means even though I did not catch a fish on last season’s trip, but several others did and the fish were large with the pool winner over 20 pounds. Some of the trips so far this 2000 season have seen fish to 29 pounds with a couple of dozen keeper bass (over 28 inches) per trip and sometimes over 50 to 60 shorts as well. Whether you fish on your own fishing platform or jump aboard one of the party boats of the Sheepshead Bay area or wherever you choose, fall bass fishing is here! If you feel uneasy about night fishing, then by all means get on a party boat. Check you local captain and see what his boat’s schedule is or tune into my radio show each week for their reports or sailing times and remember all this info is on my website at as well. Either by day or by night your trophy bass awaits you.

SHEEPSHEAD BAY SCHEDULES. Other boats in Sheepshead Bay or Gerritsen Beach may be fall bass fishing either with eels or diamond jigging along the open beaches. You’ll want to call the Flamingo III 718-763-8745. These boats are keen into the bass game for the fall and you’ll be glad you did.


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