January Fishing Forecast 2020
January is traditionally a time for making rounds at sportsmens' shows, acquiring, fixing and sorting tackle, or even sitting by the fire with a good fishing book. All this is fine if you have the patience for it. Some of us, however, would rather rush the new season and get right on the fish. Despite ever-tightening regulations that have taken both Black Sea Bass and Blackfish off the winter menu i recent years, there are some decent possibilities if you feel so inclined.
Codfishing is the obvious first choice, of course. This year's run seems to be off to a decent start with a fair number of market-sized fish already reported on party and charter excursions out of Montauk, Shinnecock, Moriches, Captree, Freeport and Point Lookout. Some winters the Cod bite lasts right into April but other years the season is front-loaded with action-so it makes sense to get out sooner rather than later if some tasty baccala is in your plans.
As a rule, boats fishing to the west of Moriches Inlet tend towards wreck fishing while those to the east- especially Montauk- work ledges, humps and even open bottom. The Montauk action tends to be most consistent over the course of the winter, but heading into the New Year, the better reports so far have been coming from 40- to 60-foot depths within easy reach of Jones, Fire Island and Moriches Inlets. Mixed into the catches have been Ling, some Pollack, plus a surprising number Haddock as well.
In case you haven't heard, cod fisherman are a special breed that think nothing (at least out loud!) of fishing in sub- or near freezing temperatures. What they do care about is fishing on days that feature calm seas. In fact, being selective about when you sail is the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to putting together a quality catch of keepers. Mild winters are more important than sunshine or warm temperatures because old cows lurking around wrecks generally like their baits to remain still on the bottom and breezy conditions can put a little too much bounce in the line once seas kick up. Check the weather before you head out and make sure the winds will be less than 15 knots or so if you have the ability to pick and choose your days offshore. Stiffer winds tend to take the bite out of the catches.
Skimmer clam is the universal bait for cod that aren't actively chasing baitfish schools. For this fishing, you'll do well to set up with a high-low cod rig and 6-16 ounce sinker depending on water depth and current speed. Using smaller pieces of skimmer on each hook rather than piling on several big globs of clam, run the point through the tough lip section then wrap the soft belly around the shaft. Anchor the bait on the hook by impaling a piece of the long stringy edge that encircles the clam, being sure to leave two inches or more of this piece dangling from the hook to flutter enticingly in the current.
When cod are stacked under sand eels or, more likely, herring , diamond jigging can be an exciting way to work them up. Depending on water depth and current strength, a 4- to 12 ounce jig , either plain or with a white, green or red tube tail, usually gets the job done. Tie in a white or chartreuse Berkley Gulp Saltwater 6.5" Memesis, Berkley Gulp Saltwater Jigging Grub or a 4- to 6-inch Got-cha Curly Tail Grub 20 inches above the jig and you're set to go. The key with jigging cod is to keep your lure close to the bottom and use a medium to slow retrieve. Be aware, however, that cod, haddock and pollack that are focused on baitfish schools will come off the bottom at times, so give the mid-depths a check every now and then.
As for tackle, if you haven't made the jump to braided lines, newer style rods and today's more powerful, super smooth reels, now's the time to do it. Fishing lighter but stronger outfits allow anglers to keep better contact with baits and lures, reach the bottom with lighter weights, feel the slightest pick-up, and quickly yank big fish out of the danger zone around wrecks and rough bottom. If you are thinking of stepping up your gear, stop in and let us match you with the latest and greatest setups.
As we went to press, several Long Island open boats were expecting tho chase cod this January. From west to east, the Super Hawk, Capt. Lou Fleet, Captree Princess, Laura Lee, Hampton Lady, King Cod, Miss Montauk and Viking Fleet all had plans to prospect. Of course, schedules are subject to change this time of year, be sure to call ahead and confirm departure dates and times.
If offshore fishing isn't in the cards, there are always tidal options fro January anglers to consider. Now is a great time for tempting tidal trout at Bubble falls on the Connetquot river, White's Pool on the Nissequogue River and around the Sunrise and Montauk highway overpasses on the Carmens River. White Perch may be available at these locations to in addition to several east end tidal discharges.
Herring are yet another option, and like tidal trout, you don't need a boat to reach them. Just pick up a couple of Herring rigs and head for the popular hot spots like Captree, Jones Beach, Magnolia (Long Beach) and Cedar Beach (Mt. Sinai) piers. The Shinnecock Canal and Ponquogue Piers, right here by the shop, are another possibility.
If you plan to pursue your quarry in warmer climates give us a call. Our staff has had the good fortune to travel the world chasing all manner of species.
-The White Water Outfitters Staff
- White Water Outfitters Admin