THE OFFSHORE LIFE IN ANY WATERS
April 3, 2018
As told by Captain Anthony Grassi of Fin Chaser Charters
New York City is an epicenter for arts, dining, fashion, and more. But what many people may not realize is that the city’s waterways offer first-class fishing. At Fin Chasers, we have the best time chartering trips with people from around the world – including top actors, TV personalities, and chefs – who return year after year. Why? Because you can catch a 50-pound striper off our Regulator under the Verrazano Bridge, then pose for a picture with the Statue of Liberty or the Big Apple skyline as your backdrop.
One of my favorite things about chartering in this area is when someone catches a huge striper, looks up at me and says “I can’t believe I’m in New York City. I had no idea!”
The Hudson River, on the west side of Manhattan, is one of the main spawning grounds for striped bass, which arrive early each spring, then head up the River. The Hudson is filled with structure, and fish love structure: bridge abutments, sunken cars, channel edges, dock pilings, and other man-made structures make great habitats for baitfish to thrive.
EPA restrictions and estuary repair on the water surrounding New York City have improved considerably since the 1970s – which means more fish for us! Striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, and false albacore are the top four gamefish available in and around New York City. There are also some other species including black sea bass, blackfish (tautog), and fluke (summer flounder).
Anglers come to us with all skill levels and interests, and fortunately our area lends itself to this – we fly fish, use light tackle/artificial lures, and baitfish. We’ve had everyone from seasoned fly guys to 10-year-old first-timers catch brag-worthy fish. When the line is out and the reel starts to scream…that’s when you see clients in full glory. I’ll never forget the time we looked up to notice United Nations delegates waving and cheering our clients on when they caught a big fish in the East River in front of the UN. Can’t get more New York than that!
Fin Chaser Charters is based on the southwest side of Staten Island, so Gravesend Bay is usually our first stop before heading under the Verrazano Bridge. We then stop around the Bay Ridge Flats, before moving on to the base of the Statue of Liberty, where you’ll find us anchored in 25-30 feet of water. The fish are often there two hours before and after the flood tide. In the fall, we often get more topwater action on the blitzes that occur in the harbor. Diamond Reef and the Gowanus Flats are also some of our go-to spots.
It’s crucial to know and understand the tides, as well as what lies beneath the water’s surface. Our electronics enable us save multiple tide buoy locations for easy reference so we can move around and stay in the zone. And the in-app charts help us find fish all while avoiding the hidden structure they thrive on. They also provide the most accurate navigational data and one-foot bathymetric contours.
Though the city’s fishery is doing great, we still prefer to release our fish unharmed. When fishing this area in the spring, live-lining large menhaden (bunker) or chunking cuts of fresh bunker is the often the trick, we use large circle hooks at least 9/0 or better. For areas that have fast moving current, it’s vital to have some heavier sinkers (8-16 ounces). A standard fish finder rig with a 3-5-foot, 40-50-pound fluorocarbon leader works well.
We also use Guides Secret Poppa Pencil Fishing Lures and Bottle Pops in yellow/white and chartreuse with a white belly. When fishing for bass you’ll always have bluefish activity as well. Make sure you either have a heavier mono leader or a small piece of wire. In the fall, having live eels drifting along the channel edges is a great way to get the bigger fish.
After a charter, the Fin Chaser team can often be found at the waterfront Grand Banks Restaurant with our clients. This seasonal oyster bar is on the deck the F/V Sherman Zwicker, which was hand-built in 1942, and is the last original saltbank fishing vessel in existence. Nationally-acclaimed Executive Chef Kerry Heffernan creates many dishes using sustainable resources. I recommend the ceviche and the lobster roll!
It’s important to keep in mind that, when fishing in New York City, there are only a few marinas that allow transient slips for day or overnight trips along Manhattan. So make sure you call for reservations. If you don’t have a boat or are in town visiting, let’s get you out on the water and take advantage of the world-class fishing the area has to offer! Our Regulator is packed with the best electronics and fishing equipment to make your experience memorable. See you on the water – and don’t forget your camera!