The Montauk SurfMasters spring shoot-out tournament will begin at one minute after midnight tonight, or tomorrow morning, however you want to think of it. And, according to the few surfcasters who have already ventured to their favorite haunts, striped bass are schooling and ready to be caught.
Bill Gardiner took his surf rod to a secret spot somewhere in Montauk in the dark over the weekend where he found lively action with a few nice fish in the teens.
There has been a change in the tournament’s official weigh stations. This season, the Star Island Yacht Club and the West Lake Marina off West Lake Drive will do the weighing. For those not yet signed up, applications can be found at both weigh stations. They must be returned to committee members or to Gaviola’s Market no later than 7 this evening.
Scott Leonard at the Star Island Yacht Club reported a big change for the better on Sunday in the fluke-fishing department. “You had to work for it, but it picked up in one day, mostly off the south side of Montauk — the Radar Tower and Frisbees. The biggest we weighed was 10 pounds.”
Leonard also had good striped bass news. “There’s a tremendous amount of bass up to 25 pounds,” he said, adding that the stripers were responding to jigs, as were the bluefish, and weakfish mixed in. The tiderunners — weakfish are known by a variety of handles including tiderunner, squeteague, and sea trout — were also being found off Gardiner’s Island and were also attracted by diamond jigs, “anything with a white tube.”
Weaks are truly beautiful fish. When the fish are first caught, electric rainbow colors swirl on the surface against a spotted silver gray, even lavender, background and yellow-tipped fins. They make for delicious eating.
Fly fishermen might want to boat over and take a look. Ken Rafferty, a light-tackle and fly-fishing guide who runs out of Three Mile Harbor this time of year, said flies that match the tiderunners yellow pectoral fins do the trick.
“We discovered 25 or 30 years ago they feed on the surface at night and when they get into the bait, they slap their tails on the surface to stun them, then spin around and eat the prey. We’d be casting and catching by the tail because they were slapping at our lures.”
Rafferty said a few trips west from Three Mile Harbor to Nassau Point near Robins Island found bluefish in the 5-to-7-pound class “busting everywhere,” and striped bass up to 12 pounds.
The Lazy Bones party boat reported good fluking both Saturday, when a 9-pounder was caught, and Sunday, which produced a 9.8-pound fluke. Both fish were caught during the Bone’s morning go-out. The fluke being caught are said to be fat, most likely because the mild winter lured plenty of prey species to these parts early. The Lazy Bones sails two trips per day, from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m.
Chris Miller of West Lake Marina said on Saturday that Paul Giangreco Jr., his wife, Claire, and sons, Paul and Johnny, were fluking off the Radar Tower in Montauk aboard their Sea Horse. They caught eight keeper fluke (over 19.5 inches long) up to 8.1 pounds. The bag limit is four per person per day.
Miller also reported that Gary (Toad) Stephens and friends took to the sea after fluke. Toad angled an 8.9-pounder, John Denice, a 7.9-pounder.