Let the Fall Contests Begin

The fall fishing patterns, especially for striped bass, have been significantly altered
On a recent busman’s holiday on the Captain Ron, Capt. Michael Albronda of the charter boat Montauk landed a nice mahimahi on an offshore trip. Capt. Ron Onorato

For those with a competitive spirit, the fall season is prime time in Montauk to take part in a number of fishing contests, especially if you are one to ply your skills from the beach. How the surf fishing will be for the next few months is very hard to predict, but ever since Superstorm Sandy hit the New York area nearly five years ago, the fall fishing patterns, especially for striped bass, have been significantly altered as the fish have consistently bypassed the Montauk area by the time we reach the middle of October. The much sought-after stripers did not disappear, but rather, they have decided to set up feeding on large schools of baitfish and bunker well to the west of Montauk. Boats and casters out of Shinnecock, Captree, and all the way to the New York Bight, have witnessed their fortunes turn for the better the past few years with excellent action going well past Thanksgiving, while Montauk remained unusually quiet with very few bass caught.

The uncertainty of what this fall will bring continues with the recent spell of strong winds and long-period swells that were the result of several hurricanes traveling off to the east of our shoreline. We hope that with the passing of Hurricane Maria this week, things will return to normal and we’ll have a better sense of what the next two months or so will bring. Fingers crossed. 

That said, the first major contest of the fall season took place this past weekend in Montauk. Sponsored by Long Island state parks and The Fisherman magazine, the Montauk Surf Fishing Classic witnessed a large turnout of casters but rather slow fishing. “Fishing was a bit tough despite the great, warm weather,” said Paul Aspostolides, owner of Paulie’s Tackle Shop in downtown Montauk. The largest bass landed, a 28-pound fish, was by German Caceres, while the top bluefish, taken by Tony (Two Plug) Crisostomo, came in at 14 pounds. Apostolides felt that the action from the beach should pick up this weekend with some cooler temperatures backed by a northeast wind. 

As for other events, the Montauk SurfMasters Fall classic got underway on Sept. 15 and will conclude on Nov. 25. The popular, 10-week tournament has five divisions: adult wader, wetsuit, women, youth (12 to 17), and kids (7 to 11). This fall, the contest for the first time will have a catch-and-release division open to all adults (wader, wetsuit, and women). Non-cash prizes will be awarded to the top three spots for catch-and-release. Applications and weigh-ins are at Paulie’s Tackle Shop. For more information, check out montauksurfmasters.com. 

Also at Paulie’s Tackle Shop, Apostolides will once again conduct his annual striped bass surf contest this weekend starting tomorrow. The entry fee is $25 and you can sign up at the shop. 

Boaters, too, will have their chance to get involved in a tournament. Over Columbus Day weekend, the Star Island Yacht Club will hold its eighth annual striped bass and bluefish tournament on Oct. 8. A captains meeting will be held on Saturday evening prior to the day of fishing. Categories are divided for both recreational and charter boats. More details are available at 631-668-5052.

Beyond the tourney game, action started to improve for those fishing from a boat as the northerly breezes diminished. “We got blown out for several days last week with the wind, but by the weekend, the conditions were much improved and the stripers showed up in good numbers at the Point,” said Capt. Michael Potts of the Montauk charter boat Bluefin IV. “And we did well with sea bass in New York waters too.” Despite the good action, Potts has put down the fishing rod and embarked on a two-week trip to the Greek Islands. “So beautiful there, and the food, especially the seafood, is so fresh and good,” he said before departing on Tuesday. “The fish prices are cheap too, but the fresh octopus is actually very expensive.” 

Over at the Lazy Bones, the half-day boat starting diamond jigging on Sunday after the week of windy weather, and was rewarded with excellent striped bass action. “We caught more keeper bass on our first two days than we did all of last fall,” said Capt. Michael Vegessi. “Let’s hope it continues.” 

“As the winds dropped off, fishing for snappers, porgies, and blowfish has been very good the past few days,” said Sebastian Gorgone, the owner of Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton. “I also heard some rumors of some weakfish being caught outside Three Mile Harbor, too.” The weakfish bite continues to stay strong in Noyac Bay as evidenced by several nice-size fish taken by David Sherwood and his wife, Michelle, of North Haven on Sunday afternoon. Dinner was delicious, he reported on Monday morning. 

“Striped bass and bluefish are around, but the recent rough surf has kept angler participation on the low side of late,” said Harvey Bennett, proprietor of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, who is also having a special sale on select clam rakes. “And false albacore fishing continues to be the best I’ve seen in a number of years. Deadly Dicks have been the hot lure of late to catch them,” he said. Bennett also confirmed the great snapper, blowfish, and porgy action in Three Mile Harbor, as well as good sea bass catches coming from the east side of Gardiner’s Island.  

A side note on sea bass: Despite an overabundance of the tasty and popular fish just about everywhere, fishermen who enjoy dropping a line in federal waters (more than three miles offshore) as well in the waters of Rhode Island should note that the sea bass fishery closed on Friday and will not reopen until Oct. 22. 

While sea bass remain fair game in New York State waters within three miles of shore, the closure of the other grounds will put a temporary crimp in plans for those in the pursuit of larger sea bass as they migrate offshore to deeper waters for the winter. Popular spots like the Appletree Grounds south of Block Island, as well as the new wind farm nearby, are off limits. These areas have historically been very popular for charter and party boat captains this time of the year, as a nice mix of codfish could also be found with the sea bass. And from what I’ve heard over the past few weeks, there has been plenty of law enforcement action by Rhode Island and New York State marine conservation officers on the water in many areas off Montauk and Block Island looking for a variety of fish infractions. You have been duly warned. 

We welcome your fishing tips, observations, and photographs at fish@ehstar.com. You can find the “On the Water” column on Twitter at @ehstarfishing.