On the Water: Moons, Memories, Knotheads

Peter Russotti caught this gorilla bluefish in Gardiner’s Bay on eight-pound test line. Capt. Ken Rafferty

    Lake Montauk is full of beautiful moon jellyfish, transparent disks of about five inches in diameter. Four pinkish rings are visible within the transparent bell of Aurelia aurita. The jellies do not swim, beyond flexing their bells to produce an upward thrust. Mostly, they are carried by the tide.
    They eat tiny mollusks, crustaceans, and copepods and are, in turn, eaten by sea turtles. Despite a sting that is minor compared to that of the lion’s mane and the Portuguese man-of-war, they are fed upon by larger fish as well. If recent findings regarding jellyfish protein are true, sea turtles should have elephantine memories.
    Jellyfish protein was the hot topic at an international conference on Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of age-related dementia held in Paris last month. Sophisticated experiments showed a marked improvement in memory in those treated with jellyfish protein. Moon jellies are also bioluminescent. They glow in the dark like pleasant memories.
    Memories of catching striped bass from the beach are what casters have been left with during the current dog days. Except for a few successful nighttime forays, surfcasters have been casting blanks, according to Paul Apostolides of Paulie’s Tackle shop in Montauk. Same with bluefish.
    Meanwhile, the action on the bay side has been steady, especially in the porgie and fluke departments. Big striped bass are haunting Cedar Point, and a school of green bonito was spotted off Goff Point over the weekend. Spanish mackerel and green bonito are migratory pelagic species of the tuna kind. They usually show up in local waters a few weeks ahead of their false albacore cousins.
    Both are worth keeping an eye peeled for because, unlike falsies, Spanish mackerel and greenies are delicious table fare. A little olive oil, a little soy sauce, herbs from the garden, a grill, a bottle of wine, and whoever thee is.
    Chris Miller of the West Lake Marina in Montauk said tuna fishing was spotty: “a few yellowfin out in the Tails section of Block Canyon and West Atlantis Canyon, a lot of small fish.”
    Miller said there were very few caught in the 40-to-50-pound range. “I had one customer fishing in 50 fathoms who got a keeper yellowfin and a keeper bluefin.”
    “Spectacular fluking for the past week,” Miller said. “All up and down the south side of Montauk in 40 feet of water.” Miller reported that Gary (Toad) Stevens brought back an 11-pound doormat on Saturday. His fishing buddies returned with a 9 and a 7-pounder.
    And, he reported, “a lot of nice sea bass, with more in shallow waters than I’ve ever seen before. When I started diving it was rare to see sea bass big enough to shoot. Now you see big blue knothead sea bass, and they have become a spearfishing target.”
    Speaking of bigger things in shallow water, Chris Goodman, who likes to swim at Wiborg’s Beach in East Hampton, reported seeing very large rays with wingspans of over six feet.
    Boaters have been doing well in the rips around Montauk Point using eels to catch striped bass. Chris Miller had a suggestion. “There’s plenty of sea bass in 30 feet of water. When you’re in the rips fishing for striped bass and the tide slacks, switch to clams and a bottom rig.”
    When you’re not a surfcaster and not a boater, you may be working the ocean between beach and blue water aboard your kayak. Eric (E.J.) Johnson paddled off Ditch Plain, Montauk, at about 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, made a few casts, and hooked a nice striper. It looked legal size (at least 28 inches) but Johnson did not have the minimum size marked on his rod or kayak, so he released it, much to his wife’s dismay.
    From shore she had seen the rod bend. She watched her husband battle the bass. By the time her husband let it go, Bridget LeRoy had the fish filleted, spiced, and cooking in her head for dinner. Can you say Mrs. Paul’s?
    In answer to the recent upsurge in spearfishing’s popularity, Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett built himself a “Bonac Hawaiian sling.”
    It’s made from a few lengths of surgical tubing — “I have it in the shop for umbrella rigs” — a footlong section of P.V.C. pipe — “I mooched off a pool guy” — two P.V.C. end caps for the pipe section — “$7 at the hardware store; they were the most expensive parts” — and for a spear, “one of those rods you stick at the end of your driveway to mark your lawn in case you have a lot of snow. My neighbors thought I was making a pipe bomb.”

    One can only imagine the humiliation a fish must feel when skewered by one of those rods you stick at the end of your driveway to mark your lawn in case you have a lot of snow. Yes, yes.