Singing the Goodbye Blues

Baitfish — along with the striped bass and bluefish that pursue them — are exiting the comfort of the bay and beginning their dangerous migration south to warmer seas
William Feigelman caught these blackfish around Valiant Rock last Thursday.

My plan was to take advantage of the warm day with light southwest winds and head toward Montauk Point, where striped bass were attacking bait on the surface, according to reports. I had been looking forward to a day of casting at bass blitzes for weeks if not months. But an unexpected late start forced me to reconsider the value of making the 16-mile trip from my dock in Three Mile Harbor. 

With just a few hours to play with, I decided to shift my focus from an all-out fishing assault to simply a great day on the water. I slowly motored over to the rip between Bostwick Point and the Ruins, taking deep breaths of delicious salt air, admiring the special beauty of Gardiner’s Island under a fall sun, and lamenting to myself that this could possibly be my last trip of the season.

The water temperature was barely above 55 degrees, according to my Garmin, having fallen several degrees in just the last few days. The cocktail blues that were ripping schools of baitfish for weeks outside Three Mile Harbor were gone. They were the cherry-on-top for anglers looking for one more sweet tussle before rods had to be stowed for the day.

This time of year one can usually find small bass and large bluefish holding in the rip. However, there were no terns diving at bait in the rip’s choppy water, which certainly was disappointing but not discouraging. Perhaps all the birds were following the two draggers I noticed slowly moving across the horizon several miles north. 

Like most fishermen, I have a gazillion lures in my tackle bag but use just a select few. I’m inclined toward Deadly Dick tins, Creek Chub and Yozuri poppers, rubber Storm WildEye shads, Hogy softbaits, and, of course, bucktails. But my go-to lure when fishing the rip is an 18-inch fluorescent red tube lure, which I made a couple years ago from materials purchased from jannsnetcraft.com, a lure-making and rod-building products supplier. 

I troll the soft and flexible latex tube about 125 feet or so behind my boat at about 3 miles per hour. The tube sashays back and forth like a lanky runway model. If there are fish in the area they will punish the tube as it travels across the rip break. Monster bluefish in particular find the tube’s action provocative and irresistible. However, on this glorious November day the tube went unmolested, as did the offerings from other boats crisscrossing the roiled water.

After about 45 minutes of unproductive trolling I aimed my boat toward Eastern Plains Point. From a distance I could see violent splashes. I slammed the twin throttles forward and the boat sped toward ultimate disappointment. The splashes were caused not by fish but by the fluttering wings of hundreds of sea ducks nervously moving from one spot to the next. Every year around this time I get fooled by these winged devils. Maybe Harvey Bennett is right: I should learn to hunt coot, if that’s what they were.

I moved around the bay here and there looking for fish and found none. I scanned toward Fort Pond and Montauk Harbor with binoculars and observed no signs of fish. I returned to the rip for an hour and again found no luck. 

Maybe it’s the chilling water. Maybe it’s the shortening days. Regardless of the reason, baitfish — along with the striped bass and bluefish that pursue them — are exiting the comfort of the bay and beginning their dangerous migration south to warmer seas. The cycle that began who knows how many thousands of years ago continues. I wish them godspeed and look forward to their return in a mere five months.

Blackfishing continues to be a slam dunk locally and around Fishers Island. Find rocks. Anchor boat. Drop crab. Catch fish. Professor William Feigelman and a friend followed these simple steps around Valiant Rock and were rewarded with fish up to six pounds on their last trip of the season. Anglers looking to fill a cooler with sea bass and porgies will find cooperative fish in the waters surrounding Block Island, according to Viking Fleet reports.

There are reports of albies, stripers, and blues on the Sound side of Orient Point and west, but the cold weather can end that action quickly. Striped bass and albie fishing remains active off Rhode Island beaches, so additional bodies of fish should be coming our way. 

Schools of juvenile and adult bunker are now slowly cruising west along ocean beaches. Big bluefish and largely smaller stripers are harassing them along the way. Several surf anglers were observed enjoying fine action, mostly bluefish, east of Two Mile Hollow Beach in East Hampton. When bunker schools roam within casting distance surfcasters have been greeted by tight lines from Montauk to Southampton. Hither Hills in particular has been a sweet spot. At this time surf fishing is mostly opportunistic rather than full-tilt. An onshore wind and a high tide seem to be the recipe for success lately. 

There are no reported changes to the Montauk SurfMasters tourney leaderboard.  

Hunters can find the final 2016-17 waterfowl season and zone information online at dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28888.html.  

Local hunting is underway on town and some state lands, so hikers and dog walkers should pay attention to posted notices about such activity. 

 


The Star’s fishing columnist can be followed on Twitter, @ehstarfishing. Photos of prize catches can be emailed to David Kuperschmid at fishreport@ ehstar.com.

A 25-pound striper was Randy Thomas’s reward for fishing at Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett on Sunday. Harvey Bennett