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On the Water: Scratching Out a Catch

Thu, 04/20/2023 - 10:42
Jon M. Diat’s recent catch of lobsters may not have measured up to that of past years, but it was enough to share with friends and family.
Raymond Sperling

Sunday morning dawned chilly, damp, and foggy. It was a far cry from the previous three days when the temperatures soared well into the 80s alongside bright, unfiltered sunshine. Summer had made a premature but welcome appearance.

Various weather stations on Long Island and nearby environs recorded historic highs that made April feel much like the dog days of summer. I searched for my sunscreen.

Given the outlandish outburst of warmth, I even witnessed two bathers taking a swim at Long Beach in Noyac Bay. With the water temperature still hovering in the upper 40s, I give full kudos to those who donned their swimsuits for what was still a very chilly dip.

After dropping my baited lobster traps into the water the first week of April, I patiently waited a week to see how many had crawled in via the two twine-net entrances. Despite the lack of any other gear in the area, I was still seriously skeptical of a bountiful catch. Sadly, I’ve seen a decrease in my landings over the past five years.

Last Monday was my first venture out to check the traps. The catch was good, about 18 keepers, but it was well off the numbers of years gone by. Still, there was more than enough to share with friends and family.

Returning again to my gear on the murky Sunday, I approached the first buoy on my starboard side. I still had high hopes. Latching on to the buoy with my boat hook, I quickly retrieved the trap that was resting in about 30 feet of water. In it, besides a half-dozen spider crabs, was a rather spry lobster that was easily a keeper.

It took about an hour to check and rebait the traps. Some were empty, but most had at least one lobster, and the last contained four hard-shelled keepers.

I had a handful of undersize lobsters that were released, but I saw only one female laden with eggs. Unfortunately, she was also riddled with shell rot, an epizootic disease that affects the outer shell of the lobster. Thankfully all of the other lobsters I saw were healthy and clean.

Over all, it was a decent catch. It was not as productive as my first outing, but again it’s not always about how many you catch.

Elsewhere, the warming rays of the sun have also begun to perk up the local fishing scene, with holdover striped bass making the biggest noise in recent days. The action in the back harbors and coves has been increasingly cooperative for those who wet a casted line.

“There are some stripers in Sag Harbor Cove,” reported Ken Morse, the longtime proprietor of Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor. “Chris Duryea caught one on Saturday that was covered in sea lice, which many believe points to a fish that is migratory and not a holdover, so that’s a good sign that the bass are moving in.”

Morse also heard of some early arriving weakfish that have been taken in local pound traps in the bays. As for blackfish, the season is open for April, but he had not heard of any hook-and-line catches.

“I did hear of a report of some divers spearing some nice-sized blackfish off the Greenport breakwater, so obviously there are some around,” he added. Tight Lines is open every day except Thursday through Monday.

Farther west, the striped bass reports are beginning to come in. “Some are holdovers, but some migrating fish have made it to our areas,” said Scott Jeffrey at East End Bait and Tackle in Hampton Bays. “Some are up to 30 inches and soft plastics or bucktails will do the job.” Jeffrey has also heard of some weakfish being landed too.

Closer to home, Capt. Harvey Bennett, the former owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, also confirmed that striped bass are moving in, and “the fishing is only going to get better with each passing day.”


Fishing tips, observations, and photographs can be sent to [email protected].


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