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On the Water: Head East for Fish

Wed, 08/16/2023 - 18:01
Before they head off together to Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts in a couple of weeks, Katie and Emily Bruno caught these yellowfin tuna with their father, Paul Bruno, who operates the charter boat Elizabeth II out of Montauk.
Capt. Paul Bruno

“Go west, young man,” the 1885 phrase often credited to the author and newspaper editor Horace Greeley of The New-York Tribune, refers to the United States expansion to the westward. For anglers on the East End, the opposite is true: The direction you want to go during the August heat is east. With inner bay waters hovering around 80 degrees in many areas, the fishing is better in Montauk and beyond.

“That’s normal for this time of year,” said Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor. “Whether it’s striped bass, bluefish, fluke, porgies, sea bass, or tuna, the fish now prefer to be in cooler, deeper waters.”

Morse noted that buoy 16 in Noyac Bay still holds some weakfish and Jessup’s Neck has a few small bluefish in the rip.

That said, last Thursday evening while lounging on our patio overlooking Shelter Island Sound on the east side of North Haven, I witnessed something very peculiar: about 15 yards off our beach a seal swam by.

I did a double take and blinked several times to make sure I saw what I saw. Despite the almost bathtub-like water temperature, the seal appeared to be healthy and happy as it slowly swam down the beach to the north.

When I shared this with Morse, he was not as surprised as I was.

“I mean, it’s obvious that seals really should not be in 80-degree water,” he said. “But the seal population has exploded and continues to expand. Seals, especially males, are also very territorial by nature and as such, the population has gradually moved into areas where they have never been seen before, even if it’s in water that’s extremely warm for them.”

Morse said that seals have now been seen as far south as southern Virginia. “It’s an unfortunate situation.”

Like fish, plenty of seals can be seen out toward the east. With water temperatures now around the 70-degree mark at Montauk, seals (sharks too) have also enjoyed healthy bites of bluefish and striped bass being reeled in by anglers.

“There are a lot of tuna around,” remarked David Reutershan at Westlake Marina in Montauk, when reached by phone on Sunday afternoon. “In fact, I’m looking at someone now cleaning one here at the dock. Most are yellowfins and are being taken close by, too. It’s great to see.”

Reutershan also spoke of some mighty fine catches of codfish when the season opened on Aug. 1. “It was nice to see some boats bring back some fish up to 10 pounds.”

Alas, that quickly came to an end on Sunday, as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries abruptly closed down the season once again. The season will reopen on Sept. 1. The good news is that the minimum size will increase an inch to 23 inches (with a limit of five cod per person), but the slot restriction will be eliminated. Previously, anglers could only retain cod between 22 and 28 inches.

Reutershan also reported that sea bass catches remained strong and that fluke fishing has “significantly improved over the past 10 days.”

Back at Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton, Sebastian Gorgone was more enthused about the local fishing scene in his area.

He noted that snappers (baby bluefish) are keeping kids and adults smiling at the local docks in the bays and estuaries. “Plus, blowfish, porgies, and kingfish are doing well from Northwest Harbor all the way to Sammy’s Beach and Maidstone,” he said.

“Also, there has been a really good weakfish bite from Cedar Point, Crow Shoal, and at the entrance to Three Mile Harbor.”

Gorgone added that those who fish at night have been rewarded with good catches of squid and that some Spanish mackerel have shown up as well.

“Don’t be surprised if that school of bluefish on top chasing bait are really Spanish mackerel,” he said.


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


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