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On the Water: Learning New Tricks

Thu, 05/18/2023 - 10:01
Jeri Wolfson caught and released this striped bass on a recent trip with North Flats Guiding in East Hampton.
Capt. David Blinken

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, meaning that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to change the way a person does something when they have been doing it the same way for many years. I plead guilty as charged.

To cite several examples: When I put my pants on in the morning, I must put my left leg in first. It’s the same with shoes and socks — left followed by right — and shirts, too — left arm, then right.

Even when I played ice hockey for decades, I always put my left skate on before my right one, and it was the same with elbow and shin pads.

Such idiosyncrasies (for better or worse) can also be found when I fish. When I’m out pursuing codfish, I always start off using a diamond jig. I also use a diamond jig when I fish for weakfish, sea bass, and bluefish. If it works, why fix it?

The same lure is also used when I pursue striped bass from my boat. Old habits are hard to break.

That is until last Thursday morning when I was on the search for striped bass in the rip off Jessup’s Neck and decided to try snap jigging with a Hogy sand eel jig for the first time. I’ve thankfully caught many bass so far this spring, but I wanted to try something a bit different to create a bigger challenge. I wanted to learn some new tricks.

Unlike using a regular diamond jig with a rather rapid retrieve, the snap jigging technique is accomplished by using short, sharp rod-tip snaps to quickly twitch the sand eel jig, imparting erratic action while keeping the jig at a specific depth in the strike zone. (Thanks, by the way, to YouTube for the tutorial.)

As for my new jig, while similar to a shiny diamond jig, this glistening metallic lure is silver and brown to mimic a sand eel, a small baitfish that loves to bury itself in the sand when frightened.

It only took a few minutes to land my first bass, but it was a different bass — a black sea bass, quickly thrown back (sea bass season doesn’t open until June 23). I resumed my snap jigging for the next 30 minutes on the outgoing tide.

About a dozen other boats were also seeking a striper, but alas, the action was unusually quiet. My sand eel jig remained untouched. As such, I will give it another chance on my next outing. I’m keeping open-minded, and hopeful this old dog will learn a new trick.

Steering the Rock Water to the east in Noyac Bay, I downsized to a smaller diamond jig. It only took about 20 seconds for me and my guest to latch into twin, four-pound weakfish. The action on the weaks the past few weeks has been epic, with fish up to 10 pounds commonly landed. It has been great to witness and partake in. As a public service reminder, be mindful that anglers can only retain one fish over 16 inches per day.

Meanwhile, the striped bass fishing in Montauk remains off-the-charts great. Diamond jigs have been the hot lure (no surprise to yours truly), but bucktails should not be ignored.

“I’ve been fishing Montauk for 35 years, and I have never seen it like this,” observed Capt. Savio Mizzi of Fishooker Charters. “Stripers are everywhere eating anything that moves.” Mizzi added that huge, gator-size bluefish have also shown up in the catch in recent days. His patrons have left his boat with broad smiles and overly tired arms. Not a bad combination.

Over at Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton, Sebastian Gorgone confirmed that bluefish can still be had off Gerard Drive, and that large porgies have shown up in recent days in Cherry Harbor on the west side of Gardiner’s Island.

“The weather has been great and so has the fishing,” he said from behind his counter on Sunday afternoon. “Striped bass are also running along the ocean beaches.” As for fluke, Gorgone observed that “it’s off to a slow start so far.” We can’t have everything.

Back to the west in the Peconics, Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor reconfirmed the excellent action on the local weakfish front.

“I had four customers on two different boats who caught and released over 50 weakfish on Saturday morning,” exclaimed Morse. “The action cannot get any better for weakfish. It’s really great to see.”

Morse added that porgy fishing remains strong in local waters, with fish up to three pounds being common, and that bluefish have also shown up in many areas, adding extra excitement for anglers. Striped bass are also pleasing many in the Peconics.

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


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