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A Crustacean Celebration

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 15:34
When our fishing columnist checked his lobster traps recently, he not only secured dinner, he also found hope for the coming season.

Saturday morning dawned damp and dreary. The clouds hung low as I wiped the sleep from my eyes and peered out to the open waters to the east from my bedroom window. The rain stopped around 4 a.m., as best as I could recall from my intermittent sleep that night.

But some residual fog lingered as I climbed aboard my Nova Scotia-built boat a few hours later to take the hourlong ride to my lobster traps, which I had dropped into the water for the first time this season, about a week earlier. The conditions were marginal, but it was safe to travel. My anticipation of a good catch, and an even better dinner that same night, loomed large in my head.

Chugging along at a steady 14 knots with the radar on, I reached behind my helm seat to retrieve my logbook. My ledger records a number of important items for me, including fuel consumption, water temperature, fishing notes and anecdotes, and my entries for the amount of lobster landed every time I check on my traps. It’s a history book that spans nearly 20 years. Lots of ink noted on those well-worn pages.

Looking down, I was surprised to see that I had not put my traps in until the end of April last year. I was surprised, and scratched my head. I could have sworn that I had them on the soak much earlier. A month earlier, in fact. I chalked up my memory lapse to the drawbacks of getting older. Memo to self: Don’t assume you remember everything correctly.

Passing several large flocks of dive-bombing gannets that were likely feasting on early-arriving schools of alewives, herring, bunker, or mackerel, I reached my destination, where my water temperature gauge showed a reading of around 42 degrees. Cold, for sure, but balmy to the seemingly dozens of seals that happily bobbed up and down in the easterly groundswell. 

From the curious look on their faces, it appeared that they welcomed my presence that morning. They seemed happy to see me. It was nice to have some company out there, as long as they did not damage my traps in trying to extract a lobster for their supper. Seals sometimes have a nasty habit of tearing apart the twine and netting that surround the metal-framed structure to pursue their quarry. Cute as they are, they have a ravenous appetite.

My first trap was directly ahead of me, and, with anticipation building, I secured my boat hook and quickly latched on to the brightly colored buoy that was being pulled downward by the strong incoming tide. Not knowing what to expect, I winched up the 45-pound trap from the depths below. As with a grab bag at an office holiday party, you just never know what you’ll get. It’s the same with lobsters.

As misfortune would have it, it was a bust except for an undersize, egg-bearing female. I quickly released her. The next trap contained only a larger spider crab still stubbornly holding on to the bait bag. Sighing deeply, I quickly surmised that this was not a good omen for the season. Was this an early sign that it would be a poor one?

But my faith and hope were quickly restored when my next trap contained three beautiful, hard-shelled lobsters, all above the minimum legal size. Dinner was safely secured. As were the negative thoughts that previously ran through my mind.

With seals periodically popping up above the water for a better look, the remainder of my traps contained a nice amount of lobster. Despite the slow start, it ended up being a successful trip and a solid start to the season. It was also a welcome sight to see a few undersize lobsters as well as about a half dozen bearing eggs. A sign of hope for future catches.

Last year, the season was rather consistent until I removed my traps in mid-September. Some trips were better than others, but I was never skunked. Fingers are crossed for continued success. 

The Fishing Scene            

As for the fishing scene, angler participation remains rather low, but folks are anxiously gearing up for the opening of porgy season, which commences on Wednesday, followed three days later by the start of summer flounder, commonly known as fluke. 

“With the weather getting warmer, people are getting more anxious to wet a line,” observed Harvey Bennett, the longstanding, Bonac-born-and-bred proprietor of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett. “Some small stripers are showing in the bays and the ocean surf, and I’ve heard rumors that some squid have shown up in Fort Pond Bay. Porgies also on the move.”

Bennett added that the fishing in freshwater has been excellent of late. He reported that walleyes up to six pounds have been landed in Fort Pond in Montauk.

“As we are surrounded by salt water, many people overlook the freshwater fishing we have on the East End,” he said. “It really is excellent and very underappreciated.”

While striped bass season formally opened last week, action over all has been rather slow. Small stripers can still be had in the back bays, creeks, and estuaries, but fish over 28 inches, the minimum length to retain one, are probably about two weeks away from arriving in any catchable numbers.

“Lots of gannets flying about, so there clearly is a lot of bait entering the bays,” said Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor. “It’s only a matter of time before larger striped bass, and other species, arrive on the scene.” 

Morse was enthused that the opening of porgy and fluke fishing is right around the corner. “With flounder action almost nonexistent, April around here is pretty quiet these days. Fluke and porgies are real crowd pleasers. I’m hoping for good fishing when they both open up.” 

I soundly echo his prayers.

Morse added that the action on trout in various Southampton ponds has been productive of late. “I’ve received some good reports,” he said. “The D.E.C. stocked several ponds a few weeks ago, and the fishing has been good.”

For aficionados of codfish, a few have been found east of Montauk. The Simple Life, a charter boat under the guidance of Capt. Tyler Quaresimo, found a good amount of fish for his fares last week on two separate trips in deeper waters. It’s not too early to hope that a spring run of the popular fish will return. 

After all, spring is a time of rebirth of life and fishing.

We welcome your fishing tips, observations, and photographs at [email protected]. You can find the “On the Water” column on Twitter at @ehstarfishing.

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