My 30-foot Novia Scotia-built boat has been in the water for nearly three weeks. Yet, sadly, I have yet to untie the dock lines at my slip at Ship Ashore Marina, in the upper reaches of Sag Harbor Cove.
A combination of bad weather and handling some family-related matters has kept me away from launching my lobster traps into the still-cold waters.
I hope that, by the time this column appears in the paper, the traps will be on the soak until the season closes in early September. Some fresh lobster dinners are close at hand. Better times lie ahead.
In the meantime, looking back over the past few months, it was perhaps the quietest of winters I’ve witnessed for local fishing. No boats, whether party, charter or private, ventured forth from Montauk to pursue codfish, once an incredibly popular wintertime pursuit around these parts. It was beyond unfortunate to see that no one even tried. Such inaction provides a great illustration of the demise of this once abundant fishery. Unfortunately, it’s now a page in history.
“Cod used to be king around here,” remarked Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor on Sunday morning. “Now, codfish are barely an afterthought. It’s the same with whiting and winter flounder. Folks just don’t fish for them anymore. So few are around and they are not worth the time to fish for. It’s sad.”
On a positive note, Morse, a keen observer of all things nature, noticed that various fish, including bunker, herring, and alewives, have begun to arrive en masse in the local bays and harbors. The schools of fish have been aggressively pursued by massive flocks of hungry gannets, a large, white torpedo-shape seabird, that’s always on the prowl for an easy meal. The showing of both fish and fowl is a clear harbinger of the season that’s at our doorstep.
“There have been some really spectacular shows of dive-bombing gannets feeding in the Sag Harbor and Greenport areas, as well as Gardiner’s Bay,” he said. “One afternoon, there was an amazing aerial display right at the north end of Long Wharf here in Sag Harbor. It was beyond cool to see.” (This week’s “On the Wing” column is about gannets.)
However, Morse was dismayed that he has yet to see smaller baitfish, such as spearing and killies, along the waterfront.
“Every morning, I go down to the dock at the end of my shop, to see what’s going on,” he added. “The waters are crystal clear, but the small baitfish have not shown up yet. Hopefully that will change soon.”
Morse’s shop on Bay Street is now open every day but Wednesday. As with many, he looks forward to the beginning of May, when anglers will be able to pursue porgy and fluke when the season opens. Striped bass, as well as weakfish and bluefish, will also be on the menu for anglers to catch and retain at that time.
Over at Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton, the owner, Sebastian Gorgone, was also eagerly waiting for the arrival of better weather, as well as fish to catch for those patrons who frequent his establishment.
“Not much to talk about to be honest,” he said. “There has been some nice walleye taken in Fort Pond in Montauk, but it’s still quiet on the saltwater front.” Gorgone has heard rumors of small, holdover striped bass being taken in the deepest recesses of Three Mile Harbor, but he remains certain that certain local lore holds true with regard to fishing: “When the daffodils begin to die off, I know that the fishing season has truly started,” he said.
His shop may have closed late last year, but Capt. Harvey Bennett, the longtime proprietor of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, is still keeping a close watch on the local fishing scene. “There are some small striped bass in Three Mile Harbor and the alewives are showing up in many areas. But we are still a few weeks away from when things will really bust out.”
Bennett will remain active on all things fishing. He will offer surf-fishing excursions on both the bay and ocean, as well as light-tackle casting charters from his boat. He will also still outfit anglers of all skills with the proper tackle. “The response thus far for charter and guide services has been really strong,” he said. Bennett can still be reached at 631-324-7770 and [email protected].
Meanwhile, farther west where the action usually picks up quicker than in the still frigid waters at Montauk, Scott Jeffrey, the proprietor of East End Bait and Tackle in Hampton Bays, said that hasn’t happened yet.
“Things are still fairly quiet in our area, but not for the lack of trying,” he said. “We’ve had anglers out and about, but most are still focusing on fresh water. We still hear reports of hold-over striped bass in our warmer back bay waters, but not much else is going on.” Note that the spring blackfish season is open only during the month of April. The flounder season is open now, and concludes at the end of May.
Fingers are crossed for improved weather and better days as we approach the month of May. The fish will eventually make their presence known, as they usually do. Patience is indeed a virtue.
We welcome your fishing tips, observations, and photographs at [email protected].