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On the Water: Ready, Set, No!

Tue, 04/16/2024 - 13:07
Laden with lobster traps to be dropped in his secret spot, Jon M. Diat’s Rock Water is ready for the 2024 season.
Jon M. Diat

I struggled mightily in a debate with myself last week. In the grand scheme of things, it was really small potatoes, but I had a hard time making a decision.

The question was whether I should stay in port on April 9 or put out my lobster traps for the season. Sounds simple, yes? But it wasn’t. Hear me out.

In Central Park, the temperature reached 80 degrees that day. People roamed around the Great Lawn in shorts and tank tops. Trees were in blossom and the grass was a lush green. Sunscreen was needed. It was a most welcome early preview of summer.

But out here on the East End, we were not as fortunate, as the nearby waters are still in the 40s, making it tough to feel like summer on dry land. Still, a temperature in the upper 60s under a bright blue sky was nothing to complain about. It was a stunningly beautiful day with nary a breath of wind. The solar eclipse and minor earthquake in the previous days were also equally cool to experience.

After a hard game of tennis early that morning at East Hampton Indoor Tennis across from the airport, I drove to my marina in Sag Harbor Cove where Rock Water, my Nova Scotia-built boat of 23 years, was docked. The game plan was to put all of my lobster traps on board and possibly take them on a long ride to the northeast where they would be in the water until the lobster season concludes in my management area on Sept. 8.

While the weather was perfect that day, I decided to delay my trip to the lobster grounds as the marine forecast on my VHF radio foretold gale force winds for several days commencing later last Thursday. Summer was not truly here yet.

Having dunked lobster traps for well over 30 years, I knew I ran the risk of losing some or all of my gear due to the predicted turbulent inshore seas. It’s happened to me before. Prior negative experiences, especially in early spring, have taught me well, and also put an unfortunate severe dent in my wallet.

With lobster traps now costing more than $100 apiece, I played it safe, despite the summer-like weather. I decided I would wait out the upcoming blow. A nice meal of lobster rolls would need to be put on hold for a few days. I needed to be patient.

By the time this column runs, the traps, baited with bunker from last year that have been frozen in the bait freezer in the basement will be in the water. Fingers are most certainly crossed for a good season and good meals. Time only will tell. Stay tuned.

Elsewhere on more regulated matters, the rules on the possession of fluke and porgies have finally been finalized here in New York waters. Not all are happy with them either, especially those who seek fluke, also known as summer flounder.

The new regulations, approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, meet the requirement for all states, including New York, to reduce the recreational summer flounder harvest by 28 percent and porgy harvest by 10 percent while balancing the preferences of New York anglers.

Since January, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has been conducting outreach to New York recreational fishing stakeholders on potential changes to summer flounder and regulations through an online feedback survey, public meetings, and multiple fishing outreach events. New York and Connecticut are in the same management region for summer flounder, and the two states must adopt identical seasons, minimum size, and possession limit regulations. New York also manages scup regionally with Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, and adopts similar limits as these states.

As for fluke, the fisheries commission previously approved six options that New York and Connecticut could utilize to meet the 28-percent reduction requirements. Based on feedback from New York’s recreational fishing community and feedback received by Connecticut from its recreational fishing community, New York and Connecticut advanced a seventh option that better meets the needs and preferences of anglers in both states, as well as fisheries commission requirements. The commission approved this new option on March 25.

The 2024 summer flounder season will open May 4 and go through Oct. 15. It uses a split-size limit to preserve an extended fishing season while maintaining a smaller minimum size for the beginning of the season.

On May 4, the possession limit is set at three fish with a minimum length of 19 inches. Effective Aug. 2, the minimum length increases to 19.5 inches and the possession limit remains at three fish. The season closes after Oct. 15.

As for porgy, also known as scup, the minimum length caught recreationally by vessel-based anglers has increased by half an inch, from 10.5 to 11 inches. All other aspects of New York’s recreational scup fishing regulations remain unchanged. The minimum length limit for recreational anglers from shore remains unchanged at 9.5 inches. The recreational scup season for all anglers opens May 1 and goes through Dec. 31. Recreational anglers may possess 30 fish per day throughout the season and from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31, anglers aboard licensed party/charter boats may possess 40 fish.

As for striped bass, the season opened on Monday. Anglers are once again allowed to retain one striper a day between 28 and 31 inches. Bass have been caught recently in the inner coves and harbors, where the waters are warmer. The fishing will only improve over the next few weeks.

The season for blackfish is open until the end of April, though none yet have put forth an effort due to the cold waters. If the season opened in May, it would be a different story.

And for those who can remember what a winter flounder looks like, the season is open until the end of May. Anglers can retain two of the delicate and tasty flatfish over 12 inches on a daily basis.

That said, I cannot recall anyone over the past 20 years who has specifically targeted the once abundant flounder that used to grace our bay bottoms in the spring and fall. Much like the dinosaurs, they are gone.


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


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