For the first two weeks of November, according to the National Weather Service, we experienced temperatures that were nearly 11 degrees above normal. November felt very much like September. It was a wonderful blessing to embrace such beautiful warmth so late in the year.
But nothing lasts forever. Over the past 10 days, we have now flipflopped with temperatures that have been below normal. Combined with very gusty winds emanating out of the northwest, the cold now feels even colder on the skin. It’s a harsh reminder that winter is only a few weeks away.
The change in weather prompted me to inform the owner at my marina that it was okay to remove my boat from the water. The boat came out last Thursday afternoon. My season has come to an end.
Looking back, due to various external factors, I did not fish as much as usual this year. In addition, my weekly trek to the lobster grounds saw poorer catches. Sadly it’s a trend I’ve witnessed for three straight years.
Also, while I lucked out with a bushel of bay scallops on opening day three weeks ago, on my follow-up trip two days later I only tallied about two dozen. As such, it was a very mixed bag of a season on the water for me.
That said, last Tuesday I happily climbed aboard the Elizabeth II, a charter boat that sails out of the Montauk Marine Basin, for a full-day trip for blackfish, sea bass, and cod. The weather was thankfully benign, despite the chilly 28-degree temperature.
The trip was organized by Ilissa Meyer, a director of the East Hampton Sportsmen’s Alliance. Meyer is truly passionate in her pursuit of fish, and I was happy, as a new member of the club, to join nine other anglers on board the 46-foot Young Brothers craft under the guidance of Capt. Paul Bruno.
“I’m so glad you came today,” smiled Meyer, as we embraced each other in the main cabin for the first time under the still-dark morning sky at 5 a.m.
Joining me that day on the ride out to Montauk was Al Daniels of Sag Harbor, a longtime friend and a 13th-generation Bonacker who also received a welcoming hug from Meyer.
Most of the other members of the alliance on board knew Daniels, and warm handshakes and stories of hunting and fishing overtook the conversation on our way to Block Island, where Bruno was taking us to catch fish.
Dropping anchor in about 60 feet of water not far from the southeast lighthouse, Bruno told us it was time to fish. The tide was weak on the half-moon, and the fishing was quiet. Slowly, as the tide picked up over the next few hours, it gradually improved.
Within a few minutes, I latched into a keeper-size cod. Shortly later, I landed a nice sea bass. Others on the wide stern deck caught a mixture of blackfish and sea bass of various sizes. A few more cod joined the mix.
The bite was not intense, but it did not matter. The camaraderie and banter among the anglers at the rail made for a perfect morning.
“I wish we caught more,” said Bruno on the ride back to Montauk. Every captain will always say such words. But that’s fishing. It’s never a guarantee.
Chatting with Bruno, the conversation eventually drifted to his two daughters, Emily and Katie. They clearly are his pride and joy. Both now attend Deerfield Academy, a prestigious preparatory school in Deerfield, Mass. Both girls are extremely accomplished with a hook and line. Emily herself was a two-time winner of the Montauk Youth fluke tournament.
Bruno said that their essays on their applications to Deerfield talked about life in a basic fishing family. Deerfield was sold on both of them upon reading of their tales.
“I was up at Deerfield for a parent orientation and one of the admission counselors came up to me,” he said. “I had no clue who she was. But she picked me out of the crowd and asked me if I was a fisherman. It was probably on how I was dressed. She told me that Emily’s essay on her application as the daughter of a fisherman was what convinced her that she should be accepted to Deerfield,” he said. “You have no idea how I felt hearing that. I’m so grateful and happy for the both of them. I’m beyond lucky. I love my girls.”
The Bruno family will certainly be thankful on Thanksgiving.
For those who would like to join the East Hampton Sportsmen’s Alliance, information is available at ehsportsmen.com. People who love to fish, hunt, and share stories on the water or afield are most welcome.
Fishing tips, observations, and photographs can be sent to [email protected].