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On the Water: The Lobster Traps Are In

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 17:24
Ray Sperling prepared to cut mackerel for lobster traps last week.
Jon M. Diat

It was the winter that never was. Other than a few isolated frigid days and barely a trace of snow to shovel off the walkway, I eagerly awaited an early start to the boating season. I was wrong.

Mother Nature had other ideas, as March brought a multitude of windy days interspersed with below-normal temperatures. She made up for lost ground in a seemingly last gasp of redemption.

It obviously was not the worst news to deal with. Besides, there really is no fishing to take advantage of anyway at this juncture of the year. Flounder season is currently open, but finding one to catch is as rare as my winning the Wimbledon men’s championship. Striped bass can be retained starting on Saturday, but it will still be a few more weeks before they show up in sizable numbers.

Still, I had other chores to do ashore. The first was to repair my lobster traps, plus scrape down the dried-out seaweed that had accumulated on my buoys last year and apply several coats of fluorescent orange paint to them. They needed attention.

Normally I would do this job in the late fall after the lobster season concludes, but I was admittedly lazy. Sadly, I now have recognized that the older I get, the more I will procrastinate and find excuses to delay things I should do (like even writing this column).

It only took a few hours to do the work on the gear. It was nice to finally get that done. And on the last day of March, my marina in Sag Harbor launched my boat into the water and tied her off at my slip, where she has happily resided for well over 30 years. It’s home, sweet home for her.

With the boat in the water, it was time to load my reborn lobster traps on the stern deck and await the next sailable day to drop them in the water, about an hour’s ride off to the east. I kept my eye on the marine forecast.

I was also eager to use my newly installed fish finder/chart plotter. My previous one was over 20 years old. Given the great advancement in technology, most would now clearly refer to it as a relic or antique.

Given that the colorful multifaceted machine came with a 60-page instruction booklet, I still have much to absorb and learn about its full capabilities. Besides procrastination, I’ve also become quite adept at being less patient about many things, especially as it relates to overly dense instructional manuals.

A break in the weather came last Tuesday. After an early morning doubles game of tennis with Jack Graves, the longtime sports editor of this paper (we continue to remain undefeated in tandem), I untied the dock lines and motored off on the flat calm waters of Gardiner’s Bay.

The ride itself was uneventful, but it was great to be back on the water. The air was crisp and fresh, and my new fish finder noted a water temperature of around 43 degrees as we neared our intended location. The coldness of the water filled the cabin despite the bright sun off to the south. Spring may be here, but the remnants of the modest winter chill still can be found on the water.

Plenty of seals were also in residence, happily bobbing up and down, taking a curious peek at us. It seemed that they liked the company we afforded them that day. We gladly obliged.

A few gannets were also spotted sitting lazily on the water awaiting their next meal. The majestic sea bird has shown up in large numbers over the past two weeks, feasting on schools of bunker, alewives, and herring on their annual spring migration.

It only took about 30 minutes to bait up the traps with mackerel and deposit them overboard. It was nice to see that no other lobster gear was in the area, so we hope that a week later we will have a bountiful catch. But as in fishing, there is never a guarantee.

More seals were seen on the ride back home. It was nice to take advantage of a lull in the weather. At this time of the year, weather conditions are still very unpredictable before the summer comes along with better stability.


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


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