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On the Water: Same as It Ever Was

Thu, 09/21/2023 - 06:22
Before Hurricane Lee passed offshore last weekend, the crew aboard the Above the Ground, out of the Montauk Yacht Club, landed this very large bigeye tuna.
Kimberly Goff

Oh, jeez. Anglers didn’t need to hear more unfortunate news.

A few weeks ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries bureau announced the results of a pilot study concerning its annual recreational Fishing Effort Survey. The preliminary results suggested that the order of the questions in its surveys has led to an overestimation of fishing efforts and catches. By now, you probably know where this is going.

NOAA sent its survey by mail from Maine to Mississippi, and even all the way to Hawaii. It collects recreational fishing trip information for boat and shore fishing from private anglers. Its findings are tallied with those from other surveys to estimate total recreational catch. This information becomes critical data that helps direct stock assessments and fisheries management decisions. We are talking years of data here, not a few scant months. It’s a big deal.

The federal agency suggested that a more robust study would be conducted next year to confirm the initial findings.

Given that anglers have likely taken more fish than previously thought, many on the water predict that new surveys will result in even more restrictive measures for those who drop a line for popular local fish like fluke and black sea bass.

It has resulted in a rather tumultuous conundrum of conversation along the waterfront that will no doubt be debated into 2024. Ultimately, this is probably not going to be good news at the end of the day for anglers. As Talking Heads once pronounced in their 1980 hit song “Once in a Lifetime,” it’s the “same as it ever was.” Stay tuned.

Fly rod and light-tackle aficionados of the East End should ready themselves as once again the popular Oktoberfest Montauk Fall Run will be held on Sunday, Oct. 8, from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Montauk Lake Club on East Lake Drive.

Capt. Tim O’Rourke of Montauk Point Fly Fishing, a light-tackle guide service, will again host the afternoon of fun, featuring demonstrations of various fly rods and other goodies by Sage, a manufacturer of high-end rods and equipment. Cold beer from the Montauk Brewing Co. will be on offer, as will barbecue food courtesy of NorthFork Ironworks.

“It’s a great time and it’s a wonderful opportunity for folks to try out some new rods and gear,” said O’Rourke, who has fished the Montauk waters since 1989, when he migrated down from Syracuse. “We’ve done this now for several years and the turnout of people has been incredible.”

With beer, barbecue, and fishing on the menu — a great trifecta — it’s a don’t-miss event.

As for the local fishing scene, Hurricane Lee, which thankfully passed to the east of us last weekend, unfortunately still put a damper on recent fishing efforts because of large swells and gusty winds that lasted into Sunday morning.

“Before the storm, the false albacore showed up and they were extremely cooperative,” O’Rourke noted. “I was also catching little mahimahi within a quarter-mile of the beach, too.”

He said he expected the fishing scene would quickly improve after the seas of Lee calmed down. “I expect a great fall run for albies, striped bass, and bluefish. Lee will not have altered that.”

Those who closely follow the changing seasons will know that fall officially commences on Saturday at 2:49 a.m. With a recent chill in the early morning air, I’ve already noticed a slight change in the color of some trees in my neighborhood. Before you know it, Halloween is just around the corner. Boo!

Even with the gusty conditions last weekend, Sebastian Gorgone, the proprietor of Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton, was enthusiastic about what lies ahead for the rest of the fishing season.

“Oh man, after this blow, the fishing should be great,” he said, smiling, on Sunday afternoon. “This should wake things up and get everything moving. The water is still warm and the fish are still here.”

Gorgone said that blowfish, snappers, porgies, and kingfish were in good supply in Three Mile Harbor, plus “some really nice catches of weakfish in the bay and ocean before the storm. Some striped bass, too, were also mixed in.” 

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


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