Winter Aside, Let the Fishing Season Begin

Certain things need to be done, including preparing my boat for the season
A boat on Noyac Bay took advantage of the last day of the local scallop season on Saturday. Jon M. Diat

The calendar says it’s April, but on many days in the past few weeks, it still feels like midwinter. 

The Easter Bunny has moved on, yet we witnessed more snow on Monday morning to cover up a few premature daffodils poking up from the ground in my neighborhood. I’m beginning to wonder when I will actually cut my still-brown lawn for the first time. It’s been pretty darn depressing to say the least. Alas, the weeks continue to move forward and certain things need to be done, including preparing my boat for the season, despite the lousy weather. 

But another problem loomed on the horizon. Like the ospreys returning to their intricate nests like clockwork on St. Patrick’s Day, I also know to expect a call or email every March from the owner of the marina in Sag Harbor where my boat is docked and stored. The communication is usually pretty direct and predictable: He has uncovered several problems with my vessel that need to be addressed before it is to be dunked in the chilly waters. And every year it’s something different.

The email I received last Monday was a bit more ominous and vaguely scary: “Jon, are you around? There are some things on the boat I would like to discuss.” Discuss? It sounded more like a doctor preparing you for a negative medical report. 

The five-minute drive into town brought many scenarios into my follicle-challenged head. What was it this time? 

Last March, I had a lengthy and costly repair to a forward cabin window that had developed a rather significant leak. Two years ago, it was a major hydraulic steering fluid leak. The year before was a set of dead batteries and another fluid issue. The year before that. . . . You get the picture. It’s always something when you own a boat.

Upon entering his office, I braced myself for his diagnosis. There were several items of concern on his list, including a heavily rusted fuel vent pipe that would need to be cut out and replaced. He pulled out his iPhone and showed me the visible damage. It did not look pretty. How extensive the corrosion was, and whether it went all the way to the fuel tank, was uncertain. He said surgery would be required near the transom. 

We discussed some other items on his pad and I patiently nodded in agreement. The work needed to be done. I had to follow doctor’s orders. I decided to put off until next year a decision on replacing my aft deck, where a more pronounced sagging has occurred over the past few years. At least I know that repair is coming. It’s one less surprise to brace myself for. 

Most of the work has been completed on the boat. The bottom has been painted and the hull gleams in the dull sun with a fresh coat of marine wax. Despite the pain in the wallet I know to experience every spring, there is still a sense of excitement that the season has started and wetting a fishing line is just around the corner, even if Old Man Winter does not want to release his grip.

Fishing news so far has been rather scant, but a few intrepid anglers have decided it is time to break out their rods and reels to try their luck. 

“April 1 is the unofficial start of the fishing season,” explained Harvey Bennett, proprietor of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett. “It was also the opening day of trout season. As kids, we would all be out catching largemouth bass [the season opens mid-June] and pickerel.” Bennett noted that East Hampton doesn’t have any trout in its ponds, but that the Town of Southampton does. The fish are stocked in a handful of ponds, most obviously Trout Pond in Noyac; however, only Southampton residents can fish in these waters. Folks who do not reside in the Town of Southampton need to hire a licensed guide to take advantage of the trout action. 

Bennett was also aware of some early striped bass action. “Some fish up to 20 inches have been taken in Three Mile Harbor, as well as in the cove behind the WLNG radio station in Sag Harbor,” he said. Small swimming plugs and rubber baits have been the lures of choice.

Ken Morse, who runs Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor, also had reports of a striped bass from local waters. “I heard one was caught near Otter Pond the other day,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get some better weather soon and things will perk up more.”

And while bay scallop season concluded on Saturday, for those who remember what a flounder is, the season opened up on Sunday. Anglers are allowed two fish per person over 12 inches. The season closes at the end of May. As recently as 15 to 20 years ago, dozens of anglers could be found at the Shinnecock Canal catching their fair share of the once plentiful flatfish. Alas, those memories are likely to remain just that.