Herds of Cow Bass

The large striped bass finally showed up in huge numbers
Bruce Johnson caught this supersize striped bass near Montauk and safely released it to live another day. Dave Bennett

It took longer than expected, but large striped bass, commonly referred to as cow bass among devoted anglers, finally showed up in huge numbers on the strawberry full moon last Thursday in Montauk waters. Fish in the 20-to-50-pound range were landed with great regularity and the bite was equally solid, whether you fished during the day or under the bright, moonlit night skies. It did not matter. The fish were there and they were hungry. Good fishing has continued since. And many folks are very happy and relieved.

“The fishing has been really good when the fish finally showed up,” said Capt. Michael Potts of the charter boat Blue Fin IV. “All methods are working to catch them, too. It’s great to see.”

“We had great bass fishing, with most of the fish in the 40-plus-pound range, with the largest weighing in at 48.5 pounds,” said Capt. Ken Hejducek of the charter boat My Joyce II. “It seemed like the early morning or night tides were the best for the bass.”

Prior to the striper invasion, bass fishing in Montauk was a struggle all spring and into the early summer. Where were they? Were they ever coming?

The lackluster fishing frustrated many seasoned captains. While catches west of Montauk excelled in the past two months, the self-proclaimed fishing capital of the world suffered a dire dearth of the highly prized fish.

The day before the jumbo-size linesiders showed up, a close friend of mine joined a group of colleagues for an all-day trip on a charter boat out of the famed port. Several hours of trolling umbrella rigs off Block Island produced four small bass for the six-person crew. Not good by most standards.

Even the other bass, black sea bass, were pretty much nonexistent that day with only a single keeper-size fish landed by the group. Days like that happen, but it also proved the theory that there truly is a big difference between fishing and catching. There are no guarantees when you wet a line. That’s why there are fish markets.

But the striped bass have finally settled into their summertime home off the historic Montauk Lighthouse. A clear sigh of relief could be heard across the various docks in the harbor. Life is good again in Montauk, and the smiles of those who pursue such quarry should continue for the foreseeable future. The striped bass are home again.

Montauk is not the only location populated with big stripers. South-facing ocean beaches from Southampton heading east continue to see solid action that commenced over two weeks ago.

“It has been really crazy around here,” said an overenthused Harvey Bennett, the veteran owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett. “There are lots of big striped bass feasting on schools of bunker. Amagansett has been hot with bass up to 45 pounds . . . while a 61-pound fish was taken near Mecox the other day. Amazing.”

Bennett said that the proliferation of the small, oily-fleshed bunker has also lured in a multitude of whales, porpoises, and even a few thresher sharks. “It seems like a repeat of last summer when we had all of these bunker up close to the beach,” he recalled. “I heard a thresher was landed near Maidstone, so we are bound to see some more caught as the waters continue to warm up. Fun times ahead for sure.”

Bennett also said that the fishing on the bay side is equally productive, albeit with smaller fish. “Porgies and blowfish are everywhere, and small stripers and cocktail blues are around big time at Sammy’s Beach and off Accabonac,” he said. “Plus, the fluke fishing has been excellent off of Napeague, too.”

In celebration of summer and the July 4th holiday, Bennett is having a sale on clam rakes, of which he has plenty in stock. Nothing better than some ice-cold littlenecks on the half shell to enjoy on a hot summer day. Don’t forget to buy a clam knife too. 

“Big bass are in the wash off Amagansett,” reported Sebastian Gorgone over at Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton. “And while it is still good, many of the fish have now settled in at Montauk.” Gorgone was also enthused to see that many small bluefish have entered the local waterways on the bay, and that the porgy fishing continues to be intense in many nearby areas.

“With the warming waters, it’s best to focus on areas to the east where the water is cooler,” he suggested. “Fluke have been good off of Napeague and on the eastern side of Gardiner’s Island. And some nice sea bass are in the mix with them.”

“The bass bite at Montauk is fantastic,” repeated Ken Morse of Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor. “Plenty of big fish around.” As for the action closer to home, Morse said that porgy fishing remains good and that the weakfish bite at the Middle Grounds in Little Peconic Bay has been consistent. 

We welcome your fishing tips, observations, and photographs at fish@ehstar.com. You can find the “On the Water” column on Twitter at @ehstarfishing.