Summer Heat Boils Water

Hot is just hot
Traveling to Atlantis Canyon, Pat Byrne, right, weighed in a 234-pound bigeye tuna last Thursday at Star Island Marina in Montauk. With him were Chris Byrne, center, and Capt. Mike Elling. Larry Byrne

No doubt about it, it was hot and humid last week. Nobody needed to hear it formally from a weatherman, or from Capt. Obvious for that matter. Hot is just hot. Just poking your head outside the house was enough for many people, before tightly closing the door to stay cool in air-conditioned comfort. 

On some days, unless you went out at the crack of dawn, it was even too hot to fish for any length of time, as little wind could be found on many of those heavy, hazy, sultry days. Needless to say, those who love to sail had it particularly tough.

On Fourth of July, I endured the obscene weather while on the ferry to New London for a trip to Boston. Climbing the stairs to the top aft deck of the ship looking for more of a breeze, I was immediately reminded of my charcoal grill when I sear a burger or steak. Waves of heat could be seen shimmering over the steel deck in the midday sun. 

It was sizzling. 

I have heard people use the analogy that it is hot enough to fry an egg on a sidewalk. I’ve never tried that, but if I had a dozen eggs with me on that voyage, I know I could have served up a pretty mean omelette to my fellow passengers. 

Looking back, I remind myself that our family did not have air-conditioning growing up in Sag Harbor. If you were hot, you went for a dip in the water in front of the house. I barely remember us even having a fan. Yet we all seemed to survive just fine. In retrospect, I’m not sure how we did it, as the temperature at bedtime would still be 90 degrees upstairs in one of the second-floor bedrooms. Now that’s toasty by just about any standard. 

Were we tougher back then? I’d like to say yes, but I’m not sure. More than anything, we just didn’t know any other way. You dealt with it; complaining got you nowhere. However, today, I’m grateful we have a good air-conditioning system in our house. I guess I can admit I’ve softened up a bit. And that’s okay with me this summer. 

No pun intended, but as the air temperatures significantly warmed our bay and ocean waters, the fishing scene heated up too. Before the oven-like blast, bay temperatures hovered around 67 degrees. A week later they zoomed to near the 80-degree mark. A huge jump. Looking at my record log, we usually don’t see the 80-degree mark until late August. Temperatures on the ocean also saw a 10-degree upward spike.

“I’m getting more and more reports of thresher sharks close to the ocean beach,” said Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, in his best impersonation of Captain Quint from “Jaws.” “Lots of bunker close to shore, so there is plenty of bait in the water.” He added that the bunker schools continue to keep a good supply of large striped bass well fed in the area between White Sands and Main Beach. “Early morning and evening has proved to be the best time if you want to connect with a large linesider,” he noted. 

As for other species: “Fluke are still good off Napeague Harbor and tons of porgies are around in the usual spots,” he said. “People are even getting squid at night at the Navy dock in Fort Pond Bay in Montauk, along with porgies and blowfish during the day.” Bennett added that the Ruins at the northern tip of Gardiner’s Island continues to produce well for striped bass and that some bonito have shown up near Hicks Island. 

As a reminder, Bennett continues to seek new and used baseball equipment to send to underprivileged youth in the Dominican Republic. If it’s not too hot, check up in your attic for that old glove, ball, or bat.

Out at Montauk, striped bass fishing remains strong with plenty of fish up to 50 pounds being landed on the troll or live bait. Fluke fishing has been steady when no ocean swells are present, while porgy and sea bass remain consistent from the Montauk Lighthouse to Block Island. The warming waters farther offshore have also made for good action with sharks (when stronger winds allowed for a better drift), with blue, mako, and thresher being the predominant catch. 

Tuna are here too. After celebrating the July Fourth holiday, Larry Byrne took his two brothers, Pat and Chris, and some other friends on the family boat Pilar out of Star Island Marina for a long-range trip. Trolling 100-miles offshore at Atlantis Canyon, they quickly hooked up with three bigeye tunas at the same time. “One broke off the spreader bar and swam off, while another slipped off the line,” recalled Byrne. “Pat fought the other fish for over two hours before landing him in the boat.” The combative fish topped the scales at 234 pounds. Numerous tuna dinners are certainly to be enjoyed by all.

The Montauk SurfMasters Spring Shootout tournament ended last weekend, and it was a very tight race at the finish line. Nick Bocchino’s 43.5-pound bass barely bested a 43-pound fish that was landed in the last few hours by Brandon Sausele. Bocchino, ever the sharpie, took third place with a fish of 26 pounds.

Another event, the ever popular Montauk Mercury Grand Slam charity tournament, now in its 18th year, will be held on Saturday and Sunday. Proceeds benefit youth, families, and senior citizens in the East Hampton community. 

It is presented by the Kiwanis Club of East Hampton and the Montauk Friends of Erin. Various prizes and trophies are given for the largest striped bass, sea bass, bluefish, and fluke for recreational, professional, commercial, and party boat divisions. Popular with children, the Wayne Clinch Kids Catch program will offer a new rod and reel and tackle boxes to 10 lucky kids under 13, and all will be entered in a drawing to win a seven-foot inflatable boat with a Mercury outboard motor. 

In addition, at the awards ceremony late Sunday afternoon, John Rade will be honored as the Fishing Legend of the Year. The accolade is well deserved for Rade, a Montauk rod-and-reel legend of unparalleled fishing skill.

Weigh-ins and events for the tournament take place at Uihlein’s Marina on West Lake Drive, and more information can be found at montaukgrandslam.com.

This scribe will be entered in this wonderful event once again. And if you are curious, yes, the boat I am fishing on has air-conditioning in the main cabin. Stay cool. 


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