Blowin’ in the Wind
While Bob Dylan famously sang “the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,” I’m pretty certain the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature had not visualized the wicked winds we have recently witnessed in the past week or so when he penned those famous lyrics 50 years ago. And if there is an answer in the gusty winds around these parts, it is that there has been very little fishing activity, with wind putting a significant crimp in the plans of many looking to get in some late season action on the water.
And it’s been frustrating. A scheduled charter trip for sea bass and cod that I had on the docket out of Montauk last Thursday was blown out, and it’s even been hard to find some lee of the land to do some scalloping. The higher-than-normal tides have also dissuaded those in the pursuit of hard and soft clams. Mother Nature has turned her wind machine on high blast.
My last venture for scallops lasted only a few scant hours on a briefly dead-calm Saturday morning, before the winds suddenly re-emerged to blow at gale force by lunchtime. Thankfully the scallops are still around in decent numbers and a nice catch was culled and promptly shared with a number of friends in Montauk later that day.
“Fishing reports, especially by boaters, have been hard to come by,” said Ken Morse, the owner of Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor, sitting behind his display counter on Sunday morning as the winds outside howled to over 50 miles per hour from the west. “I’m not sure why I even showed up this morning.” Morse did say that the action along the beaches has been good when the winds allow, but that catches predominantly consist of small striped bass well below the 28-inch-minimum size limit. “But I did hear a report or two of bass up to 25 pounds that were landed to the east of Bridgehampton on Saturday, so there are a few big fish around.” Morse has shifted his store hours into winter mode and is now closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. He is also offering a 15-percent holiday season discount on rods and reels.
“Lots of stripers are being caught, but the vast majority are under the size limit,” Harvey Bennett, the proprietor of the Tackle Shop on Montauk Highway in Amagansett, said on Saturday while accepting a pint of freshly shucked scallops from said scribe (Bennett wrapped them in bacon later that night and proclaimed that they were excellent). “The season is not over yet. Hopefully the winds will die down a bit and we can see some more action.”
And while the World Series ended a few weeks ago, Bennett reminded me that he is finalizing his trip to the Dominican Republic for later in January, when he plans to deliver various donated baseball items, including mitts, gloves, uniforms, bats, and balls, that he received over the past few months for the benefit of underprivileged youth in the Caribbean country. “It’s still not too late to stop by and donate,” he added. “I can always take more with me when I go down there.”
When the rare weather window allows, boats out of Montauk have found a decent number of sea bass, porgy, and codfish in the areas south and east of Block Island. But when the winds are coming in from the east, the pesky spiny dogfish have put on their feedbag and have proven to be a hindrance at times. For aficionados of blackfish, anglers have been limited by the geography on where to fish. Fishers Island and spots up toward Rhode Island continue to produce, but the waters near Southwest Ledge at Block Island and the Cartwright grounds, located about six miles to the south of Montauk, should shortly begin to produce as the waters continue to chill and the fish seek deeper water.
Back to bay scallops, while the season has been a nice surprise for many so far, with solid catches, the signs for next year do not bode all that well. With a few exceptions, many areas are nearly void of young scallops that were to have spawned back in June. While there appears to have been a second spawn in September with scallops currently no bigger than a dime, you may want to ensure you take advantage of the plentiful catches and low retail prices that have been witnessed for the past three weeks. Prices will most certainly be higher next November when the season opens. And that’s an answer that even Bob Dylan would agree with.