Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

A great white the size of a Chevy Tahoe
Jumbo blue-claw crabs have made an early-season appearance this season.

My memory of watching the movie “Jaws” for the first time shortly after its release in June of 1975 still stands clear in my mind. Its effect on me, and others at the time, was profound. Since that day, I’ve lost count of how many dozens of times I have seen it on TV, and yet I still get the chills watching several of its scenes.

Up to that point, sharks as a predator were never portrayed to any extent by Hollywood. Probably the closest marine villain that the silver screen produced prior to “Jaws” came in the form of “Moby Dick,” a 1956 film adaptation of Herman Melville’s novel starring Gregory Peck. The movie was a whale of a dud and certainly did not keep patrons on the edge of their seats in fear.

“Jaws” was clearly something different. And this was not just any kind of shark. It was a great white the size of a Chevy Tahoe. But Tahoes don’t come equipped with multiple rows of five-inch, razor-sharp teeth. The early reviews of “Jaws” heralded it as an instant classic. And even though I had just read the book by Peter Benchley a few months earlier, it had to be seen. 

The line to get into the East Hampton Cinema that late June evening was long. Too long, actually, as my family was unable to get in. So we had to pensively wait two hours for the late show. The delay was worth every minute; it scared the living heck out of me and just about every person packed in that theater. That fear certainly struck a nerve. Needless to say, our local lifeguards had an easy summer. Just about nobody entered the ocean surf to swim. 

Looking back now, it’s a bit comical to recall the hysteria the movie churned up. Today, we have a much better understanding and appreciation of sharks (the Discovery channel gets a huge rating boost every summer with its Shark Week programming), and while I don’t ever want to share my boogie board with a great white, we know that attacks on humans are incredibly rare. They are a protected species and are to be respected. But in the back part of my mind, I still will always harbor a bit of that fear from that late June evening in 1975.

For those focused on catching other species of sharks, fishing gets underway in earnest tomorrow and Saturday with the 31st annual Star Island shark tournament. There are 12 tournament prizes, including $30,000 for the heaviest qualifying shark (a monster-size mako over 700 pounds captured the top prize last year). In addition, all anglers can contribute to the study of the shark by tagging and releasing sharks that do not meet strict weight requirements. Last year, over 250 sharks were tagged and released back to the ocean. And of the sharks that were weighed in, over 750 pounds of edible shark meat was donated to the Long Island Council of Churches food pantry. The following weekend (June 23 and 24), the Montauk Marine Basin will hold its 47th annual shark tournament. It’s not too late to sign up for either of the contests to help form your own personal Jaws story. 

The action on less toothy critters has held up in many parts. Striped bass fishing continued its solid pace, and the full moon on Friday did not disappoint those who enjoy fishing at night. The Viking Starship night bass trips saw several fish over 40 pounds weighed in under the moonlit skies. The action was brisk most of the nights. But the daytime action has also been solid, mixed with a fresh influx of bluefish in the various Montauk rips. 

“Red hot fishing on diamond jigs,” exclaimed Capt. Richard Etzel of the Breakway.

Action from the surf was stymied by large swells and rip currents, which have also put a bit of a damper on the fluke action. “Fluke fishing has been okay,” said Kathy Vegessi, wife of Capt. Michael Vegessi of the Montauk party boat Lazybones. “However, on Sunday afternoon we had a good pick of fish up to six pounds.” Vegessi expects the action to pick up once the seas calm down a bit this week.

The surf has not hurt the fluke scene near and around Accabonac Harbor. “It’s been hot as a pistol,” enthused Harvey Bennett, proprietor of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett. The porgy bite continues at Cherry Harbor, he said, and some folks who slung clams and other lures had some good action on big bluefish and striped bass near Napeague. Bennett felt the fishing would improve coming off the recent full moon. He was also pleased to report that he received several baseball mitts over the past week that will ultimately be delivered to underprivileged youth in the Dominican Republic. Donations and gloves continue to be accepted at his shop.

The action on small bass in Three Mile Harbor continues. “Lots of small stripers to be had there,” said Sebastian Gorgone of Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle on Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton. He also expects to see an influx of larger bass coming soon to the nearby waterways. Gorgone added that the porgy bite off Gardiner’s continues in earnest and that kingfish continue to be caught locally.

Large stripers are still being caught in the Sag Harbor area. Nighttime is best for the big lunkers on live bait, said Ken Morse of Tightlines Tackle in Sag Harbor. “Action has been strong, but the fluke fishing has not been that consistent. Weakfish and kingfish can be taken at Buoy 16 in Noyac Bay though.” Morse was also excited by the early strong showing of big blue-claw crabs in the area. “I can’t wait to go for them with my daughters,” he said.   


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

While colder temperatures earlier in the spring have kept some species away, kingfish, like this one caught and released in Noyac Bay over the weekend, have arrived early in local waters. Jon M. Diat Photos