Sea Bass Saga Continues

Anglers can retain only three fish over 15 inches through the end of August
Harsh restrictions on black sea bass continue to frustrate New York anglers. Jon M. Diat

The sad saga surrounding the black sea bass season continues to frustrate anglers. At an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council meeting last week in Stony Brook, the group voted to adopt last year’s inequitable black sea bass quota for this upcoming season, which cuts New York’s black sea bass allocation compared to neighboring states, even though the black sea bass stock has rebounded and is currently 240 percent above target biomass.

While the sea bass season will open on June 23, four days earlier than in 2017, anglers can retain only three fish over 15 inches through the end of August, when the quota increases to seven fish. By comparison, New Jersey’s season for black sea bass opened in May and anglers can keep 10 fish over 12 inches; by November, 15 fish can be kept.

“No doubt about it, the D.E.C. and A.S.F.M.C. screwed us on sea bass,” said Capt. Michael Albronda of the charter boat Montauk. “It’s totally ridiculous and just not fair at all.”

“This ‘deal’ is no victory for New York fishermen and is worse than status quo with other states receiving an increase,” said Representative Lee Zeldin. “New York continues to roll over for the A.S.M.F.C. while New York fishermen get screwed. I will not pull the wool over the eyes of hard-working New York fishermen and claim victory. Any deal on behalf of New York fishermen needs to place them on a level playing field with New Jersey and Connecticut, and this deal, cementing a quota cut for local fishermen in comparison to other states, is not equitable. I will not accept anything less than what New York fishermen, both recreational and commercial, deserve — parity.” 

To any casual observer, it is clear that the sea bass population is at an all-time high. In my last two trips on my boat, I landed (and released) a number of large black sea bass while fishing for porgies and fluke. One can only hope that sanity will one day prevail with various government and fishery officials to reset the regulations and properly level the playing field. Until then, boat and business owners who rely on black sea bass for part of their income will continue to shake their heads in disbelief.

“I mean, something has to change at some point,” added Albronda.

Outside of the black sea bass maelstrom, fishing continues to improve on several fronts as water temperatures continue to rise. Bay water temperatures have reached 60 degrees in spots and boating activity, either by power or sail, is increasing on a daily basis.

Speaking of Albronda, he took some time off with some friends to take the long boat ride westward from Montauk to Jessup’s Neck for porgies on Friday, where they fished next to my boat. We witnessed decent fishing but small fish made up most of the catch. “There has been a lot of fishing pressure the past few years on the spring porgies,” he said. “Three years ago, they were all jumbo spawners in that area, with just about every fish over two pounds. Not anymore.” Indeed, in addition to one Montauk party boat making the long trek, two head boats from Connecticut were also on the fishing grounds that morning.

“The lilacs are starting to bloom and the weakfish have arrived right on schedule,” announced an excited Harvey Bennett at the Tackle Shop in Amagansett. “The box traps in Amagansett are getting them and I had a customer on Sunday catch two of them in Northwest Harbor. Also, there are a lot of big bluefish off of Accabonac Harbor and Gerard Drive, but they have been a bit finicky and tough to catch at times.” 

Bennett added that those jigging for squid at night are doing very well in Montauk’s Fort Pond Bay. “The squid haven’t been harassed by the bluefish so the jigging has been really good. For those focused on striped bass, they can be had on the bayside and there have been a few shots of them on the ocean beaches.” 

Over at Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton, the owner Sebastian Gorgone suggested taking out the heavy surf rods for the alligator-size bluefish that are terrorizing the local shoreline. “The fish are really big and mean off of Gerard Drive,” he said. “Leave the light tackle at home.” Gorgone added that striped bass can be had in Three Mile Harbor on small lures, while those looking for fluke have headed up to Greenport for decent action. “And folks are waiting for the jumbo porgies to show up in Cherry Harbor,” he added. 

On the tournament front, the Montauk Surfmasters Spring Shootout will run from tomorrow through July 7. The tournament will include an adult division as well as an open catch-and-release division. Kids and youth tackle prizes will be awarded for the top three bluefish and striped bass. 

The tournament raises money for a local scholarship fund, while supporting and prompting catch and release. Registration is online at or in person at Paulie’s Tackle Shop in Montauk. The entry fee for adults is $100. There is no entry for the kids and youth divisions. 

Paulie’s and West Lake Marina are the two official weigh-in stations for the tournament. 

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