Young of the Year
It’s not a national holiday, but Tumbleweed Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, passed by us a few weeks ago.
I’m sure many locals here celebrated. The crowds of summer are gone. Most significant is that the best time of the year in our towns and waterways is now upon us. The calm is readily apparent and much appreciated.
Foremost, to my mind, the simple chore of securing a parking spot is now easier when running into town to pick up the morning paper and the obligatory cup of hot coffee. While the internet is handy and quick, I still want to catch up on current events with a hard copy of the daily paper firmly in my grasp. Old habits die hard.
Newsprint is special. Every morning provides me with an opportunity to take in its unique and distinctive smell and appreciate the still-solidifying ink born from the large printing press upon which it was produced a few hours earlier. Black ink smudges my hands as I peruse the paper, habitually licking a finger to help turn each page for the latest news or score. This ritual is comforting in so many ways. A laptop offers none of this.
I’m old school and I don’t think that’s ever going to significantly change. Bob Dylan may have said that the times they are a-changing, but in so many ways, not for me. Sorry Bob.
The other day, on a warm, late summer afternoon, I strolled down to Long Beach on Noyac Bay to take in the elongated slant of the setting sun over the pristine surroundings of Jessup’s Neck, located about a mile to the west. Comprising nearly 200 acres, Jessup’s is a pristine nature preserve.
A gentle breath of the last gasp of a northwest wind touched my face. It felt refreshing and was therapeutic in so many ways. Looking skyward, it was a time to exhale and enjoy the peaceful surroundings around me.
The bay was still warm for swimming and I waded into the crystal-clear water beyond my knees as I have done for over 50 years. In a matter of seconds, several small blowfish, born probably less than two months ago, nibbled on my toes, as hermit crabs scurried about. It took me to my youth and the wonderful memories of similar times on that very same beach.
Farther out, groups of baby spearing sprayed about and broke the surface of the placid water, probably chased by marauding snappers, also known as bluefish. Schools of mullet and kingfish darted in and out from the shoreline behind me, while a solid pack of menhaden could be seen gently swimming to the east, leaving behind an oily slick in their wake. The waters were alive with the young of the year.
About 100 feet down the beach I noticed a young couple and their two children entering the water with a small minnow net. There were squeals of delight from the kids on their first pull of the 10-foot net. It was a bountiful catch and consisted of a number of recently hatched fish, including kingfish, sea robins, fluke, porgy, weakfish, and even a lizardfish, the first time I’ve ever seen one. Nursery school was in session.
Quickly throwing the catch back into the water, the kids did a few more pulls of the net before their parents signaled that dinner awaited them back at home. Grabbing their flip-flops after rolling up the net, they smiled and waved goodbye. The joy on their faces melted with the slowly setting sun.
Simple times for the simple days of late summer. It never gets old. And I’m glad it has not changed.
“Fishing for big kingfish and porgies remains hot in Three Mile Harbor,” said a jubilant Sebastian Gorgone of Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton. “Great late-summer action. Just drop a chum pot over and you will catch your dinner real quick.” Gorgone noted that bunker schools were also thick in Gardiner’s Bay, with some bluefish chasing them. In addition, sea bass fishing remains strong east of Gardiner’s in deeper water.
“The waters are still very warm and there is a lot of bait around, so I think we’ll have good fishing for the next few months,” he said of the 72-degree water near the private island.
Capt. Rob Aaronson of the charter boat Oh Brother! out of Montauk agrees with Gorgone. “The fall is shaping up to be great with tons of bait in the area to keep the fishing steady,” he said. The veteran skipper reports that striped bass and jumbo-size sea bass and porgie have made up the majority of his charters’ recent hauls. “Some fluke are mixed in, too,” he added. Note that the recreational fluke season comes to an end on Sept. 30.
Capt. David Blinken, a seasoned, light-tackle and fly-fishing guide of North Flats Guiding out of East Hampton, who is back on board his craft after rupturing his Achilles’ tendon back in late spring, has also been enthused by the recent activity.
“There is an amazing amount of bait, largely sand eels, off of Montauk and an incredible amount of whales are feasting on them,” he said on Monday. “Lots of striped bass are hanging around the whales, too.” Blinken warned that while witnessing whales on the feed is a special moment, boaters need to keep a safe distance from the large mammals.
“You don’t want to be on a boat in a school of feeding whales when one surfaces at 20 miles an hour,” he said while recalling a recent YouTube video of a New Jersey center console boat being capsized by a finback whale chasing prey. “Folks need to be much smarter and give whales a wide berth. It’s the law, too.”
Back on the fishing scene, Blinken said that bass and blues can be found in good numbers, but the full onslaught of false albacore has yet to develop. “There are a few albies scattered just about everywhere, but no real concentration of them yet,” he added. “That should change soon.”
That old salt Harvey Bennett, the longtime owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, said that fishing is on the upswing in the quadrant of which he has served for nearly 40 years.
“Great fishing going on so many fronts,” he said with a straight face before showing a nod of concern and frustration over how his beloved Oakland Raiders lost to the Denver Broncos on a last-second field goal on Sunday afternoon.
“I love the Raiders, and that loss hurt,” he said in a soft voice. “I will need a few days to recuperate.”
Gathering himself, Bennett said that porgies and kingfish abound and that more false albacore have shown their faces in greater frequency after the recent ocean heave.
“Albie action has been on the upswing,” he said. “And there are tons of snappers around as well.”
Surfcasters took some time off from the effects of Hurricane Florence and its resulting heavy swells, before it made landfall on the Southeast coast last week. But those who ply the frothy ocean suds have their game face on in the calming seas as the Montauk Surf Fishing Classic takes place starting tomorrow.
The event ends at noon on Sunday, and the popular tourney features cash and tackle prizes for the three largest striped bass, bluefish, and released striped bass. The entry fee is $15 and applications can be picked up at Paulie’s Tackle Shop, as well as at the New York State Parks headquarters in Montauk.
You have to be in it to win it, as they say. That tried and true saying will never change either.
We welcome your fishing tips, observations, and photographs at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find the “On the Water” column on Twitter at @ehstarfishing.