On the Water: Spoon-Trolling in a Sloop

While fishing for false albacore in Fort Pond Bay in Montauk on Oct. 7, Edward L. Shugrue “heard a large blowing sound,” turned around, and snapped this photo of a whale he estimated to be about 60 feet long. Edward L. Shugrue

    Fishing under sail requires a great deal of forehandedness and attention to detail, disciplines not in evidence on Saturday when the sloop Leilani headed east out of Montauk Harbor bound for the fields of fish on the north side of Montauk Point and trolling a silver spoon.
    Obviously, wind speed and direction are the first considerations. The state of the tide, which all fishermen know in order to decide on the most likely places to find hungry fish, takes on more importance under sail.
    On Saturday, the wind backed slowly from northwest to southwest as the day wore on. By late afternoon, the wind was predicted to increase to 15 knots, and the tide would be near full ebb. Once combined, wind and tide would make for a formidable force to sail against — something to keep in mind.
    But, with only eight knots of wind at the start of the ebb, Leilani approached the mosquito fleet of fly-fishing boats spread out from North Bar west to Shagwong Point along the diminishing tide line.
    The sloop was trolling the spoon on a starboard tack under full sail when the rod bent nearly double. The fish dragged line screaming from the spool as the unprepared fish-sailor attempted to reel while at the same time putting Leilani into the wind to slow her down. Too much attention to the fish, and not enough to the helm, resulted in excess pressure on what had to be a big bass. It broke free.
    Leilani came about, now trolling the silver spoon heading northwest against the tide. Hot sun, emerald green water, the boat with a kindly heel and with the first mate basking in the sun forward keeping her eye peeled under the jib for small boats.
    This time when the rod bent, it was left in its holder until Leilani hove to. A green bonito was brought over the port rail, praised for its electric colors, and set free at the mate’s insistence. Fishing under sail offers the best of both worlds, especially with such kindliness aforethought.
    Surfcasters were lined up along the beach on the north side of Montauk Point, but much of the action on Saturday took place along south-facing beaches from downtown Montauk past Gurney’s Inn, along Napeague and Amagansett to Georgica Beach in East Hampton. Casters marveled at the diversity of prey species either chased up onto the beach or disgorged from striped bass that had been landed. The prey has included “snapper bluefish” as well as “croakers, spot — stuff you never see up here,” Paul Apostolides of Paulie’s Tackle in Montauk said on Monday, referring to more southern species.
    A tournament sponsored by Paulie’s Tackle was won over the weekend by John Bruno, who hooked a 39.34-pound striper. Mike Coppola finished second with a 34.14-pounder, and Rob Santise followed up with a 28-pound striper.
    Paulie’s is now home base for the Montauk Local’s fall tournament that started on Oct. 1. Dennis Gaviola put a 21-pound striped bass on the board to lead the pack in that surfcasting tourney.
    In the Montauk SurfMasters tournament, Gary Krist, Klever Oleas, and Atilla Ozturk hold first, second, and third places with 29.15, 25, and 20-pound bass in the wader division. John Bruno continues to hold the top spot among wetsuiters. Christine Schnell, Mary Ellen Kane, and Cheryl Lackner landed 18.8, 14, and 11.8-pound stripers.
    In the youth division for 12 to 17-year-olds, Dylan Lackner is in first place with a 13.5-pound bass. James Kim Jr. is tied for first with a fish of the same size, and Phillip Schnell caught a 13-pounder for a third-place standing. Among the kids, casters 7 to 11, Brian Damm caught a 14.6-pound bass (a big fish). Witt Holmes is in second with a 13.8-pounder, and Brian Damm again holds third with a 10.2-pound striped bass.
    Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett reports increased action in the surf along the south-facing Amagansett beaches up to Two Mile Hollow. And, he reports that very big porgies are still schooling in Gardiner’s Bay. This is the time of year Bennett heads out on his cast-and-blast trips, casting for striped bass and bluefish while waiting for scoters to join his string of decoys. “The coot shooting is excellent. Lots of birds around.”