Bass and Blues, Big and Plump

This season, one is struck by the size and plumpness of both striped bass and bluefish
Ellis Rattray with a 13-pound striped bass that his father caught in Gardiner’s Bay on Saturday David E. Rattray

    The bartering has begun. A plumber installing sinks and toilets at a Montauk motel in the throes of gentrification showed up late, sunburned, and begging his employer’s indulgence. 
    “I had to go fishing,” he said, fully expecting he’d be forgiven, especially because his cooler was filled with Ziploc bags bulging with striped bass and bluefish fillets, coins of the realm this time of year.  It’s as though Nature’s treasury has opened its vault to issue Ziplocked stimulus packages throughout town — blowfish, bluefish, fluke, striped bass — bags of freshly-caught currency for gifts or trade. The employer’s frown exacted promises of future tuna from the plumber. The frown vanished. It was replaced with a smile, and a friendly “Get to work.”
    This season, one is struck by the size and plumpness of both striped bass and bluefish. Normally, early-arriving bluefish, called “runners,” show up long and lean. But, because spring arrived early with her migrating prey species including sand eels, both bass and bluefish were feasting long before most anglers wet a line.
    Not much action at the start of the Montauk SurfMasters tournament for striped bass that got under way on Friday. No fish had been weighed in at the Star Island Yacht Club weigh station as zof Monday.
    However, the fish are around and close enough to shore to catch. Atilla Ozturk made a pre-tournament foray last Wednesday and found a few “rats” and one sizable striped bass while casting from the East Deck jetty at Ditch Plain in Montauk. He was using an ounce-and-a-half bucktail. David Rattray tossed a jointed yellow bomber into Gardiner’s Bay from the north side of Napeague and hooked a 33.5-inch bass that, upon cutting, revealed it had been dining upon small sand eels and inch-long silversides.
    The West Lake Marina in Montauk reported excellent fishing over the weekend, Saturday more productive than Sunday only because Mother’s Day kept anglers at bay — the appreciative, responsible anglers at least.
    Chris Miller reported that several nice fluke were delivered to the West Lake scales. The Double D charter boat brought in a 7.7-pounder last week. The Top Hook charter boat had a 25-pound striped bass on Saturday dragged up on a parachute. It had three undersize fluke in its belly, which led Miller to suggest that conservation authorities should begin patrolling the bottom.
    Jim Collishaw and his son Kenny and Al Gregg limited out on fluke aboard the Mako Wish on Saturday, 12 keepers in all, the biggest weighing 7.75 pounds. The Mako Wish was fishing off the radar tower in Montauk, a spot that has proved especially productive recently.
    “Fat and feeding” was how Miller described the stripers and bluefish being caught on diamond jigs in the area off Montauk Point known as the Elbow.
    Nat Miller, an East Hampton Town trustee and commercial trap fisherman, said there was a charge of bunker in Gardiner’s Bay last week. The oily fish were drawing the attention of seals that were chomping on them and eating their roe and sparing bluefish and weakfish, his money fish. 
    Richard Peltonen of Montauk correctly identified last week’s mystery fish as a northern stargazer. He said the gazers can be caught on rod and reel, but anglers should know that they give off an electric shock. A southern variety has surprised the feet of bathers in shallow water.
    Ralph Carpentier’s guess, a deep-sea angler fish, fell short, but he is a fine painter nonetheless.
    The fifth annual Ducks Unlimited striped bass tournament will begin on June 9 from the Star Island Yacht Club. The tourney’s $250-per-boat entry fee and a live auction will benefit Ducks Unlimited’s wetlands restoration programs, and there will be cash prizes.
    A captains meeting will be held on Friday, June 8. Eligible fishing areas will include all waters east of a line from Shinnecock Inlet northward to Mattituck Inlet. The awards buffet and auction will be held at the yacht club starting at 5 p.m.