The Mast-Head: Slow October

The lack of fish is not entirely unanticipated

   There is still a surfcasting rod in the back of my truck, despite a sense, widely shared, that the striped bass fall run is fizzling out.
    Mike Solomon, an artist I know who fishes nearly every day, says that despite his best efforts nothing has been going on on the beaches for him. The last decent fish I know about from up this way showed up on Oct. 11 when John Musnicki caught a 36-inch bass in East Hampton. Montauk has been slow, with a couple of exceptions, since before Columbus Day. You hardly see gulls along the shore, the picking has been so slim.
    The lack of fish is not entirely unanticipated. Even though surfcasters here enjoyed good years in 2009 and 2010, there were warnings. For several seasons, regulators have noticed dips in the number of young bass in Chesapeake Bay. But the sudden differences between one fall and the next seem more about the vagaries of bait and water temperature than anything else.
    Just the other day, I was sitting in my truck at the beach just looking at the water when Larry Cantwell pulled up, looked at the fishing gear unused in the back, and laughed. That’s what you do when you’ve got the bug, but the bass just aren’t around. You can see it in the postures of would-be surfcasters, who sit slumped at the steering wheel, peering out to sea. Others stand on the sand talking, trading ideas about what the bass might take a swipe at if they come past. 
    Out at Montauk Point the other morning, the usual October crowd in the lower parking lot, where the campers are parked in rows when the fishing is good, wasn’t there. A few people on the beach cast listlessly or dozed on the rocks.
    It’s times like these, Harvey Bennett, who runs the Amagansett Tackle Shop, says, that customers start coming in and asking about clam rakes.