Counting Down the Clock

Mother Nature always holds the upper hand
Lucky for turkeys, the wild turkey hunting season is brief. It opened last week and closes on Friday, Nov. 30. Durell Godfrey

The clock is ticking. The fishing season for private boaters is quickly coming to a close. 

While it felt like summer was just here, it is now sadly time to find the snow shovel. The days continue to get shorter and winter is rapidly approaching. 

I was hopeful that there would be one final fishing excursion before finishing up the season, along with a few more days to dredge up some highly-treasured bay scallops. It can be hard, or impossible, to extend the season, no matter how much we try. Mother Nature always holds the upper hand.

However, last Monday was a rare day out on Block Island Sound. The main reason was that for the first time in what seemed like weeks, there was barely a breath of wind. Sadly, since Labor Day, it has seemed like a giant fan was turned on and somebody forgot to turn the switch off. 

The winds of fall have been constant and unrelenting. Charter boat captains I know in Montauk have lamented the high number of cancellations. There was a lot of lost income for many. But at least for one day, despite the nippy 28-degree temperature that left a dense coating of frost on the dock and on my pilothouse windows, a nice, early morning of fishing was finally at hand.

The ride to the blackfish grounds of Fishers Island to the northeast took well over an hour. With nary another boat in sight en route, it was an opportunity to take in the abundance of waterfowl life on the waterways in which we traveled, including gannets, scoters, cormorants, eiders, and more.

In addition, a continuous parade of Canada geese also flew overhead, all making their way west in their classic V formation. There were birds everywhere we looked. We also witnessed several harbor seals on the nearby horizon. Their black, curious bulbous heads bobbing gently up and down like a piece of old cork, they were only there to take a quick glimpse of me as I passed.

Finally, arriving at our destination and setting anchor in 50 feet of water, I took note of the crystal-clear visibility. It was so exhilarating it practically hurt your eyes when scanning the horizon. 

About eight miles away to the north, I could distinctly make out the tractor trailers passing along on the I-95 bridge that spans the Thames River between New London and Groton, Conn. It was a rare day in the late fall season.

But while the conditions were perfect on so many levels, the fishing was not. For some reason, the fish were not on the feed and the action was painfully slow. While the tide was expected to flood in about half an hour, we resisted moving to another location. We were anchored on prime real estate. And fishermen know they need to have patience at such times.

We stuck to our game plan. The tide finally changed, and the action ultimately did indeed improve. The only problem was that the fish landed were small, very small, some no larger than five inches (blackfish need to be at least 16 inches to be retained). 

Between me and my two other guests, we ultimately combined to land seven keepers, but it was not an easy task. The keeper-to-shorts ratio was at least 15 to 1. The bite was intense, and while we switched over from green crabs to the highly-prized hermit crab for bait, the size of the fish remained pretty much the same. The fishing gods above us had clearly spoken. Not every fishing trip will be an outstanding success.

The radio chatter among the dozen or so boats gathered in the immediate area echoed the same frustration. Fishing was decent, but the majority of the catch was made up of small fish. The action on much larger blackfish we witnessed the week before was not to be replicated. It’s what makes fishing a challenge, and it helps keep the seafood stores in business. 

At noon, we decided to weigh anchor and headed back for the long ride home. The sea was still flat calm, but the sun’s rays were now dimmed by some high cirrus clouds. The quickly darkening sky heralded the approach of another low-pressure system, and ultimately, more gusty wind.

The old salt Harvey Bennett at the Tackle Shop in Amagansett also lamented the windy weather that has put a damper on fishing activities over the past several months.

“It’s been blowing for sure,” he nodded behind the well-worn countertop at his establishment on Sunday afternoon. “The wind has been nonstop.”

But Bennett regained his enthusiasm and verbal octave about the striped bass bite occurring along the nearby ocean beaches, where the fishing has been excellent of late, despite the wind.

“Now is the time to fish if you want some action,” he said. “Lots of bass are in the wash. Take some light tackle and have a ball.” Bennett added that some blowfish are still hanging around and that squid can still be had in Fort Pond Bay and Three Mile Harbor.

Bennett also reminded me that he has a popular contest underway at the behest of his namesake establishment.

“There are three ways to win,” he explained. “For $20, anglers can weigh in any fish they please. Plus, on Dec. 15, the last day of striped bass season, another gift will be awarded for the largest fish landed. In addition, all entries will be entered into a raffle for a Penn 706z surf reel.”

Bennett also wanted all to know that all money raised from the contest will go to underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic, a cause he has devotedly supported for several years. As well, everyone entered will gain entrance into the exclusive Amagansett Sportfishing Association for one year. Membership has its privileges as they say. 

“We had a great turnout last year on the final day of bass season for the contest,” recalled Bennett. “I hope we get even more people to participate this year. It’s a lot of fun.” 

Ken Morse of Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor agreed that there were lots of bass on the beach. “There were some keepers early last week, but most of the fish are on the small side.” 

Morse added the blackfish reports have been scarce. “Too much wind most days,” he said with a deep sigh. “It has been a very frustrating fall season.”

“Still a ton of striped bass down at the ocean,” extolled Sebastian Gorgone of Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton. “But they are all small. However, it’s been great action and the bite has been very consistent every day. Bring out the light tackle.”

While talking about the latest on the local fishing scene, Gorgone was beginning to pack up his gear as he prepared to drive to Baltimore to celebrate Thanksgiving, as well as playing a gig with his former hard-rock band mates. 

“We haven’t played together in about 10 years, but it should be great fun,” the talented guitarist said with a wide grin. “I can’t wait to get down there.”

Turkey dinner and good music always make for an excellent holiday combination. No cranberry sauce required. Rock on.

Since we are talking turkey, are you tired of handling that frozen Butterball bird for Thanksgiving? If so, you are in luck as wild turkey season opened last week in Suffolk County, a good opportunity for some excellent eating.

The season comes to an end on Friday, Nov. 30. Obviously, no defrosting of the turkey is required.

 


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