Secret Stealth Stripers

Many striped bass anglers are very protective of their favorite fishing haunts
Edward Shugrue of East Hampton caught (and released) this striped bass. It was taken on a small white Clouser fly. Edward Shugrue

Striped bass anglers are a bit different from most. They are by nature a rather secretive group. Whether from boat or shore, many are very protective of their favorite fishing haunts. Quite a few also refuse to reveal what they caught and what lures were used successfully on their most recent outings. Bad weather rarely inhibits their pursuit. Other than hooking them up to a lie detector, you’re usually not going to get a straight, honest answer to many of your questions.

A close friend of mine is one of these people. While I have never been invited on his boat to fish for stripers, I do know he is very successful. He only fishes at night, usually pulling quietly away from his slip at 3 a.m., depending on the tide, and returns home most times before the sun breaks over the horizon. While out on the water, he keeps a close eye to ensure nobody is either following him or fishing near him. To ensure stealth mode, he leaves his navigation lights off. 

I see him several times a week and I always ask how the fishing is. The reply is usually rather bland and benign: “Not bad” or “Decent.” I don’t press the issue, nor do I ask what lure is the hot one. While I have a hunch as to his fishing methods and know the general area where he likes to fish, I respect the time and effort he has put into fine-tuning his craft and will not encroach on his turf. He’s paid his dues over several decades to ensure success, and I’m not about to mug him. Friendships can be quickly broken over something like that.

The desire to catch a striper in the night is not high on my list anyway. I throw back most of the fish I catch as it is, and despite having radar on my boat, I’ve never enjoyed operating a vessel under the stars. My own passion for fishing has always been strong, but I guess I’m just more laid back by nature. 

While I’m an early riser, I don’t mind baiting a hook with a piece of clam for porgy after I’m finished with breakfast. For my secretive striped bass friend, I admire his intensity and passion for one of our foremost game fish, no matter the time of day or night.

As for those striped bass, the fishing in the bays picked up strongly over the past week as linesiders up to 20 pounds have been feasting on a heavy diet of bunker and butterfish.

“Bass fishing is really good and the bigger stripers should be showing up any day now,” said Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor. “Big bluefish are everywhere too and sometimes can interfere with the bass fishing.” Morse said that porgy fishing continues to hold up and that weakfish up to 8 pounds can be had at buoy 16 in Noyack Bay on jig heads tipped with rubber bodies. He reports fluke fishing as decent. 

As noted by other tackle show owners, Morse is having a hard time securing local spearing, a small baitfish that fluke consider to be a main source of their diet. “I have not seen a single school of spearing yet this season. And even those commercial fishermen who net them have said it’s been extremely poor. I was fortunate to get a delivery of 80 packages a few weeks ago, but I think I have only one left.” I concur with Morse and others on the lack of this popular baitfish this spring.

Over at the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, owner Harvey Bennett ran down a long list of fish that are now running well in local waters. “You name it, you have a good chance to catch it,” he said behind the counter of his shop on Montauk Highway on Monday. “Striped bass and big bluefish are all over the place from Napeague to Gerard Drive in Springs. Good bass fishing on tins and bucktails are on the ocean beaches, while blowfish, porgies, and kingfish can be had in Fort Pond Bay.” Bennett was equally enthused about the freshwater fishing in Fort Pond in Montauk. “Excellent action on walleyes and smallmouth bass there,” he quipped while repairing a well-used fishing reel. “Big fish, too.” 

“Big bluefish are in the bays and rat-sized bass are around in large numbers in Three Mile Harbor,” said Sebastian Gorgone of Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton. “Fluke fishing has been rather quiet, but that’s mainly due to the lousy weather we’ve had the past few days as few went out.” 

Despite the busy upcoming Memorial Day weekend, Gorgone is looking forward to a 10-day Mediterranean cruise that commences on Saturday. “We’re going to France, Portugal, and the Rock of Gibraltar to name a few places. But I’m making sure the shop is well stocked in my absence.” Bon voyage!

Out in Montauk, striped bass action for surfcasters has been solid of late. “No big fish yet, but plenty of fish to 30 inches are being taken from Montauk Point westward along the beach,” said Paul Apostolides of Paulie’s Tackle Shop. The veteran shopowner recommends fishing with bucktails or tins.

“Fluke fishing has been improving on a daily basis,” said Chris Miller of Westlake Marina in Montauk. “Weather conditions play a big part in the catch, but some nice fish have been weighed in. As for striped bass, the fish are starting to show up in the various rips off the lighthouse and should gain momentum shortly.”

Not all striped bass-fishing spots are classified as top secret. 


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