Sunday was Oct. 9, but it felt like Aug. 9. The parking lot at Montauk Point State Park was full. Fishing boats were spread out on the tide line like stepping stones leading all the way to Block Island.
Between a line of surfcasters standing shoulder to shoulder like medieval archers and a fleet of small boats with light-tackle and fly-casting archers of their own, an acre of feeding striped bass boiled and frothed. The afternoon light made the short-lived, airborne escapes of their bay-anchovy prey appear like showers of gold coins.
These were not small bass. They were 28 to 36-inch-long stripers by the thousand with nary a bluefish among them, and they had been making their same awe-inspiring appearence every day for a week.
A strange calm seemed to settle on the point despite the vast numbers of fish and fishermen. Two surfcasters from New Jersey sat in the late afternoon sun, one holding a Heineken. They leaned against a large boulder beside their surfcasting rods. A fat striper lay between them. Not 30 yards away, the distance of an easy cast, big bass boiled. The men were not alone. Dozens of casters stood around, spent from reeling and satisfied to just watch one of nature’s most inspiring displays.
“Does it get any better than this?” one of the men asked.
“The fish could be bigger,” his friend answered before both men laughed at such audacity.
Large schools of pure striped bass began rounding Montauk Point on the tide last Wednesday. High water brought them to within casting range every day. At first, the larger fish were taking bucktails. Red pork rind seemed the color of choice to dress the lure. As the days passed, it seemed like new varieties of prey made the choice of lure more difficult. Whatever the lure, it would have been difficult not to catch a fish.
Boating anglers were similarly blessed. The Star Island Yacht Club’s annual striped bass tournament drew 77 boats. The winning bass, angled by Bob Sztorc from the boat Caprice, weighed in at 46.6 pounds. Rick Gulia on a Mako 23 caught a 43-pounder for second place, and Bob Maier on the Elizabeth boated a 42.2-pound striped bass for third. It was Rick Gulia again who reeled in the winning bluefish, a 13.3-pound chopper.
A 49.07-poiund striper was weighed in at Star Island Yacht Club on Monday morning.
Striped bass were not alone enjoying what must have been the huge numbers of small prey species massing around Montauk Point. “You could walk on the false albacore,” Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett reported. He said schools of falsies were found deep into Gardiner’s Bay as well. And of surfcasting, Bennett said, “Everybody’s in Montauk. There’s nobody here,” he said, meaning the south-facing beaches of Amagansett and East Hampton. “It’s empty, but with bass. We’ve got a few bluefish up here on the sand beaches.”
Big porgies are found around Gardiner’s Island, and blackfish season is on. The Viking Fleet of party boats will begin sailing combination black seabass and blackfish (tautog) trips tomorrow. The trips will leave at 3 a.m. and return at 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays through October.
The weather has been suitable for offshore fishing as well. The West Lake Marina reported one boat steamed all the way to West Atlantis Canyon and was rewarded with 20 yellowfin tuna in the 68 to 90-pound range.
The fall hunting season got under way on Oct. 1. That was the date for the start of the bow hunting season for deer. It will run through Dec. 31. Saturday marks the start of the hunting season for sea ducks (scoters, eiders, and long-tailed ducks formerly called oldsquaw). The bag limit is seven sea ducks per day per hunter. Woodcock hunting also started on Oct. 1 and runs through Nov. 17.
The season for small game, which includes pheasant, rabbit, and squirrel, will start on Nov. 1. Pheasant hunters may keep four per day, cocks only, through Dec. 31. Cottontail rabbit hunters may hunt through Feb. 29.
Puddle ducks, mallards, black duck, wood duck, pintails, redheads, scaup, and canvasback become fair game next month.