On the Water: Big Bass Have Arrived

Looks heavy. Bill Gardiner caught this 42.26-pound striped bass early Saturday morning in Montauk. As of Tuesday, the fish led the Montauk SurfMasters’ spring shootout tournament. Paul Apostolides

    The question of whether any large striped bass have shown up yet was answered on Friday morning when Adam Flax arrived at Paulie’s Tackle shop in Montauk and placed a 23.75-pound striper on the scale. It was the first contender in the SurfMasters’ spring shootout tournament.
    The Flax fish was followed to the scales by a 42.26-pounder landed by Bill Gardiner on Saturday morning, then on Monday, a 40.6-pound striped bass caught by Paul Pira.
    As of Tuesday, Gardiner was in first place in the SurfMaster shootout. Unfortunately, Pira had not entered the contest. He has a chance to enter Paulie’s Tackle’s own tournament, which starts tomorrow and ends on Sunday at 10 a.m. Surfcasters can enter the contest as late as Saturday morning.
    Without the benefit of full disclosure, the big fish appear to have been taken from among the rocks somewhere between Ditch Plain and Montauk Point. This is somewhat of a departure from past years, when big bass made their first appearance on sand beaches in Montauk. There was no such departure to the west. Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett reported that bass in the 20-pound class are being taken all along the south-facing beaches, many of them on clam baits. “It’s a lazy man’s way of fishing, but it’s effective,” Bennett said.
    Further proof that the big bass have arrived was pulled on board the Sea Wife IV charter boat over the weekend, again, a 42-pounder.
    Chris Miller of the West Lake Marina in Montauk is a spear fisherman. He said that most years he begins seeing bigger bass in the rips off of Montauk Point about the second week of June. “Surfcasters usually catch them from the beach first,” Miller said. This time of year, he free dives with a seven-millimeter wetsuit to fend off the 50-degree water temperatures, and a weight belt to counteract the buoyancy of the thick suit.
    Miller reports an unfortunate influx of dogfish, a k a sand sharks, on the south side. The doggies are a bane to anglers because of their habit of stealing bait and taking hooks destined for species considered more worthy.
    Sea bass are one such species. They are being found with regularity these days, but can’t be kept until June 13. This year the black sea bass season is split, June 13 through Oct. 1 and Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.
    In the fluke department, boaters who have been experiencing an on-again-off-again pick on the south side got a recent shot in the arm with fluke showing up in the rips around Montauk Point. The word is there are a lot of shorts, fluke less than 20.5 inches in length, but there are some larger fluke mixed in.
    Heather King was fishing on the Lazy Bones party boat during the week. Her gear found a seven-pound fluke and then a hefty, five-pound sea bass, which had to be returned to the deep.
    The swarms of blowfish that have inundated Gardiner’s Bay have also made a sizable presence in Three Mile Harbor and Lake Montauk.
    The idea of whiling away a sunny afternoon sitting on the commercial dock down by the Gosman’s complex in Montauk with a lightweight rod and flounder hook, a bucket slowly filling with fish that look like white balloons, their tails bound for the scampi pan, is a pleasant one.