Revenge of the Fish

What goes around, comes around
Malcolm Frazier, a sculptor, completed this bronze boat and fisherman 13 years ago to memorialize local fishermen lost at sea. Its pedestal is engraved with over 100 names. The sculpture, erected seaward of the Montauk Point Lighthouse in October of 1999, got a thorough cleaning last week. Russell Drumm

   Do you believe in fish revenge? Whales are not fish, of course, but Moby Dick is perhaps the best example of how, at sea, what goes around, comes around. If, like Ahab, you toy with fish to find meaning in life without the proper respect for the deep and its critters, you too will get yours.
    A Moby Dick-like finale played out in front of dozens of surfcasters at Turtle Cove just west of the Montauk Point Lighthouse last Thursday.
    October is when the “mosquito fleet” — the name given the flotilla of small, outboard-powered platforms favored by those casting light spin-tackle and fly rods — swarm the waters around Montauk Point. In good years like this one, the shallow sea teems with striped bass, false albacore, and bluefish, all feeding aggressively on any number of prey species. Their appetite blinds them to everything but their prey.
    Schools become tight, frothing boils, mindless feeding frenzies. The frenzies in turn morph even the humblest fishermen into apex predators, blind to all but their prey, becoming massed armies of surfcasters, navies of fly casters, lures flying in all directions in place of teeth.
    And so it was last Thursday afternoon when a boater in the delirious throes of catching a false albacore ran into and capsized a kayaker who was also fighting a falsie. Chris McCarthy, one of the surfcasters looking on from shore, said neither man dropped their fish. They continued their separate frenzies, one wet, one dry.
    Of course, the scene was a lot more humorous than the sight of Ahab disappearing beneath the waves, pinned to the white whale by his own harpoon warp, but it was not funny to the United States Coast Guard. A Coast Guard small boat responded to the incident and brought the boater back to the Montauk station for questioning and a lecture on the dangers of placing the pursuit of fish above good seamanship. Fortunately, no one was injured.
    Boats from the mosquito fleet always seem to get in trouble this time of year, usually when the helmsman drives too close to shore in pursuit of fish without bothering to glance over his or her shoulder to check for waves. In the days that followed last Thursday’s revenge of the false albacore, the Coast Guard has patrolled the pack.
    Protecting people from themselves becomes even more difficult when, as in one episode a little over a week ago also at the Point, a wetsuited surfcaster swam offshore in search of a rock to stand on while bucktail hooks cast into a stiff crosswind by a dozen or more surfcasters splashed all around him.
    All of this is because the waters around Montauk Point have been awash in fish for the past few weeks. This week’s colder weather should get the bass moving west and south on their fall migration.
    As of Tuesday, Gary Krist had climbed into first place in the wader division of the Montauk SurfMasters tournament with a 29.15-pound bass. Klever Olea and Atilla Ozturk have second and third places with 26 and 20.6-pound bass respectively. John Bruno holds onto first place in the wetsuit division with a 40.3-pounder.
    Christine Schnell’s 18-pound striper has bested Mary Ellen Kane’s 14, and Cheryl Lackner’s 11.8-pound fish in the women’s division. The top youth competitors are James Kimm and Dylan Lackner, both with bass weighing 13.5 pounds. Phillip Schnell’s 13-pounder puts him in third place. Witt Holmes and Brian Damm sit in first and second places with 13.8 and 10.2-pound fish.
    In the Star Island Yacht Club’s striped bass and bluefish competition over the weekend, the heaviest bass caught by a private boat was a 40.8-pounder found by the Lori Marie, Capt. Keith Salisbury doubling as both helmsman and angler. Among competing charter boats, Jim Weiderman angling from Capt. Barry Kohlus’s Venture reeled up a 34.1-pound bass to capture first place.
    Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett reminds us there are still big porgies swimming in Gardiner’s and Fort Pond Bays.
    He reports “tons, bucketfuls of bottlefish,” that is, a great deal of blowfish, around the old Navy dock, also known as the Hangar Dock in Fort Pond Bay. The blowtoads, as they are known in Bonac, can be caught on porgy or flounder rigs. And, he reminds light-tackle and fly-fishing casters that Montauk Point is not the only place to find schooling false albacore. They can be found in Gardiner’s Bay as well.
    For hunters in the crowd, a reminder that woodcock season opened on Oct. 1, as did the bow season for deer in Suffolk County. The special shotgun season will run through January, weekdays only as usual. Just in time for Thanksgiving, the hunting season for wild turkeys in these parts will run from Nov. 17 through 21. The bag limit is one bird of either sex per day. Small upland game, squirrels and rabbits, can be hunted from Nov. 1 through Feb. 28.