Are the striped bass here or not? The rumor mill is generating excitment and perhaps a few stretched truths.
Surfcasting rods are appearing on roof racks. People who would normally drive Montauk Highway when traveling to and fro from Montauk are taking the Old Highway instead to keep eyes peeled for birds working.
Yes, it’s an early spring, and yes, striped bass have been caught up west, but, as of Monday, the beach has been quiet so far in Montauk. East Hampton is another story.
Atilla Ozturk of Montauk said he took a look at Georgica Beach in East Hampton a couple of days ago. “I saw a bunch of people. They were leaving when I got there. There was one guy left. He was hooked into a fish, but lost it in the rocks. Then he was struggling with another one. He said he had been catching them for about a week.” The stripers were “rats,” that is, small, the size fishermen expect to see first.
Preseason telltales also include gannets and ospreys. Both birds are feeding, and if the blooming of daffodils, cherry trees, and forsythia is any indication, alewives should be approaching their natal waters before their usual late-April appearance.
Hank Altenkirk, a fisherman and custom rod builder from Hampton Bays, said he’d heard that anglers had been catching stripers from the 105 bridge in Riverhead. “They’ll be in the creeks first. It’s still early, but they’re popping up,” or so fishermen were telling him. “All fishermen are liars except you and me, and I’m not so sure about you,” he said on Monday.
Altenkich continues the family rod-building tradition. He said he had just shipped 28 custom rods to Curacao, and got a message from a Moroccan fly fisherman he’d sold a fly rod to at a Miami trade show. The man bragged about a 220-pound marlin he’d caught on a 20-pound tipit using the Altenkirch fly rod.
Fred Kalkstein, an organizer of the annual Montauk SurfMasters bass tournament, reported on Monday that Paul Pira caught nine bass one night three weeks ago at Moriches. Kalkstein said the SurfMasters annual Spring Fling tournament has been moved up on account of what looks to be a premature season. Fishing will commence on the stroke after the stroke of midnight on May 1 and end on Sept. 30.
The catch-and-keep season for striped bass begins on April 15. New York’s annual summer flounder (fluke) season will run from May 1 to Sept. 30 and this season should be a lot more productive than last. Four fluke may be caught and kept per day, and the really good part is the minimum size limit, 19.5 inches.
The search for winter flounder began with the opening of the season on Sunday. Ken Morse of the Tight Lines shop in Sag Harbor said he had one angler walk through his shop door on Sunday with a couple of flatties. “And, they’re starting to catch bass in the creeks,” he said of the reports he’d been getting. “Fishermen tend to embellish on occasion, but of course my customers don’t.”
Tight Lines is open five days a week, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m to 5 p.m. during the week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends. “It’s looking better this year. We’ve had a couple of extra months, March and April, to do business.”