In the Cool Thermocline

A bunker cloud should make the heart of a light-spin-tackler soar like an eagle
Harry Ellis of Montauk trolled up this 64-pound bluefin tuna within sight of land one week ago. Gone Fishing Marina

    If you are fishing in Gardiner’s Bay and spot what looks like a brown cloud just beneath the surface with a few flashes of reflected light near the surface, chances are it’s a school of bunker.
    This is worth mentioning because such displays can easily be mistaken at a distance for a school of feeding bluefish or even fluke venturing to the surface. A few fruitless casts into the cloud are enough to give even the most hopeful angler the message. Best to leave bunker to industry for their oil, or for use as highly efficient striped bass bait. Of course, you could leave them be.
    The presence of a bunker cloud should make the heart of a light-spin-tackler soar like an eagle. The oily fish are high on the list of favorite foods for striped bass and bluefish. Casting a tin over a bunker school, allowing it to descend toward the bottom on a slow retrieve, will often result in a tug of war with a big blue or bass.
    Scott Leonard, who runs the tackle shop at the Star Island Yacht Club in Montauk, used a live bunker on Monday to land a striped bass that made the Yacht Club scales groan at 60.2 pounds. He was fishing from the Top Gun.
    And, bunker were what happened when Ken Rafferty, a light-tackle guide who fishes out of Three Mile Harbor, took Arik Roshanzamir onto the bay on Sunday morning. Roshanzamir pre­fers big bluefish to bass for their fight. Rafferty said at first he had trouble finding big bluefish in the areas he knows they haunt. Then he came upon two large schools of bunker feeding on the surface.
    “Needless to say, Arik and his friend Jason had their hands full landing 12-to-15-pound bluefish,” Rafferty reported.
    There can be little doubt about the vast number of prey species in the area. We have heard of porgies the size of hubcaps between the mouth of Montauk Harbor and Fishers Island.
    On Friday, a large pod of dolphins cruised by Ditch Plain Beach on the ocean side of Montauk when Dave Schleifer was out on his fishing yak in search of fluke, bass, or blue. Upon seeing the dolphins, Schleifer paddled back to shore. Fish have a tendency to vamoose quickly when the mammals come to town.
    The Montauk SurfMasters spring fling tournament will end with a whimper on Saturday at 10 a.m. unless someone finds a bass bigger than 28.8 pounds. Mike Coppola caught one that size and sits in first place. Rich Reilly has a 26-pounder on the board, and, believe it or not, Mary Ellen Kane’s 12.8-pound bass remained in third place as of Tuesday.
    The tournament’s finale lunch will be held at Star Island Yacht Club beginning at noon on Saturday.
    Harry Ellis of Montauk ventured offshore in search of bluefin tuna on June 19 and again on the 22nd. He caught one that weighed in at 64 pounds on the 19th. The water temperature that day was 62 degrees.
    When he returned to the same area, trolling within sight of land approximately 12 miles south of Montauk three days later, the surface temp had jumped six degrees. A satellite image of surface temperatures showed — in a spectrum from blue to bright orange — that a Gulf Stream eddy had moved in. Migrating bluefin like to feed on fatty cold-water species like mackerel and herring found in the cooler thermocline below and on the edge of the Gulf Stream eddies.
    On Sunday Ellis ventured with Arlen Allen to a spot west of Block Island where a 42-pound bluefin was trolled up.
    Harvey Bennett, owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, could barely fit his head into his hat after being profiled in The New York Times Metro section on Sunday. As the story pointed out, Bennett has tossed bottles containing messages (or his business card) into the sea since childhood, with returns from as far away as Bermuda and England.
    The Englishwoman who found his bottle a few years ago wrote to him and accused him of polluting the shoreline. To Bennett the woman’s attitude proved the Revolution had been a good idea after all. He said his 17th-century forebears, among the founders of East Hampton’s English settlement, saw it coming.
    Bennett said large fluke were being caught off Napeague Harbor with regularity.