The sloop Leilani ventured east from Montauk Harbor early in the afternoon on Sunday, arriving in the cove off Oyster Pond at dead high tide. White clouds of screaming terns hovered and dived over schools of fish.
It’s not practical, of course, but fishing under sail is at once a peaceful (a relative term) and an exciting way to go, especially trolling quietly through schools of feeding fish. Light-tackle and fly-fishing boaters often make the mistake of charging up to a school. Engine noise and the racket caused by anxious anglers screaming and fumbling for their gear usually drive the fish down.
By contrast, a sailboat can ghost up to a school, the equivalent of wearing soft leather moccasins while stalking deer. It’s the hookups that can be a challenge. With a big fish on, in any wind over five knots the boat must be rounded up into the wind. Best to have an experienced mate. Paul Forsberg Sr. has been known to troll for tuna far offshore on the ketch-rigged Viking Freedom. He calls the experience “the sound of silence.”
Word is, the Freedom will remain down south this summer, but Forsberg, admiral of Montauk’s Viking Fleet of party boats and the Block Island Ferry, will be leaving Florida on Aug. 1 to bring the Fleet’s new Viking Fivestar, a luxury head boat, to Montauk.
The upscale charter boat is licensed to carry 44 passengers (for an occasional sunset cruise), but when fishing, it will carry only 12, the number of comfortable berths on board. The Fivestar is designed for three to four-day fishing trips offshore. The 65-foot-long vessel, with a 20-foot beam, has an 8,000-pound fish hold for tuna and deepwater tilefish fishing.
“When you’re out in the canyon, you want a decent boat under you,” Forsberg said from his base in Florida on Monday.
Freddy Shay, a mate with the Viking Fleet, was buying groceries at the Montauk I.G.A. the other day and at the checkout counter reported excellent fluking of late.
Viking runs two half-day trips per day from 8 a.m. until noon and 1 to 5 p.m. There is also a Hungry Man trip that sets out Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays after striped bass, black sea bass, porgies, just about anything with fins.
On Sunday, the crew of the Leilani realized the schools the terns were pestering held bunker, a species too bony and oily for table fare, and not likely to respond to a Kastmaster lure. They are likely to attract striped bass, as they have been doing during the week.
For this reason, the sloop began trolling a small bucktail heavy enough to sweep below the bunker where feeding bass tend to lurk. Unfortunately, no one informed the bass of the ideal sail-trolling setup.
Boaters continue to find the bass, with live bunker bait, chunked bunker, and live eels doing the trick. West Lake Marina reported that Ed Shaw on the October Fest has been consistently catching and releasing big bass — 49 pounds is a big bass — using live eels at night. Early last week John Steadman on the Main Squeeze brought back a 50.75-pound bass he attracted with chunks of oily bunker.
The marina is home to the boat Perfect Catch. Captain Rick Gullia found one at the Great Eastern spot on July 2 using live eels. The bass weighed 58 pounds.
West Lake is also home to Bryan Fromm’s Flying Dutchman. Fromm likes the offshore canyons. During a July 2 trip he caught three bigeye tuna up to 175 pounds, as well as a yellowfin weighing between 40 and 50 pounds. Earlier, the Dutchman found another bigeye that weighed in at 150 pounds.
Meanwhile, surfcasting has not been good. Is it the warm water or bunker schools that have kept striped bass beyond casting? Perhaps a combination of the two, or a mystery something. In any case experienced casters have about given up, according to Fred Kalkstein, an organizer of the Montauk SurfMasters tournaments.
Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett reported stripers being caught along the ocean beach in Amagansett, but in the teen sizes. Bennett reports keeper fluke are being caught off Napeague on the bay side, “12-inch porgies just about anywhere and deer in all yards eating everything.”