Surfcasters were arm-weary from casting and tongue-tired from telling tales of Friday’s big wind, big surf, big white water, and big striped bass along the south-facing beaches from Montauk through East Hampton.
Gulls hovered and soared over walls of white water that stormy day. Shiny tins with green tubes were the lures that matched the sand eels that have kept migrating stripers feeding and fat.
It was not easy fishing. A large ocean swell pushed sideways by a 20-knot southwest wind built a west-to-east current into a river by Friday afternoon. It was the kind of sweep that kept casters choosing between a few steps seaward to make a deeper cast and the real possibility of being swept off their feet.
Big bass in the 20-to-30-pound range were in the maelstrom, thick at times, making for the kind of day that the East End is famous for among those who enjoy casting lures — as well as caution — to the wind.
What is that exactly? It’s hard to drag the philosophical out of fishermen, although it’s certainly there. Days like Friday will be remembered not only because of the fish, but also because catching one, especially a big one, somehow validates the entire scene, the confluence of natural phenomena: black scoters on the wing offshore, the powerful surf, the onshore wind that defied the casters’ arms to penetrate it, the rain squalls, and the sky that morphed through those 50 shades of gray before the sunset ignited a blazing red, orange, and purple finale.
It’s a selfish instinct perhaps. It shouldn’t be necessary. During those dry spells when cast after cast goes untaken, a fisherman might feel incomplete, somehow removed. It’s the violent tug, the powerful pulse of a hooked fish on the line that caps it, permits one to feel, as well as see, the day.
Same with surfers. By Sunday morning in Montauk, along the Napeague stretch, and beside the Georgica jetties in East Hampton, a cold, offshore wind had cleaned up the big swell. Of course, you could stand on the beach and appreciate the light green of the breaking waves or you could don your wetsuit (a light one given the unseasonably warm water), paddle out, and feel the light green of the breaking waves. And, as you sat on your board waiting for the next set of waves, you could also appreciate the gulls hovering over the bass chomping away on sand eels just below you. What a glorious time of year.
Harvey Bennett, owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, called it one of “the greatest bass runs in years. People from as far away as London, Santa Barbara, Pennsylvania, and Maryland have been coming in truckloads.” Bennett reported a few 40-pound fish taken at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. He also reported hearing of good blackfish and porgy fishing.
Capt. Tom Cusimano of the Sea Wife IV charter boat in Montauk was on the same page, blackfish-wise. He and the folks at the Star Island Yacht Club reported excellent bottom fishing at the usual haunts, off the coast of Fisher’s Island in particular.
About a week ago, a gunboat rolled through downtown Montauk on a trailer heading east. It was dark pea green, the color of the winter sea, about 25 feet long with two-foot-high shutters that could be lowered to become gun ports, about four on each side. It looked like the Monitor or the Merrimac. The boat, which has been seen laying for sea ducks off Montauk Point in the past, looked as though it can accommodate about six hunters.
The season for hunting sea ducks, a group that includes scoters, eiders, harlequin, and pintail (formerly known as old squaw), began on Oct. 26 and will run until Dec. 8. The split season will open again on Dec. 28 and go until Jan. 12. Seven sea ducks per day may be taken. Only four may be scoters, and the beautiful harlequins are off limits. Late October brought scoters aplenty. Bennett said shotgun ammo is on sale at his shop.