Spring Blooms, So Do Fish

The fish local Indians called squeteague, and later dubbed tide runners, sea trout, or weakfish, have arrived right on their ancient schedule
Peter Spacek caught this nine-pound fluke from his kayak off Ditch Plain in Montauk. Peter Spacek

   The lilacs are in bloom, a sure sign that the fish local Indians called squeteague, and later dubbed tide runners, sea trout, or weakfish, have arrived right on their ancient schedule.
    Just as trees leafed and perennials flowered during the past week, the varieties of fish we expect to show up each spring took their places. Rumor has it there’s an unusually strong showing of weakfish in and around Accabonac Harbor. Harvey Bennett at the Tackle Shop in Amagansett reported weakfish are being taken around Sag Harbor, up in Sag Harbor Cove, along Long Beach and Cow’s Neck. “We haven’t had weakfish in Gardiner’s Bay for years,” Bennett observed.
    Because the water is only about 52 degrees, a good 10 degrees colder than this time last year, pound trappers are seeing plenty of bluefish, flounder, and fluke (summer flounder), but few bottlefish (puffer fish) and almost no squid.
    This is a blow to squid fishermen, who come out of the woodwork this time of year with their lamps, buckets, and squid jigs to get covered in squid ink while angling into the night on Fort Pond Bay.
    Bruce Sasso of Stuart’s Seafood in Amagansett said the shop shipped 499 boxes to the Fulton Market over the weekend, most of it caught in pound traps. “Eighty-five percent were blues in the three to five-pound range, 10 percent were flounder and fluke, and 5 percent were porgies,” Sasso said. He said he thought the absence of bottlefish and squid was due to the cold temperatures, and, now that the bluefish are in thick, because squid fear the marauding schools of hungry blues.
    Surfcasters working the south side report seeing the long and thin bluefish, the so-called “runners” that charge the south side well ahead of the pack, looking haggard from their migration and very hungry. Paulie’s Tackle in Montauk reports only small striped bass being caught so far, but there are plenty of them. 
    The leader board in the Montauk SurfMasters spring tournament remains empty. Paulie’s has just announced a season-long fluke tournament, an idea proffered by Gary (Toad) Stephens, a fisherman feared by fluke. The entry fee is $25.
    There are some fat fluke in the ’hood. On Mother’s Day, Peter Spacek, The Star’s pleasingly irreverent cartoonist, paddled his kayak nearly a mile offshore of Ditch Plain in Montauk to hook a nine-pound fluke using a thawed strip of cod he’d caught the week before from a New Bedford party boat. 
    Speaking of cod, news has come that a German angler, Michael Eisele, has landed a 103-pound cod, 5 pounds heavier than the previous record, on a fishing trip off Norway.
    Montauk’s Viking Fleet of party boats welcomed the new Viking FiveStar last Thursday. Capt. Steven Forsberg Jr. drove the boat up from Tarpon Springs, Fla., where she was fitted out in Viking “Admiral” Paul Forsberg’s backyard. 
    Paul Forsberg said the 65-foot, offshore sport boat, complete with 12 comfortable berths, full galley, and shower, was built to explore an untapped niche in the sportfishing world. He said he felt certain the beamy tuna and billfish hunter (don’t forget tilefish, cod, and whatever other species the Forsberg team decides to target) would appeal to groups of friends, or co-workers, who didn’t mind paying a bit more for uncrowded, overnight fishing trips to the offshore canyons.