Moon Summoned Stripers

A mind that drifts seaward
Edward Shugrue and his nephew Max Herman found their first striped bass of the season in Three Mile Harbor over the weekend.

   Bruce Palmer oversees things at the East Hampton Town’s recycling center in Montauk, directing people with tires to the tire bin, people with old grills and lawnmowers to the metal container, checking for scofflaw dumpers dumping without benefit of a 2013 sticker — all these things with a mind that drifts seaward at times.
    Palmer is a surfcaster of the first order. On Sunday, late morning, with a northwest wind doing a good impression of October and with some sideways rain adding insult to the badly injured Memorial Day weekend, Palmer directed a man hoping to recycle a broken wheelbarrow, a man who was also in search of a fishing forecast. The conversation went something like:
    “Any fish?”
    “Yesterday, North Bar, mostly small,” meaning striped bass, “and plenty of bluefish. They were all over the place. All sizes.”
    There followed much praise of blues, for their fight, and, Palmer and the wheelbarrow recycler agreed, as table fare. Talk turned to surfcasting reels, and then to fishing line, the braided kind that has gained favor in recent years over good old monofilament. Palmer prefers braid, the Power Pro brand to be specific. “It stacks better on Van Staal reels,” he said. But, what about knots and snarls?” Wheelbarrow asked, having seen some disastrous tangles in the wind and close casting during the fall bass season beneath the Montauk Lighthouse.
    “Tension is key,” Palmer said, the exact words used by Paul Apostolides of Paulie’s Tackle shop in Montauk a bit later in the day. Apostolides suggested the Fireline brand for casters using Penn reels, but in any case, he agreed with the recycling center’s overseer that tension was key. The line had to be wound onto the reel with the right tension to avoid snarls and bird’s nests when casting.
    They both cautioned that braided line had no stretch, no give. Monofilament is more forgiving. With braided line, it’s important to set the reel’s drag carefully to save the heartache of losing a big fish. The big advantage is casting distance. Watching a boiling school of striped bass pass by on the tide just out of casting range can make Ahabs of all but the most philosophical anglers.
    Speaking of which, Harvey Bennett, owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, waxed upon the full moon that shone on the South Ferry slip on North Haven over the weekend. The moon summoned big striped bass, he said. “I heard one guy caught a 32-pounder. They came in with the moon right before the blow,” he said referring to the weekend storm. “In the middle of the day, they were catching 30-pound fish jigging bucktails,” Bennett reported.
    Bennett said moonlight was also responsible for “a bunch of giant bluefish” in Accabonac Harbor as well as fluke outside the harbor in Gardiner’s Bay caught from the beach by floating squid baits offshore. Bennett also praised the moon for generating good striped bass production along the south side of Napeague. “People use clams this time of year.”
    Bennett said that nearly half of his customers are Spanish speakers — “I’ve been studying for the past six months. I can understand some, but don’t speak it very well” — who had become adept at catching porgies for the table. “They enjoy it. Bring their family, their kids. They fish with sandworms, sharp hooks. They’re right on it.”
    There’s bait fishing and then there’s fly-casting, its opposite. Edward Shug­rue and his nephew Max Herman landed their first striped bass of the season in Three Mile Harbor casting a chartreuse Clouser fly. The fish was released.
    And then there’s surfcaster Paul Knorr who landed a 30.72-pound bass in Montauk one week ago today to prove that the spring bass run has indeed begun.