The Sweet Smell of Fish

How does one smell fish that are swimming, you might ask
Fishermen in Montauk’s Fort Pond Bay checked their traps. Squid, among the species usually found in traps in early June, has been relatively absent from local waters this spring. Russell Drumm

    Let’s talk about the smell of fish. It’s often scorned, but the objectionable redolence is usually the result of proteins gone bad, spoiled. The truth is, fish fresh out of the water smell sweet, fish in the water sweeter still.
    How does one smell fish that are swimming, you might ask. The answer is, one must live beside the ocean in the foggy months of spring when the schools first arrive from their faraway winter haunts. In the days when foreign factory ships were permitted to undertake joint ventures with Montauk’s and Shinnecock’s fleets of small draggers, the sweet smell of squid being hauled aboard in the cod-ends of nets was carried ashore, transported in the soft fog.
    The joint ventures are long gone, yet noses fine-tuned to the scent can tell when the schools of squid and other species are in session. The same people who wrinkle their noses at the thought of fish, will inhale deeply, say “Ahhhhhhhh, I love the smell of the sea,” which this time of year is in fact the smell of fish and the garden of marine grasses and phytoplankton they inhabit.
    And speaking of squid, there has been a relative absence of it this spring. Some blame the early and bountiful arrival of bluefish that like to chew their way through squid schools and scare them from Gardiner’s Bay, where they are traditionally caught by trappers. When the bluefish arrive en masse, squid skedaddle. Trappers don’t catch them, marinas and tackle shops can’t buy them, and fluke fisherman can’t cut them into enticing strips for bait. Squid caught by draggers has a tendency to get beaten up.
    The West Lake Marina in Montauk has squid bait for fluke fisherman. Chris Miller said that his boaters were catching fluke and striped bass with regularity. He added that charter captains were telling him larger stripers up to 40 pounds had moved into the area.
    He also spoke of the frustration caused by the healthy number of big black sea bass that are being caught. Trouble is, they have to be released. The season does not open until July 10.
    A group of anglers from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection fished their regular spring tournament out of the Montauk Marine Basin over the weekend. The pool-winning striped bass was an 18.75-pounder caught aboard Capt. Jim Krug’s Persuader III. Janet Zinkhan on the Soaker was high hook with two keeper-size (over 28 inches) stripers. The group partied post-tournament at the marina’s Hula Hut.
    Ken Rafferty, a light-spinning tackle and fly-fishing guide, reported that striped bass fishing has picked up in Gardiner’s Bay around the island, and around the corner at Cedar Point and Shelter Island. He said he went fishing alone a few days ago and found an eight-pound weakfish at Cherry Harbor on the west side of Gardiner’s Island. He caught it on a pink Sluggo, basically a lead-head lure that trails a pink rubber ribbon. Weakfish like pink he said, which is why he is in the process of tying pink flies for his fly-rodding customers.
    A number of sources are crowing about the number of porgies in Gardiner’s Bay. To hear Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett tell it, you could practically walk on them. And they’re big. Bennett said he can tell by the larger, number-two size of the porgy hooks he’s been selling.
    The standings in the Montauk SurfMasters spring tournament are as follows: Geoff Bowen is in first place in the adult division with a 21.7-pound striper. Nick Tamborrino’s 15.46-pounder has him in second, with Adam Flax in third place with an 11.62-pound bass.
    Brendon Farrell is alone on the board in the youth division with a 13.64-pounder.