When pressed during an afternoon sail aboard the sloop Leilani on Monday, Dr. David Nelson allowed that before slipping into semiretirement two months ago he’d helped restore vision to 15,000 eyes, give or take, over the course of his 40-year career as an ophthalmic surgeon. What those eyes might have missed!
Earlier in the day, he’d peddled his bike from Montauk to East Hampton and back, then paddled out for a short surf session in shapely, waist-high waves at Ditch Plain not far from his house. The doctor complained of knee pain, and why not?
The previous evening, Nelson had a few friends over for a dinner of bluefish and striped bass he’d smoked in his fancy, stainless-steel smoker using a brine of his own design. The fish were a gift from David Schleifer, N.Y.F.D. retired, and a Ditch Plain neighbor. The meal had an anatomy worthy of Anthony Bourdain.
A few days prior, Schleifer’s sharp eyes espied some nervous water just off the Ditch Plain jetty. He cast into it with a lure known as a Deadly Dick and came up with a large bluefish. Sensing there was more to the story, most likely a few striped bass prowling for scraps below whatever the big blues were feeding on, he performed a quick surgery on his catch and found, in the gut, the head of what he thought was a bunker.
He ran home to fetch his bait-casting rod, baited its hook with the “bunker” head and within seconds had a 35-pound striped bass, the very same bass (and bluefish) that provided the meat that Dr. Nelson smoked and later served along with a horseradish sauce, lively conversation, and an excellent Sancerre.
Ah, but it turns out the fish that set the meal in motion was probably not an oily bunker, but rather a herring with sweeter meat — a shad. Harvey Bennett at the Tackle Shop in Amagansett reported “shad all over the beach in East Hampton, Main Beach west. Big blues on them all over the place.”
Bennett also passed the word that nice keeper bass up to 20 pounds were being caught off White Sands on Napeague and at Georgica Beach in East Hampton as well. He said there were “very big” porgies in Cherry Harbor within sight of the proud old windmill on Gardiner’s Island. He added that three-to-four-pound fluke were being taken off the Clearwater section of Springs “over near Three Mile Harbor.” He said that bluefish were within casting distance from the banks of the Accabonac Harbor inlet, and blowfish within range of Three Mile Harbor’s Gann Road dock.
Bennett found proof that weakfish were feeding in Gardiner’s Bay when Oliver Saul, a light-tackle angler he was guiding aboard his charter boat Moon Pie on Sunday morning, caught a beauty using a small bucktail lure. Under his tutelage, his clients later turned the weak into “frigets,” my secret recipe for beer-battered, deep-fried weakfish. The complete recipe is in Mark Mills’s book, “Amagansett.”
A 377-pound thresher was the largest shark brought aboard the Reel Deal during last weekend’s tournament held from the Star Island Yacht Club in Montauk. A blue shark that weighed 250 pounds and a mako that tipped the scales at 281 pounds took top honors in their respective divisions. The blue was angled from the Helena, the mako from the Alyssa Ann. Two other threshers over 300 pounds were caught over the course of the tournament’s two days of competition.