On the Water: Stripers in the Snow

A last chance to tangle with a migrating, southbound striper
Joseph Fosella landed this striped bass near Georgica Beach in the snow on Saturday morning. Tina Fosella

While the calendar may not officially state it, winter is here. By any measure, Saturday’s slushy snowfall, our first of the season, was a rather benign event. Yet, the wet, heavy snow, which was enforced by a rather strong northeast wind, made it feel much colder than the 33-degree temperature. It was a raw, nasty, bone-chilling day. For most, it was a day better spent indoors.

But for some folks, the lousy weather was no excuse not to get in a few hours of fishing. While a few skiffs plied the shallow waters near Northwest Harbor in the continuing pursuit of bay scallops and large flocks of gannets could be seen in the distance on Gardiner’s Bay dive-bombing for herring, a surprising number of intrepid, heavily-dressed anglers decided to take a final stab to catch some late-season striped bass. There was no holiday shopping on the agenda here. Just fishing.

Whether it was at Shagwong beach in Montauk, or along the oceanfront in Amagansett, fishing rods along with a variety of artificial lures were cast into the gray, leaden skies for a last chance to tangle with a migrating, southbound striper. And while there were no reports of any keepers landed (striped bass must be at least 28 inches to be retained), the action was surprisingly good for those who made their way to the snowy shoreline. 

“The weather was terrible, but there were a lot of people trying their luck on Saturday,” said Harvey Bennett, proprietor of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett. In conjunction with the Amagansett Sportfishing Association, Bennett held a free, one-day fishing contest for the largest fish landed. The impromptu contest brought anglers from as far away as Manhattan out for the dreary day, weather be damned.

“I was really surprised by the response I had on such short notice of this event,” he said. “And while there were no keeper bass taken, there were a good number of small fish landed and released. It really was a fun day. We’ll do it again next year.” 

Rick Spero of East Hampton landed the largest striped bass, a 20-incher taken on a plug at Shagwong, and took home the grand prize of a custom-made Salty’s fishing plug. Close behind were a pair of 17-inch fish landed at Georgica Beach by Joe and Tina Fosella of East Hampton. The dynamic duo landed seven fish in total, all taken on a teaser fished above a small diamond jig. Impervious to the cold, the married couple were rewarded with a highly-prized Tackle Shop hat for their effort. 

The large number of small bass taken over the past few weeks is an encouraging sign. The short striped bass of today will reach keeper size in about two to three years. That said, Bennett did remark that a slug of larger bass up to 36 inches was landed only a few days earlier from Wainscott to Southampton. “I heard that the fishing was really good, but it seemed to be a one-shot deal,” he said. Note that the season for striped bass closes tomorrow.

Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor also confirmed that small striped bass can be had in the ocean wash. “A good number of small ones are around,” he said. “That said, it was not the best fall season for surfcasters. But the small ones are a good sign for the future.” 

Back in Montauk, those focused on sea bass and cod have been rewarded with excellent action. “On Friday, we went bottom fishing near Southeast Light off of Block Island on a wreck in 90 feet of water,” said Capt. Gregory Mechaber of the charter boat Capt. Mark. “It was tough wind against tide conditions. But we caught many blackfish to six pounds, with two fish that tipped the scales at 10 pounds each. We caught seven species, including a green bonito, cod, sea bass, scup, pollock, and blackfish. Fun day on the water.” 

Those who love to tangle with blackfish should take notice that the season closes today. It will not reopen again until next October. 

And if sea bass are on your menu, you better take advantage of any good weather window over the next two weeks. Despite their overpopulation, the season will formally come to an end on Dec. 31. By that time, it’s quite likely that the snow shovel in your garage, next to those fishing rods, may have already been used a few times. 

Happy holidays.


We welcome your fishing tips, observations, and photographs at fish@ehstar.com. You can find the “On the Water” column on Twitter at @ehstarfishing.