The Fish Are Winning

Bass are still around
A snarl of dune grass, seaweed, logs, and plastic lined Ditch Plain in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Russell Drumm

    With summer prey species flung hither and yon by Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent northeaster, striped bass have been dining on crabs, at least that’s what dockside post mortems have been revealing.
    The usual bottom-feeding crab eaters seem to be making up for whatever lost time occurred during the height of Sandy. Blackfish fishing has been productive in recent days. As for stripers in these waning weeks of the season, gannets have been seen diving presumably into schools of herring, high on the striped bass menu this time of year, a promising sign.
    Point is, bass are still around, most small by all accounts, but with fish in the teens mixed in with bluefish, according to Fred Kalkstein, an organizer of the Montauk SurfMasters tournament for striped bass caught from the beach. Mike Cappola, a contender and former tournament winner, reported catching three teen-size fish on Saturday night.
    He also observed the “dusty” look of the water, most likely the result of the fine silt or clay licked from Montauk’s earthen bluffs during the back-to-back storms.
    According to Kalkstein, Atilla Ozturk, another SurfMasters contender, turned googin (fisherman klutz) on Sunday night while fishing on the north side of Montauk Point. Atilla said the water was beautiful, fishy. He was casting and failed to notice he’d lassoed the rod tip, a not-uncommon occurrence, when casting.
    After casting his lure to the wind with no takers for some time, he finally got “a strong bite,” but as usually happens with a looped rod tip, the fish broke off. In the old days, the scene would be acted out on stage at the tournament finale dinner. This year it will be held on Dec. 8 at Gurney’s Inn. Who knows, Ozturk might re-enact the scene if prompted.
    As though the storms left a curse behind, Sam Doughty, a veteran fisherman, was fishing the North Bar, again north of Montauk Point, with a good-luck plug he’d found on the beach, one on which he could always depend for a fish when other lures failed. He reported catching a bass he estimated to be in the 40-pound range — “a big whack,” according to Kalkstein’s version of the story.
The fish turned and came straight to shore. Doughty reeled and reeled to keep tension on the line, the fish turned again and popped it. An examination of the terminal end showed where the fish’s gill plate must have worked through the leader, and Doughy lost his good-luck plug. Two veteran casters, two victorious fish.

    Kathy Vegessi, shoreside support for the Lazy Bones party boat, reported “red hot” striped bass fishing on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning, and “with a lot of throwbacks of undersized fish.” Lazy Bones went fishing post-storm after its dock in front of Salivar’s and Swallow East restaurants was repaired.
    Blackfish angling continues to be productive, with the West Lake Marina reporting an exceptional fish being caught by Hugh Chancey off Block Island over the weekend. The big tautog weighed 13.35 pounds. West Lake also reported steady striped bass fishing from boats working the North Rips out to the Midway spot. Eels were doing the trick.
    A reminder that the state bow season for deer is now under way and will continue until Dec. 31. The shotgun season will run from Jan. 7 through 31, weekdays only. A three-day turkey hunt will begin on Saturday and run through Wednesday. The bag limit is one bird of either sex per day.

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 Russell Drumm

After the storms, birds feasted on floating moon snails that had been pounded from their shells.”