Montauk’s Mason-Dixon Line

The land south of the line is shrouded in thick, cold fog
Robert Van Velsor caught this 38.58-pound striper on Montauk’s south side using a bucktail. Paulie’s Tackle

   Montauk is bipolar this time of year. When the summer’s southwesterly winds start to blow in May and early June, a Mason-Dixon line of sorts runs the length of the peninsula that is the east end of the South Fork.
    The land south of the line is shrouded in thick, cold fog where the winter ocean first meets warm air blowing off the land west to east. North of the line, where the cold sea has less influence, the land is often bathed in warm sunlight.
    On Monday, for instance, visitors who checked into motels along the south-facing beaches wrapped themselves in sweaters or stayed huddled in their rooms cursing their luck, while locals familiar with nature’s schizophrenia headed to the beaches less than a mile to the north, shedding clothing and smearing sunblock as they went.
    At the same time, there’s something soothing and mystical about the Montauk fog, especially in the moorlands east of town. It’s quiet and feels protective like a blanket, peaceful, as though the sea has already risen, its waves hissing their reassurance: See, this ain’t so bad now, is it? Relax.
    Not bad at all, at least that’s undoubtedly how Robert Van Velsor felt on Monday when he caught a 38.58-pound striped bass while surfcasting on the south side of Montauk using a bucktail. It was the first big fish of the season caught from the beach.
    The day before, Brendon Farrell, competing in the Montauk SurfMasters spring tournament, landed a 13.64-pounder to go ahead in the youth division. Adam Flax is on the board among the contest’s adults with an 11.62-pound striper.
    Boaters are beginning to see bigger bass, and fluke production has been described as steady with some doormats reported. Bluefish, in wide ranges of sizes, have made their appearance.
    Let’s talk about weakfish. Last week, weakfish were said to be inundating Gardiner’s Bay in the waters around Accabonac Harbor. That may have been a slight exaggeration. However, a tide of the beautiful sea trout must have flowed this way from the western part of the Peconic Estuary, at least for a brief spell.
    Ken Rafferty, a light-tackle and fly-fishing guide, who sails out of Three Mile Harbor this time of year, reported that a week ago he and his angler witnessed small flocks of birds diving around Shelter Island. “We hit bluefish. I didn’t know about the weakfish, so we just fooled around with the blues. Found out the next day that there must have been weakfish under the birds we were seeing in the distance.”
    Rafferty said he’d talked to Ken Morse of the Tight Lines bait and tackle shop in Sag Harbor, who related that western Peconics were loaded with weaks and predicted that surfcasters might try their luck along Long Beach in Noyac. Pink swimming lures were a good bet, Rafferty said.
    It seems the cycle of weakfish abundance is definitely on the upswing. David Knauer, a resident fisherman from Chatham, on Cape Cod, reported weakfish being caught in numbers not seen since 1987.
    While members of Montauk’s commercial fishing community participated in the filming of a German television series during the week, they and their counterparts in Southampton were mourning the loss of Stian Stiansen, 85, a fisherman who worked out of Shinnecock Harbor for decades. The dragger Pauline Four capsized east of the Shinnecock Inlet on May 12. Scott Finne, 42, the Pauline Four’s deckhand and longtime friend of Captain Stiansen, was rescued.