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Column: A look back says fish are on their way



Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — George Santayana

For the past three or four weeks my fishing companions and I have been ignoring the lessons of the past in an effort to make the current year the best ever. We started the season with a rush with lots of bluefish and striped bass coming over the gunwales in late May and early June, including a jumbo 29-pound bass I landed. Then things dropped off trip by trip, until fishing could only have been termed “spotty” by the second week of June, and “lousy” since then.

Reasons? There’s a scarcity of bait in local waters especially since the bunkers have left and the once ubiquitous sand eels are nowhere to be found. I blamed all of our misadventures on the fact that no bait means few, if any, fish are nearby and have tried to fishing longer and harder thinking that might break the jinx.

But things didn’t improve. It finally became clear this might not be a problem that required more effort but one that required study and a solution based on the results of that study. I decided to look backward rather than forward to see if there’s been precedence to this year’s late June and early July fishing results.

I found there’s plenty of history indicating that fishing should pick up in the next two weeks or so. I read through my fishing logs that chronicle each outing I’ve made since the start of 2002, whether it was 30 minutes on a pond or six days in Cuba, and there are about 110 trips per year since then.

After spending an hour going through a review of the last five years I believe I can see a positive pattern emerge, and the news is not all good.

In each of the most recent years back to 2012 we had terrific May fishing close to Shelter Island, much like this past May, a weak June and early July until about July 15 when fishing really got going again. The bad part of this review indicated that the largest numbers of fish caught in late July and through the rest of the season were not taken close to the island, but hooked all around Plum Island and at Bostwick and Eastern Plains Points on Gardiners Island.

There was some scattered action around our Island but nothing as dependable as these offshore venues.

I think we’re pretty close to the start of the active part of the season again and the sport fishing for bluefish and bass will start to perk up very soon. My advice is make sure if you want to chase these species of fish that you get your boats in shape and be prepared to go where the odds are best for good fishing, namely Plum and Gardiners islands. I think the extra travel and effort will be worth it.

Prior to my doing this research, on June 28, after much lousy weather, Mike McConnell and I opted to fish from my boat but stay close to the Island on the outgoing tide because of a promise of strong winds to come.

The wind increased the whole time we fished, so our plan about going out early and starting near our shore worked well. We actually got a few bass up to 20 inches in the first hour or so on the bar, and as we retraced our steps on the way out of the shallows, we both got our lures whammed by big fish.

We fought and landed both; Mike’s was a husky 12-pounder and mine, a mere 9 pounds. It was a real fire drill trying to get them into the boat for a photo, but we managed and got a good shot on an overcast day. The fish were tough old campaigners with a good portion of their top tail forks pretty much cut off or shredded, probably by sharks.

After catching and releasing the blues we moved over to Mashomack to fish a rocky area, but the water was low, so we headed into the bight and landed two bass that hit just a few feet off the shore at dead low tide. Finally, we took one more shot at the sandbar and landed another small bass for a total of five bass and two blues — a huge uptick from the past several week’s production.

Hopefully the fishing in the near future will duplicate the results of the past five years and we can all enjoy a great summer and fall. I (and I’m sure you) have not been a happy camper these past several weeks trying to catch just a few little fish for the fun of it and getting only one or two hits and maybe a small fish on each trip. The data I accumulated speaks for itself, and I’m willing to relax a bit and try to fish the good days at Plum and Gardiners when the time comes.

Am I correct? We’ll know soon.