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Fish on: No luck, no fish, nowhere

COURTESY PHOTO Just so you know what they look like — a false albacore landed by our columnist on a trip two years ago.
Just so you know what they look like — a false albacore landed by our columnist on a trip two years ago.

Several readers have asked about the status of my secret weapon (“Secret agent fisherman,” September 13). See below.

COURTESY PHOTO A new device is being tried to catch more fish.
A new device is being tried to catch more fish.

You may remember this was my attempt to have a lookout posted at Piney Point on Plum Island that would continually scan the daylight waters near the Point. If there was any fish activity it would signal me to get there quickly. I installed the device as planned and had it working but none of the alarms signaled a big enough event to get me into the boat.

One event was some very interested seagulls who marched up to the inflatable duck I was using as the cover for the electronics. When they got too close, I signaled the duck to quack loudly. That caused the gulls to depart in a flurry of feathers, cursing the decoy in gull language before moving on.

During the third day on station, the decoy was hit with a strong windstorm out of the southeast that blew waves on the beach dislodging the whole rig. It was gone in an hour. I was disheartened by the loss of my experimental model, but will attempt to build a much more seaworthy and effective model for next spring’s fishing.

I’ve been out several times, twice alone, once with Mike McConnell and twice more in a guide’s boat with Mike, but it was slim pickings. I made the first trip out to Plum Island one day looking for my decoy and whatever hungry fish were on the prowl. I decided to start at the groins, but after 50 futile casts decided that was not a hot spot. Next I slipped down along the main beach on the southeast side of the Island and actually found a few fish and landed one, but I was looking for bigger game.

Two hours later I was still looking. It was so hot in the sun I just went home. Another solo trip in the hot sun was a duplicate of the first so I was hoping Mike’s presence would help and we’d catch some fish. We did an almost complete circle of the Island that yielded absolutely nothing except for meeting a seal under the Lighthouse.

We also had a brief discussion with some of Plum Island’s security guys on patrol who had noticed the low number of boats fishing the “Gut” and wondered what was up. We told them of our total lack of fish, bade them goodbye and headed in.

Following those Shelter Island-based trips we were scheduled to make several trips with a guide out of Montauk. As usual, the first day we picked was a terrible weather day with pea-soup fog blanketing the eastern tip of Long Island. In addition to the lousy visibility where we could not see the shore and could barely make out the skeleton of the Lighthouse and crashing waves on the cliffs, we were riding over swells that approached 8 feet.

The wind was less than 5 knots so we kept going and slid over the swells and looked for fish splashing. We found some in Fort Pond Bay and landed three snappers which would have done me proud at our Snapper Derby! After six hours of boat riding in the fog, we just gave up, vowing to do better the next trip scheduled two days later.

Here comes the killer. The two guys who went out with the same guide the next day fished the same places and a big bass blitz erupted. They landed and released three bass between 35 and 40 pounds on spinning tackle in the 45 minutes the bass were on the surface.

I was not amused when the guide sent me the photos.

Two days later on a sunlit day of mild breezes we were back on the ocean around Montauk again with no fish anywhere to be found. We decided our best chance was to head for Fishers Island, 16 miles away. We didn’t see any fish on the trip to Fishers, or on our way back until we got to Montauk Point again and saw birds diving on feeding fish under the Light.

We had our flyrods out and casted flies among the breaking fish for 45 minutes and they would not take a fly for us or any of the other casters in the boats fishing nearby. Finally the fish quit eating whatever they were targeting and we went in, fishless, again, after our 55-mile jaunt.

Here we are at the height of the fall season and no one is catching much except in a lucky moment. No one to my knowledge has caught any bluefish or bass on a consistent basis and the false albacore were not there yet, either. The albies finally hit Montauk on September 20 with some boats catching the speedy fish in the double digits. My last trip is on September 28 and I hope the albies will cooperate.

They’re the most fun to catch on light tackle. If you see them speeding from one school of bait to another, jumping free of the water, you can easily get to them, and if your aim is good you should hook up. When that happens an albie immediately makes a long run straight away from the boat at over 30 mph and then dives toward the bottom. It’s a real battle to get the fish to the boat.

When the albie tires, just reach over the side and grab the fish by the small part of his body next to the tail, pull it up, unhook him and take a quick photo and then drop the inedible fish back into the water, head first and watch it shoot away. All you need is a 6 to 7 foot medium action spinning rod; a quality reel spooled with 15 pound test line tipped with a few feet of 20 to 25 pound fluorocarbon leader; and a 4 inch Deadly Dick lure, a shiny metal lure that casts like a rocket, and you are set to go.

The fish are there … I think.