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Remembrance of fishing past

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After enjoying the best winter weather in 30 years in Florida it’s hard to adjust to what’s going on around here.

These past two weeks we’ve had hard winds, up to 30 mph, blowing on all but two days from every direction causing the shallow waters to become totally discolored. Most fishing skiffs and boats have been tied to their moorings or docks. My fishing buddies and I have decided to turn back once we got a combination of pounding and dousing from waves and wind as our crafts cleared their creeks, harbors or sheltered bays. Looking out at miles of 3-foot whitecaps on top of a never-ending series of rollers does that to you.

Since we can’t control the current weather nor forecast the future, I can only try to relax — hard for me to do — and remember good times past to see what might lie ahead. Suppose we actually catch a stretch of calm winds and lots of bright weather warming the water from here to Montauk. In the clear, warmer water the striped bass, bluefish, fluke and other predators we stalk will be able to zero in on their top food sources like baby bunker, shiners, squid, crabs and other small tidbits. Large schools of each of the baitfish will be moving close to the sandy shores and the rocky areas around Shelter, Plum and Gardiners Islands with the upward change in temperatures.

The calm seas should allow most of the sand and other sediment to settle to the bottom of the water column so fish will be able to stalk the beaches and other haunts looking for schools of bait. Most of the floating weeds will blow up on local beaches. With visibility being less of a problem, the quiet angler may even get a chance to see the target fish cruising along before casting a lure to it. Nothing is more exciting than sight fishing on the sandy flats.

Another great help from good weather is that if you like to fish the Gut and the Race you can get there and back with a smoother ride, in less time and less fuel consumption. Plum has spectacular beaches to sight fish on, when conditions allow, on both the Sound side and to the south, plus plenty of deep water for jigging and rocks along the shore as targets for casting lures. Gardiners does, too, but the last few years, fishing there has been complicated by all the seals. Where are the Great White Sharks when you need them?

I can tell you a lot of interesting tales, but one could be repeated if the winds ever stop. About five years ago, after several days of rain and high winds, I took my fishing skiff, with flyrod in hand, to see if the beach along Mashomack had cleared up enough to do some striper fishing. I was hoping the water was clear and the wind down as I started at Nichols Point and headed west along the beach in about 3-feet of water. About half way to the corner where the beach turns south, I saw a school of small bass, about 24 inches, coming my way and got ready to cast to them. I got off a good shot and was soon fast to one of the fish as the boat drifted along. I had a Power Pole spear anchor on the boat, so I stopped the drift, landed the bass, took a few scale samples for DEC review and quickly and quietly released it.

After I took a few moments to rest, I got to my position on the bow of the boat with rod and line ready for the next cast. I looked up to see something large and black swimming toward me which, because of its size, I thought was a seal. When it slowly turned a bit I realized it was a dream-sized bass, 15 feet away — and too close to cast a fly. I flipped the fly in front of the fish and he took it. After a 20-minute fight I had a 28-pound bass in the boat, photographed and back on its way in the water. I wrote about it in that week’s Reporter. I’m telling you this to illustrate just how fast fortunes may change — if the winds ever stop!

As the wind continues to howl, think back to see if you remember a big event fishing and see if you can think of a way to repeat it. Again, I’ll warn you to make sure your gear is in tip-top shape because I think we’ll soon see swarms of big fish, especially blues and bass. The reports indicate that Montauk is loaded with them now. If the wind will stop blowing from the west, they’ll round the “Point” and we will soon have our share.

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