If You Can’t Catch ‘Em, Read About ‘Em

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There are some nice stripers being caught here and there, and some solid surf fishing intermittently. A cow or two were picked out of the storm-tossed seas following the passing of former Tropical Storm Andrea on Friday night, and there have been some scattered days of very good fishing here and there.But the striper season has struggled to really get into full swing. The opening of the Sagg Pond cut was largely uneventful this week. The rips off Montauk have fish, but nothing like the numbers or sizes of fish we should be seeing at this time of year.

This is probably at least partly due to the fact that there continues to be an almost eerie dearth of small bait species on the East End. A couple of the small harbors have burst forth with sandeel hatches in just the last week or so, and some anchovies have moved into the bays, which should be carpeted with them by now. But there is still nary a spearing to be found—a trend that stretches the entire length of Long Island, I’m told.

The chilly temperatures are probably not helping, either. Regardless of the bizarre fashion choices of the summer visitors, who seem to be trying to will summer into being here, the nights have been cold and the days are not the hot and sunny ones that really push water temperatures up.

If you’re having a hard time catching a striper, you could drop the rod and kick back and read about it instead. Captain Tom Mikoleski, skipper of the Montauk charter boat Grand Slam, has just published his first book. “Bass Buff” is a fitting name for this combination of autobiography and how-to fishing manual that puts on display Capt. Tom’s obvious obsession with and reverence for the striped bass he’s spent his entire life pursuing.

The book is a good read. Tom has a very comfortable and simple writing style—he writes how he speaks, a tip most young writers are coached to do but rarely pull off—and his retelling of his life, while not an uncommon tale, is told with such obvious love and appreciation for the friends and family who molded his knowledge of fishing that it’s hard not to enjoy hearing him recount it, and it may help foster a greater appreciation for the counterparts in your own life.

The how-to section is a basic catalog of just about every major way to fish for striped bass from a boat, and any budding bass angler would probably be able to put together a very competent effort at landing stripers off Montauk with “Bass Buff” as a handbook.

And if you enjoy Capt. Tom’s enthusiasm for fishing and the fishing life, you might get a kick out of another book penned by a local bass fisherman. The autobiographical tell-all “Caught,” by Jeff Nichols, takes a decidedly more acerbic tone in its tale and focuses on some of the more unpleasant truths of the fishing community—from the dastardly and often nonsensical behavior that fishermen exhibit toward each other, to the unscrupulous, cutthroat and downright illegal practices too many fishermen direct toward the fish that they look upon as little more than poker chips, to be hoarded and accounted for at the end in dollar signs.

Nichols recounts his own, admittedly numerous, misdeeds with a mea culpa and expresses seemingly genuine concern that continued behavior like what he has exhibited, presumably in the past, and witnessed will again flatten striped bass populations in the future.

I thought the original name for this book, “Ain’t Nobody Saved Me No Buffalo,” was a better title, but maybe it wasn’t apologetic enough. Frankly, in a book that pulls few punches in exposing the seedy underbelly of fishing, why bother sugar-coating the cover? If “Bass Buff” is the Disney version of fishing, a rosy telling of generally nice people going fishing in a responsible manner, then “Caught” is the ugly documentary of what’s going on in the background of the photos of smiling anglers hoisting big stripers that fill Mikoleski’s book. They are both worth the double-feature.

Speaking of local authors, Captain Ken Grimshaw will be signing copies of his book “The Greatest White Shark Story Ever Told” at Star Island Yacht Club this weekend, during the club’s annual shark tournament, from noon to 3 p.m.

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