If this fall’s run, so far anyway, has taught me anything, it’s that among me and my cadre of fishing theorists, for all our decades of combined experience and observation of fish, we are just flat wrong a lot of the time.A year ago, we were all talking, and I was writing, about how there had been a handful of consecutive years in which the fall blitzes in the surf zone were flat, and many of the bait species had repeatedly run the gauntlet of Block Island Sound and escaped into the open sea without getting chased into the surf by predator fish. We noted that during these years there also seemed to be a relative dearth of bluefish in the region during the fall migration, compared to the halcyon years of the 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium, when the key to catching bass was identifying which of the massive blitzes churning at each stretch of beach had more bass in it than bluefish. And so, we deduced, the lack of bluefish was the reason the good surf fishing had not been so robust as in years past.
Well, that wasn’t it. This year has shown us that it is not the bluefish, apparently, that chase the balls of bait into the surf zone—it’s the bass. Bluefish have been abundant in the waters off Montauk Point this year, along with balls of anchovies, or rain minnows, thick as could be hoped for. Day after day, blitzes of bluefish churn up on these little balls of bait, and rarely, if ever, have they charged into the beaches.
Then last week’s strong easterlies started blowing, and striped bass came on to the scene, and the surf fishing opened wide for a few days. Late in the week, the surf bite in Montauk and Hampton Bays exploded with the gusto we would hope to see during an October storm.
The better fish were in Hampton Bays, at Ponquogue Beach, with a handful into the high 20-pound class in the mix with the schoolies and teens fish. In Montauk, there were more and more sustained blitzes, finally, on Thursday and Friday, mostly rats and schoolies, with fish in the teens and low 20s at the top end.
I missed it all, personally, for a friend’s wedding, but from the sound of things it slowed down considerably over the weekend and into the early part of the week at both spots. The bluefish were back on Monday, though, I’m told, blitzing away well offshore of Montauk’s south side.
Blackfishing is picked up a little bit on the backside of the storm. The rock-hoppers at Shinnecock Inlet are taking a few nicer fish here and there, mixed in with lots of smalls and shorts. Big porgies and sea bass are filling out the bags of the sinker bouncers working the reefs and wrecks, and trolling or jigging for stripers in the deeper rips off Montauk is still producing some solid fish.
Sea duck gunning begins this week, and we should see the first flocks of snow and blue geese passing over on their way south with this week’s full moon.
Catch ’em up. See you out there.