Bass Emerge, Then Fade Away

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As is so often the case with the writing of this weekly column, the fishing scene can do a 180-degree about-face in the time between when I write it and when anybody reads it. It’s one of the things I love about it.Literally as I was writing the words “everyone continues to await the emergence of striped bass on the clouds of rain bait” the first blitzes of bass were exploding on said rain bait in the rocky coves west of Montauk Point. The blitzes were short-lived but the fish were solid teens-sized fish in classic rolling boils of stripes and mouths and tiny sliver and russet baitfish fleeing to the air and land in hopes of escaping the gaping buckets of striped bass mouths.

Unfortunately, after two and a half days of fair showings, the blitzes faded away as quickly as they had materialized. Other than a short shot of nice fish “up front” at first light Saturday and Sunday mornings, and some scattered nighttime trophies, the surf has been quiet since last Wednesday.

In one of those bewildering intracacies that we humans will never understand, the striped bass 20 miles away, in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, followed almost exactly the same pattern as they did here: appearing early in the week and then vanishing again.

But the components all remain. The bay anchovies still scatter like summer raindrops with the passing of a boat or caster’s lure. The occasional platoon of mullet, their red gills flashing and black tails pulsing rapidly, can be seen scurrying along the shoreline on occasion.

There is another factor that may well explain the vanishing of the bass. A large body of bunker sprinted past Montauk Point last week, heading toward the sizable populations of their brethren that have been in residence off much of Long Island between Shinnecock Inlet and the Rockaways all summer long. After the weekend blow, they had separated into dozens of pods, lined up in the ocean off Bridgehampton and Sagaponack. The occasional exploding of white water and pinwheeling bodies was a clear indicator that they were being molested by larger predator species.

Fishermen casting to the schools seemed to only come up with big bluefish for their efforts, but there are almost certainly stripers under them as well, either outside of casting range, or more interested in the easy meal of a beheaded bunker, shredded by bluefish teeth, pinwheeling down to them like Scooby Snacks.

The resident schools that have been hanging off Shinnecock Inlet have stripers under them, Capt. Scott from East End Bait & Tackle tells me, though I have not had chance to sample the offerings personally yet.

Wherever those bunker came from it does not seem as though they were from the population that made the Peconics and Gardiners Bay home this summer. Those are still in abundant evidence in Noyac Bay and off Three Mile Harbor. Those schools do seem to have only bluefish under them, as is typical in the bays, but the hope remains that when they move to the ocean they will bring big stripers into the surf zone. My fingers, for one, are crossed.

Blackfish season kicked off last weekend to a fair showing from the sound of things. The easy access shallows held a decent number of keepers for those crab killers that hit the waters on Sunday and Monday. Chilly nights should be sending those fish headed for deeper waters soon, so if you like the light tackle toggin’, get on it now.

Offshore scene was mostly quiet, thanks to the shield of wind Mother Nature has thrown up to protect her precious tuna from the hordes that have slaughtered thousands of them in recent weeks. Big game trolls are drooling and wringing their hands over the offshore forecasts, scouring them hopefully for the slightest sign of an alley between the millibars that would lead them to the bounty of yellow finlets and translucent red flesh that surely still lingers in Block Canyon.

We count the seconds.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

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