Weakfish Fuel Feeding Frenzy

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Last week I reported a story for our news sections about the mild red tide in the bays this year and the flourishing of marine species in the bay in its absence. One of the things that baymen pointed to as a sign of the natural bounty was the enormous brood stock of weakfish that exited the bay a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately for those small weakfish, they didn’t get too far.The baby weakfish’s first journey into the great wild world barely lasted past Montauk Point before they were set upon by the horde of predators lying in wait. This past week saw the small squeteague dying in fabulous numbers at the jaws of striped bass and bluefish, and many of those predators subsequently dying at the hands of humans.

The striped bass I brought home for dinner on Saturday had eight of the small weakies in its belly. That’s one of the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of its kind that were gorging on the weakfish. And the gillnetters tell me that the bluefish they’re catching are gorged with the weakfish too.

Not that adult weakfish numbers are exactly robust, but it’s a testament to nature’s vehicle for propagating her species: storm the gates. Like the Chinese streaming across the 48th parallel or Russian soldiers storming Leningrad, the weakfish sent forth such an enormous number of their kind that even the blitzkreig of jaws and beaks can’t get every single one.

And what’s even more telling about the natural world that we live in is that this enormous class of fish came from what was, by all accounts, a miniscule body of adult weakfish that returned to their spawning grounds in the Peconics last spring. It shows that given the right conditions, even a small number of adults can produce a mammoth number of offspring and kick start a species. Hopefully the weakfish in other estuaries had just as good a year—perhaps somewhere there weren’t a billion tons of bloodthirsty biomass waiting for their maritime debut.

So, yeah, the fishing was spectacular this past week. The weekend was the highlight of it, to say the least. Saturday’s blitzes of bass and bluefish on the sand beaches from Southampton to Georgica Pond were the stuff of halcyon days.

Unfortunately, the frenzy for survival and the abandon with which the fish fling themselves onto the beach in pursuit of food or to avoid becoming food, often seems to channel straight into the brains of humans, who are supposed to be more rational. Witness the ridiculous and dangerous speeds at which many anglers pursued the fish in their 4×4 vehicles on Saturday and Sunday. Here’s a reminder to your ego, since your brain clearly ain’t in charge: if you need to go 40 miles per hour on the beach to get at a fish, you are a really, really bad fisherman. Maybe stick to Connect Four as your leisure activity.

Seriously, folks, there are kids and dogs all over the beach on days like we saw this weekend, and they’re amped up on adrenaline and prone to running around a lot, and since this isn’t actually a highway with shoulders, trucks are often passing just a few inches from the doors of other trucks. A kid dashing between cars can come out of nowhere. So slow the f*ck down.

Of course, there are moments of poetic justice, aren’t there. The photo of the white Jeep that tried to swim across the Georgica Pond cut on Sunday afternoon made the viral rounds on Sunday and every single person that I showed it to recounted that particular vehicle being the most obnoxious offender of high-speed beach driving during Saturday’s hot fishing. Note to its owner: nobody feels sorry for you.

On other fronts, with water temperatures not cooling off very rapidly, the blackfishing has continued to be very good in the bays. Sea bass are starting to head for the deep water but there are still a few keepers mixed in with the porgies in the rocky spots.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

SABA Beach Cleanup

The Southampton Association for Beach Access will muster a beach cleanup on November 8, from 9 a.m. to noon on the beaches of Southampton.

The beach access group is asking all of its members and any non-members to help clean up debris and trash from the ocean beaches this fall.

The cleanup crew will meet at Old Town Pond beach parking lot at 9 a.m.

DU Youth Hunting Program

If you have a young hunter, boy or girl, it’s time to start getting ready for the waterfowl hunting season, which opens for youth hunters on November 22, the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Ducks Unlimited is bringing back its wonderful Youth Waterfowl Program this year and will host up to 35 young hunters for sporting activities and instruction at Hubbard County Park on November 8 and for hunting on November 22. Young hunters between the age of 12 and 15 who have completed their firearm safety training and obtained their hunting licenses are eligible. Instruction day will include hunting ethics and rules, waterfowl identification, decoy spreads, boating safety and cold water survival techniques, and some trap shooting to hone those skills for the season.

Call 444-0255, or email Danielle.Stango@dec.ny.gov to register your young hunter.

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