Striped bass and bluefish charged into the New York Bight this week like they were late for dinner.After giving New Jersey anglers spectacular fishing for the last couple weeks, the fish have now set up off Fire Island and the Rockaways and limits of stripers have been hitting the docks daily. In just a matter of a few days fishing off western Long Island shores went from a pick of tiny fish to full-on action with fish into the mid-20s.
The keeper size stripers haven’t found their way this far east yet—at least by Tuesday morning they hadn’t—but there are steadily growing numbers of schoolies showing up in the surf and inlets. By this time next week it should be an easy bet to catch a fish from shore.
The fish back to the west are, once again, set up on big schools of bunker and, once again, that is proving to be a bad choice for them.
Bunker populations look to be in line to post another banner year this year, with some of the commercial guys who work the Peconics telling me they’ve already seen more this spring than has ever been in the bay in their lifetimes.
That is a good thing, maybe. It’s never bad to have one of the crucial forage species for large predator fish in good supply. But for the stripers that can’t resist them, it is proving to be a fatal vice.
When striped bass are feeding on a school of bunker they are perhaps at their most vulnerable to anglers. Bunker schools live at the surface, especially when being pursued by predators, and are visible from half a mile away. When they’re feeding on a bunker school, stripers are at their most voracious and can be fooled into eating just about any large white thing. And if that fails, of course, the bunker themselves are easy to snag and live-line into an almost guaranteed hookup.
And the worst of it: The bunker schools seem to tend to concentrate the biggest fish in the stock in this barrel. What used to be an annual cow striper is now sometimes just one of many caught in a day.
Like a friend of mine said recently: “Now any idiot can catch a 40-pounder.”
That cannot, and will not, last forever. Thank God for the new one-fish limits and an end to the photos on Noreast.com of four clueless mooks each holding two dead 40-pounders that will end up in a freezer for three years and then the garbage.
But what are the upsides of a major bunker rebound? Obviously lots of good baits for striper fishing. And perhaps the outstanding mako shark fishing we saw last year is a product? Better still, if bunker repopulate the coast in historic numbers, maybe they will attract big bluefins to the old grounds off Block and Montauk again.
White Water Outfitters Spring Cast-Off open house and boat show will be this weekend at the shop on Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays.
There will be food, music, tackle and product demonstrations and tons of specials on gear. Last year there were a lot of giveaways with every purchase and some great food by the chefs from Canal Cafe.
Tuna lure-making legend Joe Shute will be at the Cast-Off this year, so keep an eye out for specials on his fantastic ballyhoo skirts. Trev Gowdy, host of “Monster Fish” on the Outdoor Channel, will be there as well.
There will be fly casting and surf rod demos on the beach.
Doors open at 6 a.m. and the grills will be hot by mid morning, with live music in the afternoons.
See you there.
The Eastern Suffolk Chapter of the Ducks Unlimited will host its annual spring barbecue on May 13, at the Burnett Field House in Water Mill.
As usual, the event will be a casual afternoon of beers and burgers with tons of great gun, gear and decoy raffles and a superb barbecue prepared by Randy Reiss, Mark Borucke, Wayne Bezubek and their crew.
The event will have a “DU Great Gun Giveaway” this year, in which tickets will be sold in sets of 50 and one gun will be won from each set. A 1-in-50 chance at winning a gun is about as good an odds as you can ask for.
DU is also selling 50 special raffle packages. For $100 you get $200 worth of raffle tickets and a special ticket for a Mossberg .22 rifle. There will also be the usual sponsor package, for $320 that gets you your DU membership, $200 in raffle tickets and a ticket in the Mossberg raffle.
Tickets this year are $40 for all you can eat and drink. See you there.