Get the oil in the pan, and get it hot, ’cause the fillets are coming in fast now.Porgies, weakfish, striped bass and even a few flounder have been hitting the ice this week, despite the gnarly weather that gripped the South Fork most of last week.
Porgy season opened on Monday to the usual rush of hungry hunters into Peconic Bay, where the little porkers stack up on the hard bottom to spawn in what’s gotta be just incredible numbers. Unlike the last couple of years, the porgies seemed to already be well settled into their favorite patches of bottom when the first chum pots dropped. The bite was good, and there were plenty of the big jumbos to help stuff coolers.
The limit on porgies is 10 per man for those fishing on private boats, and 30 per man for the party boats. The Hampton Lady and Shinnecock Star are both running trips to the hot spots from Hampton Bays, as are most of the Orient and Greenport party boats and charters, if you need a ride.
Even though the size of stripers in the area is gradually inching upward, and a fair number of keepers have been had, surf sharpies are focused mostly on weakfish these days and finally started picking a few decent ones late last week in the usual backwater spots and from the banks of the Shinnecock Canal.
I haven’t seen nor heard of any real jumbos yet, but they are usually part of the second wave—so should be any day now.
Catching some sea trout in Florida last weekend, I was telling the guide about how the Shinnecock Canal used to boil with weakfish when I was a kid, and fishermen could fill spackle buckets, with big yellow tails sticking up like French fries. Then they just vanished, for the better part of 20 years, before slowly clawing back to a faint wisp of their former presence.
Needless to say, for a guy who earns a good part of his living catching their close cousins, the tale was worrisome to this guide. The difference, I noted, is that the fish in that region don’t have to run the gauntlet of dragger nets that scour the water column between New England and the Outer Banks, to say nothing of the inshore gillnet poaching that takes place on their wintering grounds in North Carolina and Virginia. Commercial fishing for spotted sea trout is done mostly with small lengths of baited trot lines, and it’s not hard to see the difference in impact.
Those poking around the canal and the bays, bouncing little minnow jigs off the bottom for weakfish, have also revealed that there are already good numbers of fluke moving in.
The state has still yet to officially set the fluke rules for this year, but it’s bound to any minute. The National Marine Fisheries Service approved the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission proposals last week, so it’s pretty much a done deal that the fluke rules for the tri-state area will be three fish per man, with a minimum size of 19 inches. The season, I suspect, will open May 17, like it did last year, but it’s clearly going to come down to the wire again this year.
Don’t forget, the Ducks Unlimited spring pig roast is next Friday, May 12. Get your tickets from Mandy Sachtleben in advance, please, at firstname.lastname@example.org. There will be four guns raffled off, as well as the usual piles of decoys and other gear, not to mention the mountains of great food and all-you-can drink brews. It’s at the Water Mill Community Club field house at 6 p.m.
Catch ’em up. See you out there.