Capt. Dave Peros: Fishing in Montauk
By: Captain Dave Peros, October 28, 2013
There are certain feats in the fishing world that are rightfully regarded with a certain degree of respect and admiration. For example, in the world of striped bass fishing, breaking the 50-pound mark is certainly considered a feat, with shore anglers who achieve this standard garnering a bit more of a nod that those who do so from a boat.
Of course, there have been plenty of outstanding striper anglers whose names have historical and piscatorial significance who never caught a fifty, while there are more than a few stories of newbies going out on a boat for the first time or tossing out a chunk of bait from the beach and catching a bass that tipped the scales over the magic number.
On my most recent Montauk trip that ended about a week ago, the fishing was the worst I have experienced there in the seven or so years I have ventured to the eastern tip of Long Island. There really weren’t the days on end of bass slurping bay anchovies as far as the eye can see, and albies were few and far between, with just a couple of days of decent funny fish action. In fact, there is little doubt in my mind, after talking things over with the fly and light tackle guides who rely on the fall scene in Montauk, that the albie fishing on the Cape and islands was better here than there.
Of particular note was a push of really good-sized false albacore around Cape Poge and Edgartown starting the week before Columbus Day, with almost all of the top fish in the all tackle and fly rod categories in the recently ended Vineyard Derby taken during that stretch.
As tough as things were in Montauk, however, one of the folks whom I have the pleasure of fishing with several times during the year, Barney Keezell, achieved a first on the Katie G—a true grand slam. I have to admit that while I know that a flats slam is a tarpon, bonefish, and permit on the same day, with adding a snook making it a super slam, I am a bit confused when folks call the feat of catching a legal bass, bluefish, and albie on the same trip a grand slam while others label it a slam. I have always adhered to the grand slam label the way the Derby does: a bass, bluefish, albie, and bonito.
In Barney’s case, he caught all four fish on the same trip, which is really rare, especially given that I have never had a bonito (or green bonito, as they call them in New York) caught on my boat in Montauk.
The Derby Grand Slam competition is based on catching those four species over the entire month or so of the event and it is a highly regarded achievement, with very few anglers completing a slam. Most who do are entered in the boat all-tackle division, with a few shore all-tackle anglers completing the task as well.
As someone who spends a fair amount of time watching the leaderboard, I have come to believe that the fly rod slam just might be the toughest route to go and this year Falmouth’s own Art Crago did the deed.
A member of the Falmouth Fishing Fraternity of Medicine Men (and I hereby take credit for establishing a name for this group!) that includes names such as Cordts, Christman, Pilcher, and others, Art is a dedicated Derby participant and his name often pops up in the dailies in both the fly and all tackle divisions. This year, he finished second in both the fly boat bass and bluefish categories, and you know what they say about bridesmaids, and over the years I have seen him ranked in three of the four fly rod boat divisions, but it always seems that he couldn’t complete the slam.
Now, I am sure that Art will be sure to correct me if I am wrong in saying that 2013 marked his first Derby fly rod slam, but whether I am right or wrong, he certainly deserves congratulations and I tip my hat to the good doctor.
I was planning on saying that, unfortunately, I don’t think any other anglers will be slamming this year, but according to Doug Asselin, there have been big schools of albies from West Chop to Vineyard Haven ripping it up right through midweek. Before the Derby closing ceremonies on Sunday, Doug had some good shots at them from the shore, but he couldn’t hook up, which seems to be the story recently for most folks who have run into them. The fact that there are even a significant number of albies around this late in October appears to be a continuation of an off fishing season this year, with “late” appearing to be the optimal word.
Shore anglers on the Vineyard had a very tough bonito season, with perhaps four or five weighed in during the Derby and none in the fly rod shore category. That said, boaters are still getting shots around Cape Poge and off of Squibnocket.
I can say with confidence that the Elizabeths are schoolie heaven, with small fish just everywhere chowing on small bait, including mini bay anchovies. Davis Yetman put it best when he said how cool it was to watch all of those active small fish, as if he were fishing in a nursery. Most of his success came with smaller pearl Zoom Super Flukes as well as the fly rod; there were some much larger fish holding under the schoolies, but whenever they made their play for an offering, their energetic, less cautious brethren beat them to it.
Small Bass Hitting At Pond Entrances
The word from Christian Giardini is that shore anglers in Falmouth are picking up mostly smaller bass as well using plugs and plastics around the entrances to the salt ponds. Most fish are in the low to mid-20-inch range, with an occasional 30-inch fish taken on a live eel from dusk to dawn. There are still reports of schools of adult pogies from Woods Hole up to West Falmouth, and although anglers working them are encountering mainly big bluefish, there are some larger bass thereabouts as well and shore and boat anglers would do well to carry larger plugs and soft plastics that present a reasonable facsimile of a menhaden—as well as a snatch hook if they have no qualms with snagging a baitfish and letting its injured movements work their magic.
Jim Young said that with archery season opening up this week, a good number of sportsmen have changed their focus from fishing to hunting. Those folks who are sticking with the rod and reel are picking up some nice tautog around the Elizabeths and a few hardy souls continue to pursue larger fish around our local archipelago using eels and big wooden plugs.
Bruce Miller had little patience for folks who have been complaining about the apparent lack of action in the Canal, especially when it comes to larger fish. He weighed in a 30-pound bass this past weekend and a good number of other good fish were caught, especially at night on live eels. The key, Bruce emphasized, is keeping up with where the bait is and that means not necessarily committing yourself to one spot for an entire tide; when it comes to consistent success when fishing the seven plus miles of the Big Ditch, being mobile is an asset. Daytime anglers have found that changing lures is another key as they try to imitate what the fish are feeding on at the moment, including mackerel, butterfish, and sea herring.
When it comes to lure selection in the Canal right now, one piece of advice will suffice: as much fun as it is to catch fish on topwaters such as pencil poppers, Savage Sand Eels continue to be what anglers are buying. Tuesday saw a good number of 20-pound bass caught in the Canal, confirmed Stan Darmofalski, and there were plenty of schoolies around as well; they weren’t necessarily boiling on the surface, thus necessitating offerings such as the Savages that come in various weights and can be fished at different levels of the water column. Blue or green mackerel have been hot colors, but Stan added that everyone seems to have their favorite based on what worked that day.
There are also some good schools of bass along the beaches from Sandwich to Sandy Neck, with everyone from flyrodders to surf anglers tossing plugs and plastics getting into the action. For the latter, if the bait is small and the bass are thumbing their noses at your piece of hard plastic or wood, then putting a teaser fly or plastic in front might just be the ticket to more action.
Sea bass season closes October 31 for the recreational community so you still have a few days left if you favor these tasty fish. As Stan said, you are going to have to fish a bit harder and longer as you cull through what are mostly sublegal ones in many spots, but the Canal still is fishing well for anglers using metal jigs and bucktails. There are also some big scup around in the land cut, with Stan tangling with one that went over 14 inches and put up a pretty good fight.
Out in Buzzards Bay, there is some good tautog fishing to be had out around Bird Island and other spots that feature hard bottom structure, including humps and holes.
The bluefin bite is finally happening consistently close in toward Chatham, noted Danny Jones; in past years, the smaller fish have been active inshore all summer from Nauset to Peaked Hill Bar, but that fishery just now seems to be shaping up. These tuna can be very finicky, but last Saturday Danny knows of at least 10 boats that hooked up; in the stomach of one fish that was harvested were butterfish, squid, and krill. Skirted ballyhoo are working for trollers, with casters not finding much love and vertical jiggers doing OK. Out east, the giant action has been very slow, with just a handful of fish caught so far out around the Regal Sword.
Jeff Clabault said that with all of the small stripers around, this time of year is truly one where you have a chance of catching a freshwater bass that outshines anything you might catch in the salt chuck. Shiners are working well in ponds such as Mashpee-Wakeby, John’s, Ashumet, and others, with whacky worm rights effective as well.
The state has also completed its first round of fall trout stocking and many of these fish hold in shallower water that is cooler this time of year, making them more readily available to shore anglers than the holdover fish left over from previous stockings, including those from this past spring. PowerBait is usually a good choice for these recent stockees, as well as nightcrawlers and trout worms during and after rainy periods. Larger holdover trout are often more aggressive and inclined to take spoons and small, Finnish-style swimming plugs such as Rapalas, Rebels, and the Yo-zuri Pins Minnow.