Season Opener: Fish Are Here Now

The first week of the 2021 New York striped bass season—opening day was April 15—arrived with good news in the chilly East End waters.  Fish are among us.

FIRST FISH: From the frigid frothy waters of Port Jefferson.

Considering our April-pretending-to-be-March weather, it seemed unlikely we’d see bass here in any reliable way this month.  And based on past performance, that would be enough to keep the Fishing Faithful tight to their indoor hearths until about Mother’s Day in any ordinary year.  But as you have heard ad naseum, it hasn’t been an ordinary year—for at least the last 14 months.

ON THE MOVE: Excitement loomed when bass were reported in New York waters.

Each week the migration maps, which track striped bass movement north from their winter resting grounds off the Carolina coast, whetted the fishing appetites of the cabin fevered Faithful. Tantalizing reports of slot fish in Raritan Bay off New Jersey’s highlands, eight-pound weakfish near Sag Harbor, and tons of bait everywhere—bunker in particular, and also spearing—finally took their toll.

To the beaches the surfcasters did rush. First, they went up island to Little Neck Bay where there was a decent schoolie bite of hold-over fish last spring to accompany the Covid-19 pandemic.  Surfcasting rule Number Two: Always return to the scene of the crime.

Billy Black, who took the 15 minute ride to LNB from his Manhasset home base, explained without a hint of irony, “Somebody has to catch the first fish.” And that honor went to Verizon Charlie. But VC didn’t score up island, or even out east. Sir Charles pulled his inaugural 22-inch striper from the frothy frigid waters of his Port Jefferson hometown on April 18.

LNB is the default fishing grounds of Manhattanite LeeBob. And it is literally on the weekday commuting route of Queens dweller Amazing Randy, who filed regular reports from his mobile Cross Island Parkway crows nest.  But when Verizon Charlie showed up, making a trip to the Nassau-Queens border from his deep seat in Suffolk, the pent up demand was as plain as a new moon tide at the perigee. 

BUNKER BUNKER: Bait is everywhere.

Which, of course, kicked fishaholic LeeBob into fish-finding high gear on the East End. He combed all his usual haunts on both the ocean and bay beaches from Amagansett to Montauk Point.  By Monday, LeeBob had zeroed in on a well structured patch of beach on the Napeague stretch. “On. The. Board,” he gloated to the Faithful.

Micro-bass fell to LeeBob’s, 4-inch paddle tail lure wiggling through the whitewater, attached to a 1/2-ounce jig head. Baby bass were feeding thick in the trough formed by the close-in sandbar, and LeeBob caught them by the dozen. Though not much bigger than the bunker bait that has inundated the East End beaches since winter, they proved to be good sport on light tackle and an impetus to do better.  

ON THE BOARD: LeeBob nails a LeeBob.

Which, after a couple of dozen stripers in diapers over two days, LeeBob managed to do. By midweek, switching to a chartreuse “Chuck’s Buck” bucktail lure, LeeBob began attracting 24- to 26-inch fish. Genuine LeeBobs for LeeBob.

From far far away Montecito, CA, Fishing Faithful Big Brother Frank issued his typical early season clarion call, albeit in absentia:  “Fish are coming now.”

Fact is, they are here.

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