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Apr 24, 2018 10:01 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Striped Bass Arrive In The Surf

Apr 24, 2018 10:01 AM

And, we’re off. Despite the still-frosty night air and water temps lingering in the 40s, striped bass appeared in good numbers in South Fork waters last week, giving bass hounds some sorely needed relief from cabin fever.

Schoolie-sized fish and even a keeper or two were caught from the Atlantic beaches in Hampton Bays and Bridgehampton, and packs of the little fish have started to move into the back bay creeks and coves.

An abundance of silversides—or shiners, or spearing, or whatever you grew up calling them—seem to be drawing the stripers eastward into the frigid waters this year. If one recalls the year or two after Superstorm Sandy, when there were essentially no spearing anywhere on the East End, you can understand why fishing patterns vary so widely year to year.

There have been years when keeper stripers were abundant even a day or two before the April 15 season opener—and then years when nary a micro-bass was to be found until well into the first week of May.

Ebbs and surges in baitfish populations like spearing, sandeels and bunker can stall or advance the fish populations in ways that make us think that our predator populations are dwindling or soaring. Surfcasters may bemoan the poor fall fishing in their mecca of Montauk in recent years as a sign of striped bass reproduction struggles, but those who fish the Cape Cod Canal or Montauk’s rips in summer would say that the last couple of years have been the best they’ve ever known and things are looking rosy. It’s a complicated calculation.

As for a species that is less driven by baitfish variations but is just as difficult to compute management for, the battle over black sea bass regulations for this year still has not been settled. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is due to start three days of meetings next week, at which they will discuss an addendum to the quotas assigned to each East Coast “region”—New Jersey is its own region alone, with a more than 30 percent quota increase—that could allow New York and New England to scale back the cuts that they are facing.

For a view of the differences between what a 30 percent quota increase for New Jersey and 11 percent quota decrease for New York and New England could mean, New Jersey set its black sea bass regulations for the year last week: a staggered season of 10 fish per man, with a minimum size of 12.5 inches for the months of May, June and October, and 15 fish at a 13-inch minimum for November and December (in July and August, they’ll be allowed just two fish per man).

New York, on the other hand, is looking at limits of just three fish per man for June, July and August, five fish in September and October, and just seven fish during the height of the offshore freezer-filler fishery in November and December.

That is a whopping difference that will send anglers from the metro area flocking to New Jersey’s party and charter boats in the spring and fall, rather than to Freeport, Shinnecock and Montauk.

Everyone is crossing their fingers that fishery managers will get this worked out, but it is going to be a bare-knuckles fight between those lobbying for New Jersey—who would have to take a cut in their quota increase for other states to get less of a cut in theirs—and New York. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, don’t forget to get your tickets and raffle packages for the Eastern Suffolk Ducks Unlimited pig roast in Water Mill on May 11. As of this week, there were still a couple of the early-bird raffle packages left that get you $200 worth of tickets for $100. Tons of goose and duck decoys, some great hunting gear and, of course, new shotguns will be on the raffle tables.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

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