It’s that time of year once again. Charter boat captains are doing all those little projects on their boats that there was no time for in season. Boats are beginning to depart their moorings and dock slips and are hauling out for the winter. We are a little different from most ports, as we have to travel all the way across the bay to get hauled out and stored — there are no nearby facilities on a scale big enough to handle all of us.
We seem to be having more summer than fall weather, and that has kept a lot of seasonal boats in the water longer than usual. It’s a relief to be out of that awful pattern of howling winter-like easterlies and northeasterlies, too.
This fishing season was a little closer to normal than we’ve experienced in recent years, though once again it looks like the fall run of bass will escape us, as the fish to our north have been taking different routes south to the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay, where they spend the winter.
The season had its share of unexplained quirks. Looking back, our spring bass run was good, but there were no big fish around at all. We had a lot of 25-to-30-inch fish in our waters; there were a lot of throwbacks.
Bluefishing came back big this year, but another year without fluke has come and gone. Meanwhile, the fluke fishing east of Chatham was epic. I sure would like to know why these fish stopped coming into the bay.
Flounder fishing was pretty good in the spring but less so in the fall. Flounder fishing behind the breakwater, which for decades was very good, has been decimated by the hundreds of cormorants living on the breakwater. That fishery is no longer a viable one.
We have had a very subdued year for great white shark sightings, especially compared to last year. With increased tagging and spotting efforts, one would think the sightings would be up, but instead they were down. The hot spot for sharks this year seemed to be the east and south ends of Long Island. As gray seals continue to propagate and fan out to other areas, that will probably spread out the sharks as well. Friends in New Jersey told me they are starting to see more seals down that way. I told them they have no idea what they are in for.
Sightings of whales in the bay were also a lot fewer than in a typical year.
We did not have the consistent presence of mackerel and pogies (menhaden), as they scooted out midsummer and, to date, have not returned.
What we did get instead was thousands of little baby bonito everywhere from the inner harbor to Race Point and beyond. It will be interesting to see if these fish come back to our waters when they’ve grown bigger. That could make for a great sport fishery in the fall, to replace the bass runs that now elude us.
More and more blue crabs showing up here could also open up an entirely new recreational fishery. We certainly need something to fill the void created by not having fluke, flounder, or the fall bass run.
Giant bluefin tuna fishing was pretty good, but the market for them has cratered to the point where many are thinking it’s not worth their time and effort anymore. High fuel prices and low prices for tuna are not a good combination.
It’s time for me to put the boat to sleep and head back to the mountains. Stay safe and healthy and sharpen up those hooks for next season.