08/31/14 7:00am
08/31/2014 7:00 AM
A surf fisherman at Iron Pier Beach on the Sound. (Credit: Barbarallen Koch file photo)

A surf fisherman at Iron Pier Beach on the Sound. (Credit: Barbarallen Koch file photo)

Summer fishing in the area keeps living up to high expectations, according to recent reports. Capt. Dave Brennan of the Peconic Star out of Greenport was enthusiastic about the large numbers of sea bass, often running five or six pounds. Scup numbers are also good. Dave feels you have to find fish in new areas because many of the old mussel beds that concentrated fish in the traditional places have disappeared.

At WeGo Fishing in Southold, Alex mentioned plenty of keeper scup in the Peconics, especially in the Noyac area, where sea bass, “kingfish” (northern whiting) and weakfish can be found as well. Anglers fishing diamond jigs catch cocktail blues around Jessups Neck, and there are plenty of snappers in the bay.

Charlie Caraftis at Mattituck Fishing Station and Marina on Mattituck Creek explained that bass have been hard to find off Hortons Point but gorilla bluefish remain and are especially active as the sun rises. Chunking is often the method of choice. Sea bass outnumber scup inshore, with many nice fish in the four- to five-pound class. Not many anglers are bothering with fluke right now, but there was one six-pound weakfish noted, taken by an angler jigging for blues in deep water.

Bill Czech at Jamesport Bait and Tackle in Mattituck reported only spotty beach action, with blues and small bass off Cupsogue Beach and a few bass taken off Hortons on eels. Long Island Sound beaches have cocktail blues in some places early and late. Scup specialists often head east to Fishers Island or Block Island, but there was a shot of large porgies up to 17 inches around Buoy 17 last week.

Roses Grove and Nassau Point waters produce some weakfish in the 14- to 16-inch range and small pan-size kingfish abound along bay beaches as well. With bunker schools so tight to South Shore beaches, humpback whales and sharks have been seen close inshore. One fluke angler wound up with a thresher estimated at 150 pounds on the end of a rig, and makos have been taken regularly only 10 to 14 miles out.

06/29/14 6:00am
06/29/2014 6:00 AM
Grilled black sea bass and blackfish accompanied by saffron rice and asparagus. (Credit: John Ross, file)

Grilled black sea bass and blackfish accompanied by saffron rice and asparagus. (Credit: John Ross, file)

A good friend of ours who happens to be a terrific angler has often remarked that we’re foolish to “keep” fish for the table when all we have to do is head for a local market and choose wisely from the iced fish on display. He points out that such seafood is surely a lot cheaper and obtained with a lot less trouble, given the cost of travel and tackle (and boats).  (more…)

03/30/14 7:00am
03/30/2014 7:00 AM
This weather is for these birds in Jamesport. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

This weather is for these birds in Jamesport. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

As we write a late March column, it’s fun to look out a window and see blue sky. In the morning, on the way to work, I hear competing cardinals, and, upstate on weekends, the turkey flocks are out and about in our driveway, picking gravel and driving the dogs crazy.

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08/24/13 8:00am
08/24/2013 8:00 AM

FILE PHOTO | For years, anglers turned to Newsday columnist Nick Karas for reports on the outdoors.

To the editor:

I don’t know where to start when discussing Capt. Nick Karas’ impact on fishermen like me.

I read his columns continuously throughout his career at Newsday. I missed very few. He always put me right there as if I were his shadow.

The first time we met was at Salivar’s in Montauk during an evening before a cod trip in the very early ’70s. A few years later, despite our initial conversations, I felt strangely intimidated when I called him to ask if he would accompany a large group of fourth-graders on a school boating and fishing field trip I had planned. Naturally, he followed his guest appearance with a wonderful and accurate column on our adventures at sea.

Thank you again, Nick. After that, I would see Nick regularly at the winter outdoor shows or on the Orient or Montauk docks. I was always greeted with a friendly smile and an enthusiastic hello. He frequently spoke of the refurbished center console that he now took charters from. A few years ago, he joined my dinner guests, consisting mostly of fishing addicts, as a guest speaker at a local restaurant. He did a fine job of outlining and discussing sight-casting on the flats for large and small stripers.

Nick Karas wrote so much about the outdoors, his writing credits are way too many to list. They were all terrific works.

What stands out the most to me is “The Complete Book of Striped Bass Fishing.” It is considered by many to be the bible for linesider anglers. Nick’s attention to detail is overwhelming. The book is a must-read for every bass angler, including the best of the pros.

Sadly, Nick Karas will be missed by many, including this angler.

RIP, Capt. Nick.

Capt. Jerry McGrath, Wading River

Mr. McGrath is a licensed charter boat captain and the owner of Sportfishing Adventures in Calverton. He’s a retired Shoreham-Wading River schoolteacher.

08/12/12 4:00am
08/12/2012 4:00 AM

We were going to a restaurant the other night with old friends who trialed field dogs with us over the years and asked for directions. One of them pulled out pen and paper and said, “Here, I’ll draw you a map!” It was a fine document and got us there without difficulty.

Here was an “aha” moment; this sequence is now quite unusual because mapmaking is a lost art for many outdoors persons. In a world of Google Earth, GPS, On Star and computerized voices like Siri, it’s no wonder that the need to sketch or read a detailed map appears old-fashioned, even irrelevant. This observation applies, I suppose, as long as technology works for you. However, if you have no laptop, if you are in an area where wireless signals are poor or non-existent, e.g., some wilderness areas in the Adirondack Park or roads through the mountains of Pennsylvania, then what?

Also, because computer technology from the very beginning was only as good as the early programmers, (i.e., “garbage in equals garbage out”) and because much of today’s software is written by wonks who haven’t a clue about local details, some really crazy situations arise when technology goes awry or androids make decisions for you. Several seasons back, a couple of friends from northern New England with no knowledge of Long Island wanted to get to a trial in Calverton with their horses and set out confidently, using their GPS. Somehow they tracked all the way west to the New York Thruway and the Major Deegan Expressway, then wound up on the Cross Bronx Expressway just in time for Friday evening rush hour — a nightmare!

Our north country home up against the Canadian border lies on a road, Jones Road, which ends next to our house, but there is a track through the woods going north, an old military trail once intended for border protection and later used by bootleggers and locals to get to Canada. It emerges a couple of miles north onto an east-west country road, but the track is really for ATVs or hikers. Still, every so often, we’ll see someone come crashing out of the woods in a 4×4 pickup, looking somewhat dazed. Inevitably, this is a pilgrim following a GPS or a Google Map that clearly shows “Jones Road Extension.”

Live and learn.

The best maps give an overall picture, showing not only roads and landmarks, but accurate distances, too. Looking for a field trial, a hunting camp, or a restaurant — it’s all the same; you’ve got to be precise about how far you’ve come and where you turn. The same holds true for sailors and anglers reading nautical charts. It’s well and good for a skipper to punch in numbers and get precisely onto some patch of bottom or some little wreck where the fish were yesterday. But, we’re spoiled to the point where we have a hard time figuring out new waters for which there is only scant information.

If you rented a livery skiff from the Lorias 40 years back, Captain Marty’s would supply you with a simple map showing shorelines, islands, reefs and buoys. Given the layout and some numbers (like distances from points or time of travel at cruising speed) you could pretty well get to the desirable areas, even if there were no other boats fishing there. If you had a depth recorder, great; otherwise, you dropped a sinker overboard on a fixed line and checked both depth and, by bumping the sinker, the type of bottom. Often you could pick out features on shorelines directly fore and aft as well as off both stern and bow. The intersection of the two lines gave you a triangulated position that you could note. If you needed to drift a bit, you carried a couple of marker buoys — empty plastic milk jugs and heavy sinkers on lines wrapped around the jugs. Toss one overboard and you had the spot marked perfectly (at least until the tide ran so fast that the jug submerged). This also served nicely to mark where a body of bottom hugging flounder might be feeding so you could drift over the hot spot repeatedly. No GPS or Loran numbers required.

This “lost art” itself, like mapmaking, can still come in handy when you find yourself in some little embayment in a borrowed skiff a thousand miles away from home and you want to catch your supper as we did on Cape Breton Island some 20 years back. The winter flounder there were extraordinary, too! Similarly, locating a deep spring in a mountain pond you’ve never fished before usually requires a tip or two, a homemade map, and the skills of triangulation.

If you can make and read simple maps and find your way around new areas, you shouldn’t need to ask yourself, “Where am I?” Or answer, “I dunno!”

07/19/12 4:00am
07/19/2012 4:00 AM

We had just finished a good morning workout, a training session, really, with three bird dogs when another club member arrived on the grounds. We were the only ones that morning. By the time we packed up to go, the temperature was 85 degrees. It was 8:30 a.m., and the heat wave would push the mercury into triple digits in nearby Philadelphia that afternoon.

Outdoors persons who deal with summer activities during the frequent hot spells learn to be smart. More important than 4 p.m. high temperatures are the 6 a.m. lows, for these dictate what you can do and when. Unless you’re forced to defy Noel Coward’s “Mad Dogs and Englishmen [Go Out in the Noonday Sun]” rule because of some scheduled event, you key on the period between first light and breakfast, say 4 a.m. to 8. Unless the morning lows come in above 80 degrees, you can usually accomplish what you want in relative comfort. Why only mornings? Throughout most of our mid-Atlantic region, high humidity levels simply don’t allow temperatures to plunge much at nightfall, and “the cool of the evening” is pretty much a myth.

Where I grew up, fishing the summer nights in Westchester and Putnam counties, my favorite fishing time was “the witching hour” right around dark, until mid-July. Then older mentors showed me how to fish long after dark, and, indeed, the bass often “came alive” around midnight, much to the annoyance of my parents. (I had to learn to refrigerate my catch until at least after breakfast the next day.) A couple of young friends who constantly outfished me wouldn’t get on the lakes until 3 a.m. or so, and they had the advantage of the coolest water temperatures of all. Even a half-degree or so makes a difference in freshwater predator activity.

Many years later when I worked a half-year in New Zealand, I learned that the rainbow/steelhead of the North Island were also best fished in the middle of the night by anglers casting tiny luminous flies from sandbars, fly rodders lined up just like so many northeastern surf fishers. Of course tides are just as important as the cover of darkness for nighttime stripers during the summer doldrums; East End skippers always cherish the new and full-moon periods from now through September for that very reason.

Unfortunately, biorhythms present a problem for most of us landlubbers. Although you’re just as likely to come across “night owls” as you are to encounter “early birds,” very few can go both ways. That’s why charter skippers are not fond of 12-hour sunset-to-sunrise grinds. Those still standing at the rail can be made to look really foolish when the biggest striped bass of the trip opts for a live eel at night’s end.

The only option for the outdoors person who simply hates the graveyard shift and cannot function without a full night’s rest is to fight the heat of the day and do what you need to do to be active: wear protective clothing, slather on sunscreen, drink plenty of fluids, etc. The other afternoon, with temperatures in the 90s, I had to muck out a barn and couldn’t bear long pants. The flies ate me alive while sunscreen dissolved in my sweat and got into my eyes. Humidity and lack of a breeze did me in. But offshore pros often find their targets perfectly well if they can handle some discomfort. That’s why some of the best offshore fishing comes in summertime, for tunas, mahi, or sharks out in the blue water. If you’ve got a shaded cabin to rest in, or even a canopy for shade, and if there’s a whiff of a breeze (not too much of a rolling sea, though!) it’s tolerable.

I used to consider summertime freshwater fishing to be a crazy proposition if I had to go in the daytime until I started fishing streams or rivers with fairly constant temperatures. Although, you had the best trout fishing in low light or at night, it was different with the river smallmouth and especially with the pikes. Given some local shade, some trees or weeds, you could often do pretty well all day. Because the pikes (chain pickerel, northern pike and muskellunge) are binge feeders, you often tease them or anger them to provoke a strike. High water temperatures increase metabolic rates and seem to make pike about as ornery as an overheated angler. We’ve seen some big river muskies come roaring out of weed patches to attack surface lures with open water river temperatures in the 80s!

Just because it’s hot, that’s no excuse not to get out. Whether you rise before the sun or emerge from the house after sundown, the summer outdoors still has a lot to offer. Besides, if the overwhelming majority of climate scientists are right, it won’t be any easier in the future!

06/28/12 2:00am
06/28/2012 2:00 AM

When I felt the bump of the horse trailer on the curb as I drove through the turnpike toll, I had a bad feeling. Minutes later on the Massachusetts Pike, a glance in the rear-view mirror of the haul vehicle confirmed my fears; the tire on the trailer just didn’t seem to be running right. When a car passed alongside and its driver frantically gestured towards the trailer, I knew it was time to pull over and change the tire. Fortunately, we had all the tools necessary; even more fortunately, we had a spare tire bolted to the front of the trailer.

No motorist in his or her right mind would think of taking a long trip without such a “spare” tire assembly. Yet, it’s amusing how many outdoors persons travel without preparing for such contingencies. It’s so easy to stumble over gear and fall on a fishing rod, crushing it, or catch a long wand in a closing door as you step across the doorstep into camp. Fly rodders are notorious for leaving tackle assembled while proceeding through tricky entrances or into rear compartments of autos. Anglers set up a reel with shock leader or tippets ever so carefully, but often fail to check reel screws, bails or nuts that hold reel handles in place.

Sometimes we’re able to make emergency repairs. An older generation of bamboo rods always came with spare tips, for example. I’ve made repairs on guides when wraps came undone by finding a handy roll of duct tape and taking a turn or two around the foot of a loose guide. On one Canadian trip I got really lucky and snapped a fallen guide ring back into place, then used a drop of instant glue to make it more secure. If I catch a loose screw or two on a reel plate or notice a loose nut on a bail or handle, a small screwdriver from my kit or a pair of pliers comes to my rescue.

The worst “uh-oh” moments come when repairs in the field are impossible. Where’s the technician who can replace a bail spring on the spot? Who can load up a spool of line while standing hip deep in the surf? Who can take apart a delicate reel after it has fallen into the bilge and filled with fine sand? That’s where your replacement comes in.

Just as you wouldn’t think of fishing with one lure and one leader, you shouldn’t think of proceeding without a spare outfit, or at least a spare reel. If storage is no problem on a big boat, we usually stash a spare outfit in a safe corner of the cabin or tie it to the rail where a spot is empty. We also put a spare reel into our daypack, just in case one of our winches malfunctions.

On a bottom fishing trip, the spare outfit is handy when we lose a rig and want to jump right back into the action during a “bite.” Re-rigging can take place during a lull in the action. On a drift fishing trip years ago in the Florida Keys, I had an outsized mahi burn up a bail roller and render a spinning outfit unfit for casting. I spent the rest of the afternoon with a 12-pound class drift rig, set up with a tandem-hooked ballyhoo, and saved the trip with my very first sailfish.

It’s a tough call when you have to go with only one rod, as one does so often working a stream of wading from the beach. Unless you want to carry the spare rod all day, you probably leave it back in the truck or back in the tent, but you at least should stash a second reel in a pocket or wading vest. Fly fishers sometimes carry spare spools to change lines, which is so much easier. I’ve seen a few anglers manage to carry spare two- or three-piece rods by taping them together or using a Velcro strap fastened to their person. Still this can get pretty clumsy as you plod miles along the gravel or walk a forest path. It’s tempting to put them down above the high tide line or off the trail as you proceed, but hours later you had better remember exactly where you stashed the spares!

One trout specialist I fished with in the wilds of Quebec got around this problem by building a short fly rod with somewhat larger guides and a reel seat just above the butt. He could, in a pinch, slip a small spinning reel onto the back of the rod and toss tiny lures when he wasn’t fly-fishing. Such spinning-fly combinations were offered by specialty catalogs at one time long ago, and they were deadly on tiny streams where backcasts were out of the question.

Being prepared is like being flexible. It certainly doesn’t hurt.