North Fork Outdoors: Feeling the itch to get outdoors again

On Paumanok the snow pack is gone except for traces; way upstate we’re still dragging the horse manure out of the barn on snowshoes. Back on the West End the ice has finally left the harbors and you can at least contemplate fishing for early stripers; upstate, however, there’s nary a thought of early trout streams. To make a long story short, the “tween” season is a crazy one! 

There’s a temptation, always, to get right into a new season and leave the old one behind. We’ve seen runners in our Long Island suburbs for weeks, while the cyclists are just beginning to appear. Fishing magazines are already touting flounder fishing (we suppose it’s tradition more than any real expectation of actually catching this all but vanished species), and the outdoor shows from New Jersey to Suffern always draw big crowds of outdoor persons whose fingers and feet are itching to get out there.

Ironically, you’re probably better off staying with the activities best pursued in the old season. Boats from the South Shore usually do quite well with the hake (ling) and the occasional cod, while the Montauk boats still sailing have some of the best days of the late winter and early spring off Block Island, working the codfish in that area.

Despite the crash of stocks to our north, the cod numbers at the southern end of the range seem to be adequate for local anglers to target, at least until now. At any rate, you’ll have a much better chance of taking a couple of keeper cod than you will running into a limit (two fish!) of winter flounder. And cod are bigger!

Late winter and early spring offer some of the best skiing of the season. Crowds have dropped off, especially on weekdays (to such an extent that you sometimes have to call ahead and check to see how much of an area is open between Sunday and Friday) and prices tend to drop as well for lift tickets and packages. The higher temperatures are a treat, especially this year when much of the season was brutally cold, frostbite stuff when you had to ride open chair lifts. The base in New England was exceptional, as anyone from the Boston area can attest, and the warming trend so far has been a gradual one without any of the heavy rain events that can put areas out of business in a week or two.

Just last week we got to the Adirondacks and enjoyed good weekday skiing on nearly deserted trails at Titus Mountain near Malone, N.Y. There hadn’t been more than a dusting lately, but the cruising trails were nicely groomed. Ungroomed trails were somewhat hard, but not terribly icy, and they will soften considerably in the days ahead. We expect the same when we go over to Whiteface later on. Again, unless a big thaw sets in, look for good northeastern skiing into mid-April at least! In other words, leave the mountain bike off the roof rack and put on the skis and snowboards instead.

This is also the time to have the courage to open the cabinets or peek into garages and start preparing equipment you will use months from now. If you are dismayed to find your cycles with flat tires and dust coatings, if you are horrified to find reels hurriedly put away without end-of-season maintenance, this is the moment to take a deep breath and take that first step, even though it seems like “the journey of a thousand miles,” according to the old proverb. Will I remember how to disassemble a particular firearm for cleaning? Where did I put the air pump for those bicycle tires? Above all, make sure you’re not in a terrible hurry when you start the process of cleanup.

A few weeks back we pulled out a couple of conventional casting reels for basic oiling — not for complete takedown, which requires a trip to our favorite local shop or shipment to a specialist! Both reels had free spool bars that required release before we could pull the spools away from the side plates. One bar had to be raised before we could reassemble, the other had to be lowered. It took a bit of trial and error to figure out which reel was which, and we were relieved at the end of the process to find that both reels were functional. At the end of the assembly we were confident that we could get through many hours of continuous casting without hearing noise and without unusual overruns. If you’ve ever had a reel complain out on the water, you know how guilty you feel about delayed maintenance.

Up north this is the time when some critters, e.g., skunks, woodchucks, etc., poke heads from their burrows and check on conditions before burrowing in once more. Aren’t we outdoors folks effectively doing the same thing?