By Mike Wright
Outstanding fishing the last few years in and off Montauk continues to inspire anglers with the realistic chance of taking home “keeper” sea bass, fluke, and yes, stripers — the fish that made Montauk the “surfcasting capital of the world.” Striper numbers are strong in our waters but declining overall, so keep only what you’ll eat and safely release the rest.
The summer of 2023 is sure to be another great season on the water in and around Montauk. Fishing for exciting game fish like striped bass and tuna, and delicious table fare like fluke, black sea bass and porgies is Montauk’s oldest pastime and one that has really shown its glory in recent seasons.
In the summer of 2022, the fishing for bluefin and yellowfin tuna within sight of the Montauk Lighthouse was outstanding and many of Montauk’s charter boats and private boats were coming back to the dock daily with big hunks of glistening tuna for all to take home to their grills and sushi rollers.
Fluke fishing has been excellent, too, in recent seasons and catching some “keepers” is as easy as buying a ticket on one of the harbor’s half-day party boats, like the Viking. If you want to maximize your dinner options, a full-day charter on a boat like Crunch Time, or one of the dozens of other charters, will give a skilled captain the time to hit the fluke and sea bass grounds for ceviche, catch a couple stripers for fish on the grill, and top off the cooler with some porgies for fish tacos.
“The species’ population is in a sort of precarious position at the moment”
But, of course, striped bass are the fish that made Montauk the “Surfcasting Capital of the World” and a destination for those seeking to catch trophy sized fish for their wall (now, their Insta feed). The opportunities to catch them are limited only by how adventurous you are and how much sleep you need.
There is one critical point worth making with regard to striped bass. The species’ population is in a sort of precarious position at the moment so some reasonable attention to conservation is needed. The “stock,” as it is known in scientific lingo, is fairly large and there are plenty of stripers to be caught, especially in the waters around Montauk! But their numbers have been on a steady decline since the early 2000s and scientists are currently trying to figure out how to rebuild the overall population to a sustainable level.
A big part of the problem is that over the last 15 years or so striped bass have had a bad track record on the spawning grounds. The fish that spawn in the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay have had only a couple good years where they produced large new year-classes of juvenile stripers.
One of those years was in 2015 and the fish born that year now make up a significant portion of the overall population and are also just reaching “keeper” size. Because of that, the number of stripers taken home by anglers in 2022 doubled from the year before.
That’s great news for hungry anglers as long
as we treat the stock responsibly. Taking home fish to eat is a great idea, but
please make sure you are only taking as much as you can use. New anglers might
not understand how much meat you actually get off a fish, even one small keeper
striper is plenty for dinner for four people.
If you are just fishing for fun and catching and releasing some stripers, please take care to unhook them gently, don’t keep them out of the water for more than 30 seconds, and release them carefully. If you can take a minute to revive them, even better. In 2023, only stripers between 28 and 35 inches may be kept, at one per day per angler.
So have a great time on the water, take home your dinner, and send the ones you won’t consume quickly back to be caught again another year.
Catch ‘em up!