March is one of the toughest months for boaters and fisherman across the island. Months of cold dreary weather leave us yearning for days on the water. Several warm days this month will get some of us preparing the boat for spring, only to have a snow storm toward the end of the month delaying our progress. Years ago St. Patrick’s Day was the unofficial start of the fishing season. Boats could be found anchored up over shallow, muddy flats filling burlap sacks of plump winter flounder. Unfortunately most of us only see flounder in the fish market now. Whatever the reason, whether it is overfishing, the increased predation by the thousands of seals in our waters all winter or simply a downturn in the population; flounder are tough to come by.
On the other hand, this winter has been terrific for bottom fisherman looking for cod and pollack. Party boats out of Montauk, Shinnecock, Captree and Freeport have been doing well over the offshore wrecks. A variety of methods have been working but the traditional standbys of a diamond jig with a curly tail or a brace of clams always produce. If cabin fever is taking over for you this month, consider hopping on a party or charter boat and turn those cod into some juicy fish cakes for the skillet.
If going on a four hour boat ride in the cold isn’t your idea of a good time, there are several great shows to close out the show season in March. The Ward Melville High School Fishing Club will host the 5th annual fishing expo and fundraiser at the high school on Saturday March 4th.
Check wardmelvillefishingclub.com/2017expo for a list of exhibitors and seminars. The RISSA show in Providence, Rhode Island from March 10-12 is a great one to take a ride to. Only an hour from the Orient - New London ferry, it is packed with everything imaginable in the fishing industry, as well as some fantastic restaurants and bars downtown. The following weekend is the Saltwater Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey from March 17-19. It is similar to the RISSA show in the amount of vendors and activities for the whole family. So if you’re bored of winter, there’s plenty to do every weekend even if you’re tired of building rods, turning plugs, tying bucktails and crimping spreader bars.
More than likely you spent a quite of bit of time surfing the internet this winter reading about fishing or boating. Like it or leave it, the internet plays a huge role in the fishing and boating communities. Some argue that the internet was the worst thing that could have happened for fishing and others argue it is the best. Since it is the middle of winter in one of the coldest months of the year, I decided to explore both sides of the argument and let you decide for yourself the impacts the internet has on fishing.
It was during the late 1990’s that I first discovered the impact of the internet on fishing. As a third generation fisherman on Long Island, I was always taught to keep my mouth shut when discussing spots and/or techniques with people I did not know. All of the information which was mostly gained from experience was to be guarded with your life, only to be shared with fellow anglers whom you can absolutely trust. Often this trust was only gained after years of fishing together.
My long time fishing partner and I discovered a hidden gem on the north shore of Long Island and this spot seemed as if it was made for fly fisherman. These were the days before Google Earth and all we had to explore was a tank of gas, a large coffee and a Hagstrom map. For years we fished this spot on an almost nightly basis from April to September. While there were always school bass and large bluefish there, unlocking its secrets took us hundreds of nights to the point where we can accurately predict what bait was around and what fly they would eat during which tide and wind direction. So one night we crept up to find the only two parking spots filled with four cars and a dozen anglers. Little did we know, a simple post on a popular fishing website by a local angler resulted in a total loss of access for everyone who enjoyed this spot for many years. Within three days, chains were now across the parking spot and no trespassing signs were erected as well. To us, this was worse than a cheating spouse!
For new anglers, these types of posts detailing locations and conditions are helpful and argue that there are no secret spots. If you are discussing public areas then what is the harm? While technically this is true, this philosophy ignores the often forgotten history of fishing culture. It is one thing to share your information with a select few people you can trust will not blow up the spot, and it is another to broadcast it to thousands of people in a matter of minutes. For social media this is even truer. While there are no secret spots, the secret lies in uncovering the little nuances of the spot and this frequently takes years to learn. Has the desire to be recognized or famous on the internet or Facebook overtaken tradition thereby changing the fishing culture? Unfortunately, it seems like it has. Stripers are now measured in inches and a canyon trip is considered successful if you boxed three yellowfins. Ask anyone over forty who has been fishing the island their whole lives what they think of this topic.
There are hundreds of boating websites with every topic imaginable available to us at any time anywhere in the world. Want to learn how to replace a head gasket on a marine engine? No problem, the information is just a few clicks away. Need to winterize your outboard? Simply watch a few videos and you are instantly a marine mechanic. While most of the informational videos you see are helpful, there is the very real possibility that the post you read on a message board is completely inaccurate. Sifting through a dizzying amount of information is often needed to make your own opinion on whether or not the information you are looking for is accurate.
We will all be on the water soon enough, April showers will bring May flowers and along with it the return of the popular inshore quarries of striped bass, bluefish and fluke.