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Nov 12, 2019 12:58 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Cold Snap Is A Reminder That Duck Season Is Around The Corner

Nov 19, 2019 7:26 AM


I heard the first unseen flock of snow geese fly over my house in the moonlight the other night, one of my favorite signals that it’s time to start scouting for tall grass to chop for the blind.

As is usual the last decade or so, there’s not a lot of hope for my hunting spot until at least the second half of the season, but some ducky weather this week and the blast of cold that is coming behind it will hopefully get at least a few of the waterfowl species that like to stop on the South Fork for a while on the move.

Getting the blind grassed in a hurry before the November 23 ducks opener will be a bit of a challenge because there are still tons of striped bass in the surf.

Montauk and the sand beaches from Shinnecock to Sagaponack are loaded with schoolie striped bass that are gorging on anchovies, peanut bunker and sandeels, depending on where you are running into them. A daily jaunt to a few local beaches will almost always stumble on a flurry of action at one of them.

And these fish are probably not going anywhere in the very near future (knock on wood). The cold this week will get them on the move, sure, but if history is any indication, fish that size will take their sweet time moving on even as the water temps drop.

For now, the fishing is a little frustrating if you are trying to sock away a few fillets for the winter, since the fish are all too small to keep. But in just a couple of years, we are going to have a large number of legal sized fish if New York adopts the federal slot limit and doesn’t turn to a larger minimum size that they determine will reach the 18-percent harvest reductions required.

The slot limit debate is still raging, and New York has just a few weeks to submit its regulations proposals for how to meet the federal demands. Personally, I hope they will just buy into the slot limit, even though most New York anglers had lobbied for a straight 35-inch minimum size. That may be the way to go in two or three years, but right now I think it’s imperative to protect the still sizable body of larger bass that we have in the population right now. As our large number of schoolie fish age into keeper range, going to a flat minimum and inching it upwards makes sense.

One group that is definitely not going to be happy about the slot limit rule is spearfishermen, and especially those operating spearfishing charters. Because spearfishing is a trophy-targeted fishery for many of its participants, not being allowed to shoot the largest fish they see on a dive is a major buzz kill. And even for those who are just doing it for the fun and looking to take home a fish, extreme care will have to be taken to ensure that the fish shot is within the slot range.

Maybe it will all be academic, we’ll see in a few weeks.

In the meantime, catch ’em up and start untangling those duck stool. See you out there.

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