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Spring North Fork Fluking

The day started clear as a bell back to the west in Long Beach when I left at 5:30 a.m. for the trip to Greenport. We were sailing today with Capt. Dave Brennan on the ...

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The day started clear as a bell back to the west in Long Beach when I left at 5:30 a.m. for the trip to Greenport. We were sailing today with Capt. Dave Brennan on the Peconic Star in Greenport. The boat has moved next to the rail road dock while they are working on the waterfront just to the east where they sailed the previous years. As I continued my trek eastward I could see the clouds moving in, contrary to the weather reports. It has been a pretty cloudy and windy spring and much colder than usual as well even if it has been dry the last month over all. However the weather man did come through and it did clear around 11 a.m. and not a cloud was to be found by noon, as we all had our jackets off and were in T shirts by then!

I arrived at the boat to meet up with our members of the web site as this was a "busman's "holiday as many of our website "fishing buddies" were playing hooky form work or school. With us were Bob Heller, Kathy (foots), Steve (Grady White) and more notable names such as "son of a sailor", Tony T, SI Fisher and other friends of theirs. As a result there were 15 or so of us on this trip with Capt. Dave aboard the Peconic Star and optimism was high for doormats. It's been a while but I was spent quite a bit of time with Dave in the wheelhouse catching up and learned quite a few things. Dave comes from a family of musicians, but we'll get to how that plays in to the equation a little later.

However I did learn water temps today (5/10/05) were the same as they were nearly two weeks ago when they started fishing and bottom temps were even colder than they were a week ago. Thus action has been very tough. Face it, the North Fork is not the place anytime of year for action upon action of fluke like it is on the South Shore. On the South Shore you can catch 40 to 50 fluke per man on a party boat trip and shuffle through hundreds and hundreds of fish on a trip to keep a few and perhaps a limit, but even on the best days on the North Fork and on the Peconic star they sail full day for a reason. It will take a full day (8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) for 40 to 50 or 65 people on the boat to get limits and catch four to five fluke per person.

However you do not see many shorts even at the 17-1/2 inch size limit for 2005. Most everything that bites is a keeper or so close if you could stretch a fluke 1/4 inch it would be. Dave explained it all to me in a very logical way. "We've been sailing full day for a reason for 20 years, it is the nature of the beast, but where in the world can you come out and catch 3 to 5 fluke per man or more and have them all be 4 to 8 pounds or larger. We see trips on our boat where the pool winner could be 10, 12 to 15 pounds and the second and third place fluke are just ounces, not pounds, just ounces away from being winners themselves," Dave said.

Dave also said this is the first time in like forever, they did not have red hot fluking on May 10 and there are several reasons for that. Beside the water temperature issue, there was no small bait in the bay. Captains on the North Fork so far this year have noticed an unbelievable amount of squid and we jigged dozens of squid on today's trip, along with adult sized bunker in the bay in numbers they haven't seen in quite some time. "We always thought fluke arrived with the squid, and would then become active when the water temps hit the 52 to 55 degree mark. This triggered the giant doormats to start gorging on the squid. This is not the case this year. It seems perhaps the arrival of small bait such as spearing and bay anchovies play a larger dynamic role than we all thought," Dave said.

Dave told me our trip saw the first tern of the season and by the end of the day we saw two of them. We also had the first sea robin of the year as well, both good signs the arrival of smaller bait and bluefish is just a few tides or a day or two away from causing this bay to explode. We spent most of our time fishing in the East Marion, Oyster Factory and close to home in Greenport because this is the ambush point for fluke upon their
arrival. "We've tried fishing the Greenlawns where everyone always hears about our monster fluke Rich," Dave said, "but the fish are just not we are waiting for them in these areas because they all have to come through here to get to there (Greenlawns). It could happen on any tide, tomorrow or tonight!" he added. "We could wake up in the morning and find 12 is just a matter tie in hours or a day to two."

Our trip was a struggle and saw a total of perhaps 25 anglers land a dozen keepers with a 4-pound pool winner and a handful of shorts. Many, many squid were caught, the lone sea robin, but no blues, weaks or striped bass. There were no bass reported yet in the Race, the Gut or the Sluiceway and even the commercial pinhookers with tags were struggling to find bass so far. Water temps in these areas were only 47 degrees as of our trip. There just wasn't that much life in the area and mostly because of the factors mentioned earlier...the absence of smaller bait and water temps, both of which will improve on each tide, tomorrow or this weekend could see the entire bay explode.

Even my good friend WABC TV Channel 7's meteorologist Bill Evans explains the same principle with the trees and flowers. Bill says, "Because the weather was so chilly, damp and wet this spring, the pollen counts have been very low for this time of season, but hay fever sufferers should be forewarned that when we do get a stretch of warm sunny weather all the trees, plants and flowers will explode with pollen causing us all to suffer even worse than usual."

However our group and others on the boat, who recognized The Fishing Line, didn't seem to mind at all action was slow. "Why?" I asked several anglers and the answer all came back to the same things...the tunes and the crew! The crew of Kelly (19 years) and Dennis (12 years) have been with Dave a long time and know the customers very well and are right there lickity split to help anyone that needs a hand. The crew tales well tro newcomers and children and make al feel welcome and at home.

The tunes on board were extraordinary. Capt. Dave, as I mentioned earlier, comes from a family of musicians so we had lots in common to talk bout being a musician myself. He had cases and cases of mini discs; I mean hundreds of them, loaded with hours and hours of tunes including the Ipod with 12 hours of music he had plugged in to one of several decks and stereos he had in the wheelhouse for today's trip. No matter what race, creed or religion you are, there is something on every single disc for you to keep your toes tapping!

The amount of time and effort that goes into each of these discs is massive and has to take hours and hours of time and caring, to put together. I loved the fact that we would hear tunes you knew were familiar, but not done by the original artists was fascinating and the sprinkling of fishing tunes mixed in was awesome. The large 15 to 19 inch professional speakers on deck were never too loud but had fantastic bass response the drivers were crisp and clear...although unless you're a musician or are in to stereo systems you may not know what I'm talking about. Let's just say it sounded great!

Even if the fishing is slow on a trip you take, you won't be disappointed in your trip and you will definitely expand your musical base of knowledge and learn some new tunes. Make sure to keep your ears open for those fishing songs sprinkled in too. Reach Capt. Dave and the Peconic Star at or call 631-289-6899