So far, so good..maybe not

Sometimes the internet is not the best medium to convey how you feel. You write a short blurb and people fill in the gaps with their own thoughts. …. what they think you are saying

Hang on, I am getting to it

I wrote  “so far, so good” on the fall run. Has this fall run been good? Great? Above average? Not even close. It’s a same old crap of mullet (and now this year peanut bunker) traveling along the beach unmolested. Where are the stripers ? I think we ate most of them to be honest with you. What I meant to say, that after last fall, that for me personally was the worst I have ever seen, seeing some fish on night tides in Montauk, hearing about fish from south shore beaches was at least encouraging…of course the bite that use to last for a week, now last a day or so. Why? Probably because there are a lot less fish involved. Why? Because we ate most of them.

I am tired of hearing about high water temperatures, bait holding offshore, water pollution. You got everything you ever needed, ton of bait, right time of the year, right water temps, right winds and fishing is still off…way off.

Maybe you missed this post by Lou Derricco, a fellow who I consider much better (and observant angler ) that I will ever be

Are you going out to Montauk again this weekend? I actually went out late Saturday night and fished Sunday morning. Guess I missed you. Wasn’t too happy with the results. I had heard that there had been some fish over the past few days, but not for me on Sunday. Just a short pick. Also, didn’t see any anchovies, False Albicore or bass on the surface. I spoke to a fellow that was on The Viking on Saturday night. He said that there were 60 passengers and only two keepers taken. That is scary. It also doesn’t seem like there are many bass by us at home……… One of my friends, who happens to be a very experienced surfcaster, fished south shore over the weekend. He said that there were all the mullet and peanuts you wanted, but he could only manage small bluefish. I am starting to become very worried. I guess I am not starting to become worried. I have been worried and have been crying about this for at least five years. Patterns are changing, or there are just not as many
fish. Also, I am not hearing anything about sand eels. The sand eels are what saved me and many others over the past two years…………….I am really NOT feeling like this fall run is “so far, so good”. I hope I am wrong………….

Louis J. DeRicco


Hmm, does not sound too promising, does it? Where are all those schools of bass that are usually out of the casting range in Montauk? With birds and boats all over them? I have not seen one in last two extended weekends there. And how about the resident bass in the white water on the south side? Hell, you can catch those buggers at will as long as there is some white water, right? At least you used to…but not any longer. I watched many go down to Browns, Kings, Rat Hole and get nothing to show for their efforts.

Vito Orlando, to whom a last chapter of my new book is dedicated, particularly a story about catching 59 stripers by 9 am and calling it a day while he stayed and went well over 100 that day…Vito is not feeling great these days so he is limited to fishing two hours or so a day on his beloved south side. Last time I talked to him he counted 20 or so bass that he caught in 7 days. He used to catch more on a September morning before sun would come up on most days!

And yes, although Vito, I and many others have been harping on this over the years, some people have either refused to believe that is as bad as we think or just held out hope that we were wrong. But you know that tide is turning when Montauk Guide Bill Wetzel wrote in his last report that he is now convinced that something is terribly wrong with the striped bass fishery.

So, yeah, I wrote so far, so good because for two or three days according to reports I got, it was decent in compassion to last year. Then again, if I hooked a used condom  it would have to be an improvement from last year. Too graphic? Maybe but I am afraid that you are going to wish to hook something, anything in few years.

I sincerely hope that the SJ type catch and release contests become not an exception , but something other will follow. You know my feelings on keeping fish, if its legal and you caught it, enjoy it with your family. I have no issues with that (although I do with legal minimums but that is conversation for another day).

I sincerely hope I am wrong. I hope your fall be full of blitzing bass and leaping baitfish. I hope you land them by hundreds and hook the fish of your dreams. But just like we say about patterns…it’s a pattern until its broken. Right now the striper fishery for surfcasters still looks to me to be on downward trajectory. Regardless of few good days here and there


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41 comments on “So far, so good..maybe not

  1. Bobby

    I hate too say it but this might be a good thing I’m only 32 years old I’ve been fishing my whole life with my farther and he used too talk about when you couldnt buy a bass When the fish come around again and they will people will respect them more. Surf casting has blown up on the east coast in the past 10 years. There’s a lot of new guys that don’t understand that theses fish can disappear and if this keeps up they will. I’ll be in montauk in two weeks so I hope your wrong. Lol.

  2. Steve S

    I am sorry to say that I am having a having a piss poor September too. I fish in and around Shelter Island (I don’t care if I spot burn because there is nothing to torch) and this is the worst fall I have seen in 15 years. I see peanuts, mullet, and white bait, but there nothing on them except snappers. I specifically took this week off to fish my head off and I have no bass or blues to show for it. In fact, I have resorted to fishing for porgys with cut up frozen squid in order to feel a pull on the end of the line. At least they cooperate and there are a couple of keepers to be had for a meal.

    That said my spring was respectable, including catching my PB. I wonder if there are environmental changes that I have affected the fall?

  3. BigRock

    Unfortunately anyone who remembers the 80’s will remember this is just about how the decline started. So many big fish have been caught in some really popular tournaments in recent years, so many that could have been spared since they were too small to give anyone a chance to place. When you have googans with $49 surf combo’s from WallyWorld landing 40lb fish, and more and more anglers every year, things will eventually break. I would be in for prohibiting keeping anything other than slot fish, 1 per man per day.

  4. Jerry

    I’ve seen a ton of bait in the bays and along the ocean from amagansett east, around the point and well back along the north side to napeague. Generally if you pull a plug thru a school of PB or mullet they tend to explode out and scatter in a frantic, nervous manner. This year they seem to just leisurely swim out of the way. There is nothing on them, not a care in the world.

  5. Matt H

    I agree with BigRock, in prohibiting keeping anything other than slot fish, 1 per man per day. The area I fish in the western sound is loaded with snappers this year, more than I have ever seen in years past. But like most of you are experiencing, there is nothing on them. It’s scary, but it seems as if all our cries are falling on deaf ears.

  6. harv

    What do u expect w a thousand charter captains trolling wire, then the weekend mamaliluks doin the same. The people on the charter boats take home loads of fish 4 yrs wtf, can anyone add. EQUALS NO MORE LEFT. I fish a boat and take home 1 here 1 there . These people dont give a shit about the fishery. This is like an obama speech

  7. Jb1bad

    Fished the rip at sandy hook two weekends in a row. Perfect conditions plenty of bait solid north wind. Cocktails were blitzing on peanut bunker and bay anchoives. No bass and no Albies. Caught a few cocktails and a couple of shad. Going to try again this weekend. Heard better reports of Albies between asbury park and deal. Looking forward to hitting the SJ tournament in October.

  8. Chris S.

    The health of the nursery ecosystems (eg Chesapeake, Hudson) will determine the overall health of the Striped Bass stock, not regulations alone. Changes in these locations have been dramatic, and this has impacted the stripers up and down our coast. The ecology of Striped Bass spawning habitat is a very important topic for anglers to be conscious of. I feel that greater awareness of this issue will lead to more efficient conservation of Striped Bass.
    (Catch & Release helps too)
    Also, it should be noted that stocks of forage fish (menhaden, river herring, etc.) are not even close to what they once were historically. Although you may see shoals of these naturally schooling forage fish on the water, these schools are not nearly the size they once were. This data can be found in many peer reviewed literature sources (try searching this topic in google scholar if you have the time.)
    A book titled “The Most Important Fish in The Sea” by Franklin lists detailed accounts of what the bunker stocks once were, also it does a great job describing the current decimation occurring in the Virgina waters of the Chesapeake Bay. If you really want to understand what is happening with our fish, I suggest you read this.

    I am not a tree/dolphin hugger, I am a conscious and concerned angler. You should be too.

  9. scott

    Same deal here in Ct. Plenty of bait with nothing chasing them. One day I counted 8 schools of bait fish swimming off the beach, but no takers. Even my go to spot is not producing, started to slow up last year, now nothing…sad!! Maybe it will change but I am not holding my breath. I have seen the fish police catch guys with under size fish this year, Fined them pretty heavy, but of course the fish were dead by then. Something needs to be done.

  10. Louis DeRicco

    Hi Z,
    Thank you for your kind words. I did not mean to put you on the defensive. I typically don’t comment on things on-line, but having just come home from Montauk, I guess my feelings of apprehension and uncertainty overwelmed me. I am sure that we are all afraid of what the future might hold for the sport that is our passion. When you are a student of the Striped Bass, and fish as much as we do, I think you can notice the signs of a problem in the fishery long before it is obvious to others. At this time, I think it has become obvious to everyone that cares. I hope something can be done to make things better. I pray that the environmental issues and desease related issues in the Chesapeake have not progressed beyond our ability to change things.
    If you are going out to Montauk this coming weekend, hopefully I will see you out there.
    Lou DeRicco

  11. Richard aka Woodwker99

    This problem goes beyond Montaulk, and the south shore. Does anyone remember the pictures this winter of the commercial fish dump along the Carolinas and Maryland? We need a Coast wide regulations that keep things like this from happening. Along with the efforts to save the Bunker stocks we need Regulations. I for one remember the fishing (or lack there of) of the 80’s. And I can tell you we are headed there on a rocket. Commercial guys have struck up the band on catching and selling Striped bass, But as I was told at my local fish monger “they throw out more bass then they sell”. Go figure! I have only one shining thought about where all this is headed. And that is that I may be able to get my hands on a ZB reel when everyone gives up and starts selling off their gear for pennies on the dollar. But then again I may be dead by the time I get to use it to catch bass again.

  12. JohnP

    A few years ago I knew this was a problem when an old time sharpie from one of the local gas docks started chewing my ear off about the declines in his catch..and he didn’t even know me. Very hard to put this into perspective. I know local surfcasters are mostly complaining, I know some of the tournaments just aren’t seeing the weigh ins like they used to. I just don’t know of any other hard data. And I certainly don’t think many of the charter captains would be willing to share their catch log and potentially risk a cut back. What we really need is better sampling. Back when they decreased the size limit from 36 a lot of fishermen were upset, but then a lot just couldn’t help but take one 28 inch fish after another home. Maybe it’s time we band together a get more vocal, and see if we can force some action now instead of waiting for it to get worse.

  13. Joe F

    As a relatively young surfcaster, this makes me upset. I would love to lobby on behalf of game fish status but to who? Federal or State? I also think if we ban together which is possible, we would need the power of the press. NY Times, Newsday and News 12. Otherwise the normal voter or politician has no idea of the current status of the stocks therefore cannot sympathize with the fishing community. Very frustrating.

  14. CTMatt

    I love how certain folks find ways to link our faltering fishery on an Obama speech…nice try. I want to give this “run” a few weeks until water temps drop. Then I feel I can say the temps were right, the bait was here thick and there were simply no cows around to even pick up the easy meals. That should ring loud and clear the Hudson and Chesapeake spawning areas need serious political action. I would gladly give up surfcasting indefinitely across the board if I knew it could bring back the numbers in full force. Whatever it takes.

  15. Kierran

    Monday was pretty memorable there in my opinion. I finally got to witness first hand the fall blitzes I’ve always read about. Wild place in more ways than one.

  16. linesider82

    It’s coming I promise, but in the meantime I’m willing to be angry. Why? I’d like my kids which I do not have yet to catch a striped bass. Of all the freshwater fish I have caught & released, they just did not meet the same satisfaction as the striped bass and bluefish I first reeled in in the surf. No offence to SMB or NP but there is something to be said about stripers in the surf. Catching fish while you are battling your own will to be out in the middle of the night with waves, rocks, and such beating the crap out of your body is unreal. I’m all for new regs even if I’m new to the salt game. Tags, like they have in AK is my personal favorite option. It is $15 per king salmon, per day. You catch the fish you want, and that is it, you go home, one more cast and you get a fine or get reported. Or, buy a tag and you can C&R all you wish and keep it for the fish you accidentally cannot release. As long as the tags pay for fisheries research & state DEP/DEC/DNR etc but other than state general funds. -M

  17. chuckg

    Given the warmer waters perhaps these fish are offshore with the multitudes of bait that probably had a great breeding season due to the water temps. Maybe its a cyclical thing. Stop Bitchin’ and go fishin’. Thats why they call it Fishin’ not Catchin’…

  18. Vito Orlando

    I agree that the Bass Stocks are in serious trouble. Most of the bass we are catching are in the 7-12 pound range. Where are all the smaller?? The same thing took place during the 70’s early 80’s. Many large with very few small. Another point to take into consideration is the fact That Maine etc, have shown lower and lower catches. The bass not extending their range. that is the first indication of a decline. An example of fish/annimals extending their range you just have to look at The Seal Populations. Many more Seals around so they extend their range. We now see an abundance of seals in areas that they hardly ever appeared with frequency. Nantucket, The Cape, Block Island, Little Gull Island etc. However, with the bass just the opposite is happening. You can blame the Commercials with good reason. The Party/Charter Boats share much of the fault. They encourage their customers who catch their limit of (2) to keep other bass so the Captain/Mates can give them to those of their customers who do not catch. This is illegal. Sorry for this rant but as you can determine I am very passionate when it comes to My Beloved Bass.


  19. Zeno Post author

    Its not bitching….there is more to this then just fishing. There has to be some thought given to the health of fisheries, not just individual catches

  20. Matt

    Time to shut things down and let the ocean balance out again. If you like too eat fish that much pick up farm raised at the supermarket it will cost you less then you spend on gear and bait.

  21. chuckg

    Z: I agree, but, again, it maybe the vagaries of the weather, who knows but until we get the entire coast to work together nothing will happen. I favor a 1 fish moratorium with a slot limited to 18 to 28 inches for 3 years and let’s see what happens to the stocks. If you think the fishing industry which fueled this fishing frenzy over the past 20 years is going to let that pass, I think you’ll be sadly mistaken… Its all about the sheckels, not the fish…

  22. AMtony

    I don’t doubt there is something happening whether it be depleted stocks, changing patterns etc. I just can’t get the picture of Jersey last year with all the Bass stacked up on sand eels out of my head. I too favor a moratorium it worked once before lets do it again.

  23. Bob

    Was at Montauk this past weekend lots of bait but unless you were under the light or on the north bar things were slow.

    By the way what happened to being a sportsman. I have fished Montauk for 30+ years and now seeing a new crop of rude hi end fisherman. Where has the class gone, from the attitudes at both tackle shops in town to the line cutting on the beach.
    Just because you wear a wet suit and haved a vs dont think your hot sh%*.Remember you may cut the worng line one day.

  24. Steve Gallant

    I can’t comment on the fishing in the MTK area, but the fall has been pretty good thus far on the north shore of massachusetts…Boat and shore anlgers alike are finding lots of 18-28 inch bass, with larger ones mixed in too. Surface feeds have even been pretty aboundant for some guys. I personally had one of my best weekends of surfcasting ever this past weekend. Here’s hoping the fish are heading your way (but not before I get a crack at a few more..)

  25. steve j

    hey z,
    i completely agree with you on this. compared to others, i have limited experience in the surf, about 6 years, however i know what i’ve experienced. for one, i caught a ton of fish in the fall the first 3 years i was fishing. keep in mind, i was a “weekend” angler then so my trips were limited, but i managed to catch almost every trip in good numbers. the past three seasons, well, aside from the sandeel runs, fish were few and far between. no night bite, few blitzes. i mean, when you fish an inlets in late september, under optimal conditions, you should catch something. also, montauk has not been the same. i remember three seasons ago, catching more bass than i could count on numerous occasions at night. last year, my numbers for montauk were down by 75% when it came to bass, and this year… well, i didnt catch a bass in montauk until last thursday after numberous trips under ideal wind/tide/moon conditions. also, im reminded of a trip last year. its become a traditions to for my friends and i to spend a week straight in montauk in the fall. last year, we were there from monday morning till friday afternoon. we fished our asses off. 12 hour days on the water. we fished day, night, northside, southside, sand beaches. final tally for that trip of 4 guys (two of which, myself and my friend, have alot of experience)… 2 bass at about 3 lbs and one bluefish. also, i’ve become friends with some of the locals out there, and also had a chance to talk with bill wetzel and paul melnyk this year. a bunch of guys who fish montauk daily, and they all said the same thing… the fishing isnt anywhere close to what it should be. something else i have noticed this year is that there is alot of bigger fish being caught this year, but few schoolies. now, i was not fishing during the collapse of the striped bass stock during the 80s, but i have read about it… and this seems frighteningly similiar. my size for this year is up, however my numbers are slightly down. my friends have been joking that this is the year of the big fish, because we have all beat our personal bests, and my girlfriend who just started surfcasting this year has dropped two monsters, one that i feel, and another seasoned surfcaster who i’ve became friends with agrees, was well over fifty. i’ve noticed on the fishing report sites, that alot of bigger fish were being caught also, so its not just me and its bit scary the similarity to the late 70s just prior to the total collapse. there are numerous issues that need to be resolved. one is stricter enforcement of rules and regs. stiffer fines and arrests should be made for keeping shorts and poaching. two, alot of surfcasters out there dont know how to release fish. i was taking the time to revive a tired 20lb fish recently and a near by angler was watching me. after it swam away, the guy told me “just throw him back, he’ll be fine, you dont have to play with them.” i have also seen guys kick and throw bass back into the water.. and release fish that went belly up immediatly. catch and release is great, but when you release a fish that is going to die not soon after beaching it, whats the point. i release 99% of my fish in great shape, and the one percent gets released anyway with hope that they will improve and heal (hooks in gills, excessive bleeding). atleast give them a chance. i myself have kept one fish this year… and i dont look down on anyone who keeps a fish, however a little discretion should be made and keep in mind this is not an everlasting resource. party boats are another big problem. im disgusted when i see fish strewn all over the deck of a boat for a picture, meanwhile alot of these fish go to waste. catch them, kill them, take a picture, then they go in the garbage. same with the tournaments, and why i only participate in catch and release. many guys kill these fish simply to get a weight, and then what? the fish get thrown out. i remember seeing a tournament last year and guys were weighing in fish under 20lbs! let these fish go! your not going to win a tournament with your 15lb bass.. why kill it?! I am 100% in favor of a total shutdown of keeping bass for the next few years, simply to let the stocks recover. I am deeply disturbed by the pattern we have been in the alst few years. yes, this year has been slightly better that last for myself, however.. when looking at the big picture, its hard to deny that something very bad is happening under the surface of the ocean, and i truly hope some one fixes it before it is too late. sorry for the long reply, and im sure some will take issue with what i’ve said, but i simply dont care.. it is my opinion


  26. Vito Orlando

    For those who feel that the Bass Stocks are in good shape because of a good Spring/Fall in certain areas should only recall the 1980’s. During that Decade there were very few bass anywhere except Block Island. One season I caught only 15 bass on Long Island, Montauk included. I went to Block Island and had 200 in a week. I thought I died and went to heaven. Moral of the story if you lived on Block Island during the 80’s you would have sworn that there were plenty of Bass. As we all know, that was just not true. Ask any commercial or Charter/Head Boat Captain and they will tell There Are Plenty Of fish around. You just cannot catch them. They will Milk the decline until the bass are extinct as Flounder. Re The Commercials, How many of those who have Bass Tags really need the Money? Many retired fishermen who have tags use their Commercial Status for Tax Purposes. Buggies, Boats, Gas, Tackle are write offs. Just one more point. In erly Sept. The commercials were getting $6.50 a pound for bass. Why? There were fewer bass around so the price was up. Something to think about. Once again, sorry for My Rant.



  27. JoeyV

    I fish the east end of long island, and the problem isnt habitat or bait. Ive seen so much life, fluke blitzes for gods sake, tons of anchovies, baby bunker, decent schools of adult bunker,(with alligator blues) more spearing this year then ive ever seen and mullet in good numbers. The problem is the bass….the numbers are way down…i dont catch as many small ones as I did just 5 years ago…more big fish but no small fish is not a good sign. The charter boats kill so many large bass every night, its ridiculous…i see countless filleted bodies dockside…..and… Its amazing that a guy on the beach will yell at me cos I kept one bass (the only one this year!!) to eat while he says NOTHING to the charter captains. The charter captains and the comercial pin hookers (who keep sooo many illegal bass…I know because Ive seen them!!!!) Im sick of hearing a “captain” tell me any opinion on fisheries…they re the reason everthings f#$ked. I hope we get a moratorium or some strict slot limits. And enough with the charter captains not doing well..blah blah…they could shut the f*ck up for all i care. Good luck to all the sport fisherman guys. And remember, its our fishery, not the commercial guys. Keep fish for yourself and dont buy theres. They need a new career.

  28. Ron H

    The striped bass stock is in trouble and the decline started about 5 years ago. What Vito said Party/Charter Boats share much of the fault. They encourage their customers who catch their limit of (2) to keep other bass so the Captain/Mates can give them to those of their customers who do not catch. This is illegal. I have heard this from others. How many party boats are out for two trips and catch there limit each time. This takes it’s toll rather quickly on the bass population. Imagine 100 boats going out for 2 trips a day. They all catch there limit and there are 5 people fishing (conservative estimate) that’s 2000 fish killed a day or 14000 a week. If 5 states are doing this they are taking 70,000 fish a week or 280,000 a month. In think the ASMFC needs to do something to stop depleting the striped bass. Cut back to 1 fish per person on party boats and do the same for the recreational fisherman before you have to halt all fishing for stiped bass. I fished in the surf in the 60’s and remember walking away from blitzes because my arms were to tired. I fished in the 80’s and remember how difficult it was to catch a bass. I would like to see future generations enjoy the blitzes we had in the 60’s. We can’t make it happen only the ASMFC can. We all need to contact the ASMFC and tell them what we think!! or make Striped Bass a GAME FISH!!!!!!!!

  29. JoeyV

    I just sent comments to…thanks Joe F. We should all do this and maybe this site should prepare some form letters to help those not comfortable with lenghty ranting. and maybe the next surfcasters journal should do an article on all the killing these charters do.

  30. Ron Mattson Sr

    Once again please refrain from making the upcoming Striped Bass decline akin to ‘rocket science’. Three years ago when the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences(VIMS)published a report stating the 75%+ of the Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass population has micobacteriosis,and that the disease is fatal,the light bulb should have come on not only for fishermen,but the ASMFC. We are beibg sold down the proverbial river.

  31. John B

    Last week I had my first fall trip to Cape Cod where I did not get any bass. Perfect conditions for them, and all the bluefish I wanted.

    I agree Z that there should be more emphasis on catch and release tournaments. With today’s technology there is no need to kill a fish to prove you caught it. The Berkeley Striper Club is holding it’s Second Annual Catch and Release Tournament on the weekend on November 16th through 18th this year. Details can be found here: I hope we get an even bigger turnout than last year. If there are any questions feel free to contact me.


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