Mildred Sewall rolled her head back and laughed as she added another fine scup to her bucket aboard the Greenport open boat Peconic Star Express.
"Porgy fishing has been great the past few weeks," she said from her spot along the port bow. "Usually I've caught all I need by now so I can take a nap. Today is tougher, but I'll fill my bucket."
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That seemed a sure bet, since it was only 10:30 in the morning and the 82-year-old retired mental hygiene therapy aide from East Patchogue already had a dozen keepers to her credit. Current porgy limits allow 30 fish with a minimum length of 10 inches.
Farther down the rail, Paul Ripperger, 44, of West Islip, was keeping pace with Sewall. Ripperger, who has a captain's license and works freelance on a variety of open boats across Long Island, was enjoying a busman's holiday.
"People forget that porgies don't always want to commit suicide," he said while lifting a doubleheader of 12-inch slabs over the rail. "Some days, the fishing is lock-and-load, other days it takes more skill."
While Sewall claims any day is good for porgy fishing if you have patience, Ripperger is specific about his weather preferences. "Overcast skies are best most of the time," he said. "When pressure drops and clouds move in, the bite can be ferocious. When the sky is blue and high pressure wins out, porgies are less aggressive."
Wednesday's trip saw a little of both worlds. The morning opened with cloudy skies and a steady pick ensuring everyone caught enough for dinner. By midday, the sun was shining and it took a gentle touch to coax the scup to latch on tight.
"When it gets tough," said Ripperger, "you've really got to pay attention to what's happening at the end of your line. Once the sun broke through the clouds today you would feel a very light tap when lifting the rod tip. That was the bite. If you didn't set the hook instantly, your bait was gone."
Ripperger also offered his thoughts on choosing rigs and baits for porgies under any conditions. "Use a simple high-low rig and bait it with fresh clam, right out of the shell," he suggested. Picking the nastiest piece of clam belly over the clean, tougher ribbon section most anglers favor is another way to increase success.
Sewall, known as "Millie" to the crew, believes simply enjoying every day on the water and having patience improves scores. "Everybody should go fishing," she said. "It keeps you feeling good and having fun. I'm on this boat every week. If you have trouble catching, fish next to me and just do what I do."
That would be great advice. By noon, Millie had a full bucket -- with time to spare for a nap on the way home.
Striper fishing improved in most ports around Long Island this past week, as did fluke action, especially along the North Shore.
Those heading out for the summer flatties would do well to first view a new video posted by local fishing author John Skinner. "Incredible Underwater Fluke Video" shows exceptional footage of North Shore flatfish striking bait and bucktails. The footage complements Skinner's book, "Fishing The Bucktail." Catch it on YouTube at John Skinner Fishing.