May is Breakout Month
For boaters, May is breakout month across the Northeast.
While some serious anglers have probably had their vessels in the water for several weeks by this point, especially along the southern New Jersey coast where stripers are already hot on the bunker schools, it’s now when most pleasure boaters make a splash and get their seasons underway.
One point that sticks out in my mind about early season boating along the New England coast is that it can still be quite chilly. With water temperatures hovering somewhere around the 50-degree mark, it’s still too cold to take a serious dip or enjoy water sports without slipping into a wetsuit until after Memorial Day. Further, air temperatures on the water can be 5 to 10 degrees cooler than inland, so don’t be fooled by a sunny day. Winter is behind us, at least on the calendar, so there’s nothing wrong with dipping in your toes or trudging through calf-deep water to do a little hiking or exploring along a quiet stretch of beach.
If cruising this breakout month, you’ll want to pack along some extra clothes including a heavy sweatshirt, long pants, and a long-sleeve shirt. It’s also a good idea to carry a knit hat and pair of gloves if you boat in Massachusetts, New Hampshire or Maine. The extra clothing is especially important should you count youngsters amongst your crew. Right now, before the season gets rolling, is also a good time to place an extra pair or two of sunglasses in the glove box along with a spare tube or squeeze bottle of sunblock rated SPF 30 or higher.
Where to head first? My wife, Felicia, and I always enjoy checking out new boats in their slips, getting out to do a little beach combing, and trying a new dock-and-dine experience. We’ve noticed over the years that early spring generally finds some of the more popular waterfront eateries uncrowded at lunchtime with the service especially upbeat since the staffs aren’t burned out from summer’s inevitable waterfront crush.
Fishing, of course, is always an option, and May can be a barn burner. The better catches early in the month tend to come from the most southern ports. Stripers, blues, porgy, and fluke, for example, work their way up the Jersey Coast, spread along Long Island’s South Shore and wrap back into Long Island Sound around Memorial Day.
By early June, action will have spread to Rhode Island, Cape Cod and beyond. Often, the first fish of the new year are big ones because they are better able to withstand cool water temperatures than smaller fish. That’s not a hard and fast rule, of course, but it’s one more justification for getting your boat in the water as soon as possible.
By Tom Schlichter, Southern Boating May 2019