FishTales 2018: The Rosh Hashanah Schvitz

September 12th, 2018

A soggy nor’easter inaugurates the Days of Awe

RITUAL FISHING: LeeBob casts a line upon the moving waters

September 12, 2018: For Montauk surfcasters, the Jewish High Holy Days are the ceremonial start of the fall surfcasting season.  So, I ask you: this you call a beginning? What kind of chosen people choose wet, windy and wild weekends? Instead of the celebrated Rosh Hashanah “blitz”, we got a veritable Rosh Hashanah “schvitz”!

Not that we surfcasters haven’t suffered during past Jewish New Years: 2013, for example.  However, over the course of many, many years, Rosh Hashanah is the surfcasting season’s better than even chance at many, many fish.  So why, for heaven’s sake, is this year different than this one, or that one, or any other in the recent past?

STORMY MONDAY: What should have been a surfcasting slam dunk turned out for me to be a no fish “skunk”. Click here for video

But perhaps it was to be expected after the somewhat tepid summer in the surf experienced by The Faithful. Despite their best efforts to feed my smoked bluefish fetish, from May to August their take was lots of short bass, only a handful of keepers, and not nearly the bumper crop of bluefish compared to previous years. Certainly no “fourties or fiddies” for us daytimers.

Now, with September not nearly halfway done, and Labor Day weekend’s hot, hazy and humid heat wave only recently behind us, a gnarly nor’easter blew in for the Jewish Holiday weekend.  It should have brought God’s good grace and forgiveness in the form of cooperative, blitzing fish. Instead, the storm turned the beaches, and all who dared venture onto them, soggy and sad.

GNARLY FISHING: LeeBob tasting the fruits of his Rosh Hoshanah enthusiasm on Montauk’s North Bar

All, that is, save LeeBob N. He greeted the wind and the rain as if they were apples dipped in honey. LeeBob is truly one of God’s chosen people to judge by his hard-won results. As the storm enveloped the East End on Sunday, LeeBob gleefully fought the incoming tide from a slippery perch bathed in whitewater among Montauk’s south side rock pile.  Just before the sundown Shofar blew, LeeBob hooked into a short striper that he landed and then cast back upon the rushing waters to wash away his sins.  LeeBob would have stuck around to sweeten his lot—as in more and bigger fish—but the ocean rose ominously around him. Heeding the will of heaven, LeeBob returned home for the evening blessings.

The following day, I joined LeeBob to fish the outgoing tide on the North Bar of Montauk.  Wind and rain honked in our faces but did not deter LeeBob’s optimism or enthusiasm.  “It’s ON,” he howled above the wailing windswept waters as a schoolie striper inhaled his 1.5 ounce white bucktail lure.  Later, a bluefish with a confused look on it’s devilish face chomped on LeeBob’s line like a pervert on a pomegranate.  Both of the fish–and LeeBob–however, were home before it was time to share the fruit and challah.

I was skunked the the entire two day holiday. Clearly, repentance is called for in my immediate future.

Admittedly, FishTales ain’t no Book of Life.  But for my money, LeeBob is destined for a very prosperous future—on the north and the south side of Montauk—this season and beyond.

And y’all know what’s next, right?  Yom Kipper….come hither!

Shanah Tovah, baby!

SPRING STRIPER: Verizon Charlie near Accabonac Harbor

GANGSTER BLUEFISH: Heading for the smoker

FISHY HANDFUL: Amazing Randy with an early season keeper bass

OCEAN COCKTAILS: June bluefish for BBF on the town beaches of Montauk

BASS FOR BILLY: Stripers in the summer surf

STRIPER on the sand…..

….GRILLED BLUEFISH on the platter…

…#feedthesmoker

LET THE FISHING BEGIN: FishTales 2018 has commenced

YELLOW EYED DEVIL: I’m keeping an eye out for bluefish

Merry Fishmas 2017

December 23rd, 2017

Because there’s No Fish Like Bass for the Surfcaster

December 23, 2017: Christmas eternally evokes the comfort and joy of family, friends and home. For some, surfcasting for striped bass does all that and more. As you enjoy some of your favorite things this holiday season, BBF and I have the pleasure, once again, to offer a glimpse at ours, in the form of our annual Fishmas Card.  Jingle jingle, y’all.  Fred & Frank & Sister Chaweenee.

Graphic Design by Chaweenee; Photo by Verizon Charlie; Lyrics by Frank and Fred Abatemarco (with apologies to Al Stillman and, of course, Perry Como).

Oh, there’s no fish like bass for the fisherman,
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam,
When you pine for a top-hit in the suds at dawn,
Nothing beats a keeper striper in the foam.
I met a man who lives in Delaware,
He was headin’ for,
Montauk’s Rathole and the full-moon outbound tide.
From Santa Barbara, bubs are travelin’
Down to Shagwong’s wave-swept shores,
From North Bar to the Southside,
Gee, the big cows are the best ride.
Oh there’s no catch like bass for the holidays,
‘Cause no matter how many fish you land,
If you want to be happy in a million ways,
For the holidays,
You can’t beat bass at home.

Snow Bass: A Visit From St. Striper*

December 12th, 2017

‘Twas mere days before striped bass season’s end, and all along the beach, not a keeper was stirring—only some rats. 

December 12, 2017: Late autumn transformed into early winter. Wind, sleet and snow whipped the East End beaches. The fall striped bass run never materialized. Still, surfcasters hurled on, in hopes that St. Striper would soon hit their lures.

November proved to be a festival of tiny bass; “rats”, say the unkind; schoolies or “juvies” those more forgiving call them.

THE DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: A 2016 keeper for Amazing Randy, and a juvie in 2017.

Keepers, those bass 28-inches and larger, had been virtually nonexistent since Halloween, except for anglers tossing live eels into the nighttime surf.  Not exactly my cup of tea of late. Yet, from sun up to sundown, The Faithful— my rod-and-reel surf companions–persevered, despite the absence of anything large enough to seriously bend their rods, or to bring home for the table. And I too, one raw and fateful December morning, suited up in pursuit of late season Christmas bass. It would be myy last call before the final curtain rang down for the year. Striped bass season officially ends on December 15.

CHRISTMAS COOKIE CLAUSE: it sent me dashing to the beach.

The more astute among you might wonder, how it is that I was fishing well beyond the cutoff of my Labor Day to Thanksgiving contract term with the BW? Good question. Allow me to explain the little known, rarely invoked, but totally legal “Christmas Cookie Clause”. The fine print implicitly allows that, should the BW overwhelm all horizontal surfaces of the kitchen, dining room and adjacent living room, with materiel and accoutrement of baking, including but not limited to flour, sugar, butter, chocolate, sprinkles of red, green or various other colors, etc., the aforementioned surfcaster is free to abandon the premises and ply his avocation at the beach.

GET AWAY FISH: Billy Black’s 22-inch fish was King Rat of the day.

Thus, spurred further by Billy Black’s Friday evening report of his 21-inch striper—“best fish I’ve had in weeks!!!”, he text bragged—I whipped up a couple of steak-and-eggs breakfast burritos, fortified a mug of hot coffee with Scotch whiskey, and away to the shore I flew like a flash.

On a favorite beach just west of the East Hampton town line, Billy in sneakers, and I in my waders, settled our brains for some early winter’s casts. Sea and sky were nearly indistinguishable in cold and gloomy alternating shades of gray. Wind chills were in the low 30s. But in short order, what to my wondering eyes should appear, Billy’s rod all aflutter. I knew in a moment it must be a bass. Indeed, there were fish. Not many; Not big by any means—12 to 20 inches on average.  But enough that we could ignore the freezing rain stinging our cheeks, and the weird looks we got from dog walkers parading by bundled in fleece and down.

LAST CALL: The thrill of which will have to last long into 2018.

And then, in a twinkling, came a fish call from World Famous Mel, she, always so lively and quick. We were lured east to the Georgica cut where a rat patrol of six other stalwarts was casting as hard and far as their 11-foot rods would allow, as visions of big bass danced in their heads.

Alas, the best any of us could do was a 22-inch fish.  This schoolie proved to be Billy’s getaway fish, topping off a half dozen for his morning. I stuck around for a few frigid minutes more, vowing not to end my season on an empty cast, but to go out with a catch—no matter how small. I was using some of my lightest gear, so all my fish this morning came inside the sandbar, sometimes as close as the last curl of the wave. My third fish hit with a jerk and I laughed when it did, in spite of myself. I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work: silently savoring the subtle chatter of my rod tip.  As it gently twerked. I reeled slowly, lightly, encouraging the feeble vibrations of this tiny fish to radiate up my arms as long as possible.  This “fish on” feeling, subdued though it was, would have to last me deep into 2018. Then I released this juvie to dash away, dash away, and swim out of sight. Into the leaden December sea it disappeared.

Happy fishing to all, and to all a good bite.

*(With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

IT WAS A REALLY REALLY BIG FISH—I’M SURE

October 24th, 2017

Talk about the ones that got away.  This one never got got.

October 24, 2017: It was a really big fish. Really. Certainly my biggest of the season. I don’t know exactly how big. I didn’t measure it or weigh it. Fact is I didn’t land it. But I didn’t have to. I know it was a bigg’un. There’s other ways to tell, you know. The fight of the fish, or the bend in the rod, or the pull on the line. But that wasn’t my measure. Not that I lost it or dropped it or had it break off. This really big fish, I mean. No, that wasn’t it, because I didn’t ever have the fish on the line.

MY REALLY BIG FISH: If I drew a picture, it would look like this.

You see, I never really hooked this really really big fish. But I saw it. It came up for my plug. It bumped my lure. It came out of the water. Almost. Its tail did. Its really big tail. I didn’t literally see this really big fish’s big tail. But I saw the splash that it made. It was a really big splash, from a really big fish that I didn’t see or hook or catch.

I was with two fishing mates at Shagwong Point when I didn’t catch this really big fish.  They didn’t see it.  They were busy casting in a different direction.  But I called out to them as soon as it happened.  “I just had a really big fish come up!”  They nodded their heads in acknowledgement.  We all kept casting in hopes that it would come back.  Or that this really big fish was swimming with other really big fish nearby.  But, it was gone.  That happens. Especially with really big fish.

My buddy Verizon Charlie had a really big fish that he didn’t land or see earlier this year.  Talks about it all the time.  Knows exactly what it was and almost precisely what it weighed.  VC is a really really good surfcaster. Now we exchange stories about our really big fish in ways not too many others understand.  You’d have had to be there. Nothing personal.  But it’s really really something special to not catch a really really big fish. An exclusive club, sort of.

Wow. I’m gonna remember this fish for a very very long time. It was really big. Really.

Albie Fever—The Only Game in Town

October 19th, 2017

When there’s no Striped Bass or Bluefish to Catch, it’s Albies–or Golf.

October 19, 2017:  They call it Albie Fever.  Or, simply: The Fever.  Catching Albies–False Albacore–is an obsession for some anglers.  The sleek and football shaped Little Tunny, or Euthynnus alletteratus, are 40-mph speed demons more related to mackerel than to the tuna you are used to eating.  They are considered among the most challenging game fish in the Northern Hemisphere.  Right now, the East End of Long Island is lousy with them.

ALBIE KING: Verizon Charlie smiling with the home field advantage.

ALBIE ON THE ROCKS: They joy of jetty fishing.

Aficianados of Albie fishing are enamored with the finesse it takes to hook one even when they are blitzing within casting range.  If lucky or skilled enough to nail one, an Albie’s running fight defies its size and weight, typically 12 to 18 inches, 3 to 6 pounds.  Swift and stealthy, the wide-eyed Albie eschews the big boisterous popping plugs we usually throw to Bluefish and Striped Bass.  Delicate, shiny and fast-reeled lures are what’s required.  Even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll connect.  And if you encounter a pod of them, cast fast and don’t blink.  Because Albies can be gone as suddenly as they appear.

Despite the encouragement of my chum Verizon Charlie, one of The Faithful on the beach and the undisputed king of Albie surfcasting,  I’ve shunned chasing them for one main reason: Albies are not good table fare.  And by that, I’m being as kind as I can be.  I cooked one recently by doing my Anthony Bourdain best: Bleeding it, filleting it, marinating it, seasoning it and finally grilling it.  I had four lovely dark-meat loins. I was encouraged by a posting that said “If you like Bluefish, you’ll like Albie”.  Yet another case of someone who knows absolutely nothing about cooking or eating Bluefish.  Despite my best efforts, the Albie was putrid.  Sour and gloppy.  I wouldn’t feed it to YOUR cat. I should have cooked it on a plank–then thrown away the fish and eaten the plank.

ALBIE IN THE BAY: You always remember your first.

But having caught my first Albie this season, I can attest to the thrill of the fight and the satisfaction of getting the hook up.  You’ll feel like the best fisherman in the water when you manage to outsmart one into taking your lure.  And Albies offer a run like none other when you do get one on . However, more times than not you’ll feel like an incompetent fool when you pull right through a pod of them at your feet without so much as a tap.  Oh, the humiliation.

Yet, what choice have any of us had this season in the surf, but to chase Albies for better or worse?  Everyone on the beach is singing the blues—or lack thereof.  Especially hard to take is the near total absence of Striped Bass in the surf.  So, it’s Albies in the inlet; Albies at the North Bar; Albies on the jetty, the ocean beaches and in Turtle Cove where October striper blitzes were once the norm, but are now legendary memories.

ALBIE IN THE COVE: Where stripers and blues once reigned.

What’s it all about [Albie?], you ask?  I wish I had the answer.  Not that there’s a shortage of theories for this year’s dismal fall run.  “The fish are still in Rhode Island.” “The commercial gill netters have taken all the fish.” “There’s no bait.”  “There’s too much bait.” “The water is too warm.”  “We haven’t had any nor’easter storms.” “Nothing’s been the same since Sandy changed the beach structure.” Yada, yada, yada. Take your pick; mix and match.  Bottom line is the same no matter:  Albies and only Albies are what we have to fish for this season.

So it is very clear to me why they call it Albie Fever. Because it is sickening that Albies are the only game in town.

Season Opener 2017: Ranger Matt, Fish Whisperer

September 13th, 2017
No one ever accused Ranger Matt of quietude.  He put actions and words to good use cajoling boisterous blues to strike his lure time and again.

Sept. 13, 2017: A dramatic transformation occurs on Long Island’s East End comes the beginning of September.  Bikinis and board shorts disappear along the shore, replaced by anglers clad in neoprene waders. Mid-month, the beaches are fair game 24/7 to prowling SUVs laden with rods and reels. The locals even have a name for the day after Labor Day when the summer visitors purportedly desert the Hamptons: “Tumbleweed Tuesday”. Now, the surf belongs to the surfcasters in search of big bad bluefish and trophy striped bass.

RANGER MATT: Scoring a big blue on one of his gazillion yard casts.

My buddies have been strategically fishing the beaches since June.  I, on the other hand, engaged only in “transactional fishing” during the summer months: They gave me their bluefish catch, which I fed into my smoker. They got back hickory or applewood cured filets, and/or the breakfast of their choice (perfected my whole wheat blueberry muffins this season, I did). Win win.

But as summer dies, my most serious beach time comes to life. September is the official beginning of my fishing season. From now until Thanksgiving, I won’t be hard to find.  Head as far east as possible to Montauk Point. Then look left or right.  Chances are, you’ll find me waist deep in the surf, most likely casting as hard and as far as I can, hoping for a connection that delivers both sport and dinner.

NORTH BAR ROLLERS: Freaky waves rolled in from Block Island Sound leaving us wet, weary and contented.

VERIZON CHARLIE: Casting in the magic light at Montauk Point.

OUT OF UNIFORM: Amazing Randy hooking up from dry land at North Bar.

That was the scene on the northfacing beaches of Montauk Point this week, my first real fishing in the surf, after a number of…ahem…”equipment testing” sessions. I joined long caster Ranger Matt, the ever successful Amazing Randy and always persistent Verizon Charlie for a foray on the descending afternoon tide. VC left early but Ranger Matt picked a small handful of blues on the North Bar. Matt turned into a veritible fish whisperer, however, when we moved a couple of hundred yards west and walked out on the sandbar at Clark’s Cove. There, Matt literally talked the blues into striking. At first it seemed that his extra 15-20 yards of cast made the difference. Then Amazing Randy and I supposed his key was fishing off the left side of the bar.  But when Matt started slaying fish in close, and to the right as well as left, we knew it was simply his magical night. Over and over—Matt orating the action non-stop—fish followed his red and silver Yozuri popper like puppy dogs, lurching and missing and finally gulping it down after three or four tries. Randy made a gallant effort to keep up and landed a handful of 4-5 pound Tailor Blues.  I, however, was skunked.  After raising three “hi, goodbye” fish at North Bar, I couldn’t buy a strike for love or money at the Clark Bar. Otherwise, it was everything I could want from a season opener. The water and tide was perfect: the last half of clean, steady-moving, outgoing water. Freaky chest-high waves rolled over us, but the water was warm and the breeze was gentle.  Magic light bathed the scene turning the sky from gold to pink-and-gray and finally a deep dusky purple. We left at dark when the tide died–wet, weary and contented. Matt and Randy donated part of their bluefish catch to the “cause” (#feedthesmoker). Next up will be the High Holy Days of fall surfcasting. Perhaps there will be smoked bluefish pate for Rosh Hoshanah breakfast.

 

 

BILLY’S BASS: Evenings find Billy beating the backwaters of Three Mile Harbor for school bass.

 

MORNING BLUES: Gorilla choppers in September will bring Big Brother Frank back for more in October.

 

SECRET STRIPER: Ranger Matt with a 20-pounder caught earlier this year at an undisclosed location. Sometimes, fish just want to be alone.

Merry Fishmas 2016

December 16th, 2016

December 16, 2016: You don’t need a calendar to tell you that yesterday was the end of Striped Bass fishing season in NY.  The weather report is news enough.  But when the rods get stowed, the stockings get hung and that means it’s time for the annual Fishmas Card from me, Big Brother Frank and the able graphic assistance of sister Chaweenee.

Because it was quite a jolly season of blues and bass fishing in the surf, this year’s tune was an obvious choice.  So, with apologies to Burl Ives, Johnny Marks and the legendary Quinto Sisters (what, you never heard of the Quinto Sisters?  Well, then check them out: http://www.falalalala.com/the-quinto-sisters-first-to-sing-holly-jolly-christmas-even-before-burl-ives/), I am happy to wish you and yours a Holly Jolly Fishmas!
fishmas2016take6final

HOLLY JOLLY FISHMAS

Have a holly jolly Fishmas
It’s the best time of the year
Well I don’t know just where they’ll show
But keep your surf rod near

Have a holly jolly Fishmas
And when you do the southside walk
Say hello to Bubs you know
And every goog you meet.

Ho ho the nor’east blow
When bass are all you see
Some keeper waits for you
Kiss it once for me

Have a holly jolly Fishmas
And don’t forget Rough Riders’ pier
Oh, by golly
Have a holly jolly Fishmas
This year!

Photo by TK, Graphic Design by Chaweenee. Lyrics by Frank and Fred Abatemarco. With apologies to Johnny Marks and, of course, Burl Ives

The 2016 Rosh Hoshanah Blitz: Shofar, So Good

October 9th, 2016

Not so much a blitz this year. Would you believe a steady “bite”?

October 9, 2016: My esteemed friend and colleague, Evelyn, roots for the fish.  Every time I post a fish pic, Ev gives me the thumbs down. I love that Ev keeps me on my toes (though I wonder where she gets her protein).  Surfcasting has never been as much fun since she started reading my posts. Ev should only know, however, that for every fish I take home, 10 others go back to the sea to swim another day. And for every 100 casts I make from the beach, maybe I hook one fish. The math doesn’t lie. Without doubt, the fish are winning.

HARBOR SUNSET: Amazing Randy sets forth a cast in Napeague Harbor at sundown

HARBOR LIGHT: Amazing Randy sets forth a cast in Napeague Harbor at sundown

But it is a historic fact that come the Jewish High Holy Days, the needle tips a bit in the direction of the fishermen—if only just slightly. We count on the renowned “Rosh Hoshana Blitz”, for example, to produce the most fruitful days of the fall surf fishing season. This year, however, not so much a blitz.  But, would you believe it was a steady bite? No complaints here. What with the fast start of September, Shofar, so good.

UNEXPECTED STRIKE: I stepped away from a coffee klatch to nail this keeper bass

UNEXPECTED STRIKE: I stepped away from a coffee klatch to nail this keeper bass

The weekend preceding Rosh Hoshanah, opened on a hard weather note: a stiff ENE wind turned the beach wet and snotty enough to erase the memory of September’s recent Indian Summer days. But we know the worse the weather, the better the fishing.  Anglers may not be comfortable. But as Amazing Randy astutely pointed out: “Don’t make no difference to the fish. They’re already wet.”

Fog and rain shrouded the first sunrise of October as The Faithful convened on the beach west of Hither Hills. There, Verizon Charlie (VC) took the time to school his fisherman friend, “Sweet Lou”.

“Look at that guy,” said VC, referring to a surfcaster 1/4-mile to our west. “He stepped out of his truck, made a cast and caught a fish”.  “Hmmm,” I thought silently.  “I want to be that guy.” So I slinked away from the coffee klatch. On my second cast, a keeper bass crusing the white water exploded on my lure. Dinner. Seeing my bent rod, one of Sweet Lou’s buddies exclaimed, “Hey, look, that guy is on a fish.”  Answerd VC: “That ain’t some guy. That’s Fred.”  All hands joined me at the shoreline. In the spirit of sweetness and prosperity, the unexpected strike was the sweetest.

"HERE!" Billy saw the bait in the wash and in a flash he had this 28-inch striper on the beach

“HERE!” Billy saw the bait in the wash and in a flash he had this 28-inch striper on the beach

The sun came out just ahead of Sunday’s sundown start of the holiday and I was optimistic that good fishing lie ahead for the morning. Back at the Hither Hills scene of the crime, Bucktailin’ Billy Black pointed to a patch of water behind the inner sand bar and said:  “Here!” as baitfish popped in the wash. Instantly, he was fast to a 28-inch striper.  VC, then landed a 26-inch schoolie.  We watched a nearby walk-on fisherman pick up a couple of bass and some cocktail blues. Large schools of bunker rode the waves far out beyond the 2nd bar. But there was nothing for me.

Said Ev:  “Good! Sorry for you; happy for the fish. You are supposed to repent today and throw your sins of the past year in the water. Maybe the fish stayed away for fear of being swallowed up by past sins!”

“Sometimes,” I answered, “a fish is just a fish”. But Ev disagreed.

BIG BLUE: A bloody battle at Fort Pond Bay, Montauk. Click here for extended video

BIG BLUE: A bloody battle at Fort Pond Bay, Montauk. Click here for extended video

I retired to my desk and vowed to perform good deeds until the tide changed.  My respite did not last long. A very urgent but abbreviated “fish call” came from VC at 1pm:  “15-pound blues at Fort Pond Bay. Gotta Go”.  Among the hallowed rules of surfcasting is to never ignore a fish call or text from a reliable source. Sources don’t get anymore reliable than VC. So I hustled to Montauk and got in on the action. It was bathing-trunks fishing on an unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon. But these bluefish were anything but placid. They erupted from an otherwise tranquil sea, pouncing vengefully on our surface lures. They fought with three times the power of a similarly sized striped bass. These bluefish stealthily chased 7-inch menhaden bunker, swallowing them nearly whole after one viselike chomp (Click here for extended video). Two vicious blues bit off my line and lures. But I managed to land two other gorillas, weighing 12.5 and 14.5 pounds. Feed the smoker!

FEED THE SMOKER: Transforming big blues into a great meal

FEED THE SMOKER: Transforming big bluefish into a tasty meal low and slow

On the second day of Rosh Hoshanah, came the big wind. VC and I returned to the sandy ocean beach where we each had a short bass that we returned to sea. The honking NE wind sent me hunting to Montauk’s North Bar, even though the incoming tide was wrong. There, finally, I found the proverbial Rosh Hoshanah Blitz.

GET AWAY FISH: Verizon Charlie with a Rosh Hoshanah striper

GET AWAY FISH: Verizon Charlie with a Rosh Hoshanah striper

Only one problem. The fish—busting, boiling and accompanied by squawking gulls diving on the bait the bass had trapped in the rip—were beyond anyone’s reach. Later that day, nearing sundown, the outgoing tide was just right for fishing the North Bar. Sure enough, the fish were in same place. We could see them. But we couldn’t reach them.

And for this, Ev had the perfect explanation: “They knew that it is the day that our sins are tossed into the water so most of them stayed away. They did not want to get swallowed up by so many sins. They are smart. Why do you think they are called a school of fish?”

No argument there. I am the first to admit the fish are far wiser than I.  It’s the main reason we call it fishing—and not catching. So, Ev, my dear friend and fish monitor, I look forward to your future comments as we approach the next fall surfcasting milestone:  The lesser-known, but up-and-coming, and sometimes equally-satisfying “Yom Kippur Blitz”.  Here’s looking at you Ev.

OCTOBER DAWN: Because you can never have too many sunrise photos.

OCTOBER DAWN: Because casting at sunrise never gets old

Season Opener 2016: Never Better September

September 29th, 2016

Let there be no debate. The fall run is on!

Sept. 29, 2016: Fish slamming our lures just beyond the breakers curling over the inner sandbar. Casting barefoot in shorts along a sandy beach on a sunny Indian Summer morning.  Keeper striped bass and cocktail bluefish in the cooler. A scenic ocean drive turns into a poetic dance of fishermen versus fish and culminates in a tasty seafood dinner.  September has never been better. Fall surfcasting season has arrived on Long Island’s East End.

THE FAITHFUL: Amazing Randy, Verizon Charlie, Bucktailin' Billy Black at Ditch Plains

THE FAITHFUL: Amazing Randy, Verizon Charlie, Bucktailin’ Billy Black at Ditch Plains

The Faithful—and shortly we’ll get to who they are—have been fishing the beach for some time; Essentially, since the official mid-April opening of striper season.  First weekend in May, for example, Verizon Charlie, Bucktailin’ Billy Black and Amazing Randy (there; now you know who are The Faithful), caught one micro-bass after another on a pleasent spring Sunday at the Ditch Plains jetty in Montauk.

As is my custom under the terms of my spousal contract (more on that another time), however, I sat out an entire summer of action

LORETTA LEXUS: Queen of Surfcasters

LORETTA LEXUS: Queen of Surfcasters

until my own personal opening curtain: Labor Day. I idled away the summer days, instead, with an invention born of my recently acquired smoker box.  The Faithful caught the bluefish, which none of them keep under ordinary circumstances. I retrieved them without dangling a line in the water—perfectly legal according to my contract with the BW. In exchange, The Faithful got a generous portion of their catch returned in the form of smoked bluefish. I called it transactional fishing. Everyone was happy.

NAPEAGUE BASS: Reeling for stripers

NAPEAGUE BASS: Reeling for Stripers

NAPEAGUE BASS: Reeling for Stripers. Click here for video

A season start like this one–one of the best Septembers for Long Island surfcasting that I can remember–will spoil you.  Tends to make you forget the barren, bone-chilling Autumns of the past, when the mere hint of a fish would have been welcome. There have been far too many Septembers when you couldn’t be sure if the fall run hadn’t begun, if you missed it, or if it just wasn’t going to happen at all. I’ve lived through all three.

BILLY ON A BASS: Napeague Madness. Click here for video.

BILLY ON A BASS: Napeague Madness. Click here for video.

Not this month. Let there be no debate (oops, too late on that idea); The fall run is on! There have been big blues on the North Bar and other Block Island Sound-facing beaches near the Montauk Lighthouse.  A few early striper blitzes on the rocky shoreline south of the lighthouse, And a persistent run or schoolie bass and cocktail blues along the sandy ocean beaches from Montauk to East Hampton. And now, reports of cow bass being taken on the beaches of Napeague and from the jetty under Montauk light.

CAN"T MISS DAN: Putting it to blues and bass Tarzan on the beach style

CAN”T MISS DAN: Putting it to blues and bass Tarzan on the beach style

The sandy beaches of Amagansett and Napeague State Park mid-month is where we join this episode. First up, Can’t Miss Dan got them bathing suit-cum-Tarzan style right in front of our house in Amagansett:  A throwback 24-inch striper along with a couple of tasty cocktail blues that he turned into bluefish hash to accompany our morning eggs.  The next day, we scored more cocktail blues and a keeper 32-inch striper near Hither Hills.

With the weekend gone, came the rains.  Once the Monday morning soaker passed through, Napeague State Park lit up with fish for Loretta Lexus, Queen of Surfcasters, who had them all to her lonesome. Big Brother Frank and I made sure Loretta had company the next morning.  We loaded up on cocktail blues–Feed the Smoker!–and our share of schoolie bass with a few keepers for the table.  We went back to the scene of the crime in the afternoon. Different tide, same great action.

PAN ROASTED STRIPER: on a bed of mixed mushrooms and greens

PAN ROASTED STRIPER: on a bed of mixed mushrooms and greens

At dark, BBF and his wife, St. Toni of the Blitz, sat down with me to a dinner of pan-roasted striper with mixed mushrooms over a bed of greens.

Another balmy weekend brought Big Bob Wilsusen off his boat and back into the surf where he scored a keeper like he’d never been away.  Dan and I chipped away at short bass and blues while The Faithful all showed up and everyone got well.

By Sunday afternoon we were putting on a show for beach walking tourists.  If it was a prize fight, they would have stopped it.

On and on it continued. Through a SW blow one night and a nor’easter

the next day.  Billy and I fished morning, afternoon and well past dusk.  As long as the fish kept hitting, we kept casting. And catching. Word eventually got out and by midweek, the sandy beaches of Napeague were crawling with rod-racked 4-wheelers in search of stripers.  And in the wake of these early storms, came reports of bigger fish from 30 to 50 pounds.

So, what could be better?  More, that’s what.  October looms and if last year is the gauge, that’s when we’ll see the bulk of the fall-run bass move through our waters.  October starts out with a bonus this year: the Jewish High Holy Days, known to produce the proverbial Rosh Hoshanah Blitz. A very sacred time for surf fishermen. I’m off to pray now.

 

KEEPER BASS: 32-inches of excellent sport and dining

KEEPER BASS: 32-inches of excellent sport and dining

COCKTAIL BLUES: Tasty fodder for the smoker box

PAPA BASS AND THE COCKTAIL BLUES: Tasty fodder for the smoker box

Big Brother Frank

Big Brother Frank

Can't Miss Dan

Can’t Miss Dan

Me

Me

BAROQUE BASS: Big Bob and the foreshortened striper

Big Bob W.

randyvertical

Amazing Randy

VERIZON CHARLIE

Verizon Charlie

wetbilly

Bucktailin’ Billy Black

lexusbass

Loretta’s Lexus Bass

 

MERRY FISHMAS 2015

December 24th, 2015

December 24, 2015: Stripers were missing in action. Blues turned out to be the new bass. Less intrepid surfcasters would have been down in their cups this 2015 season. To be sure, I was. But NOT Charlie R.

“Verizon Charlie”, as we know him on the beach, simply set his sights elsewhere: on False Albacore—those sleek and swift swimming little tunny known to anglers as “Albies”.  They don’t make good eating, and they don’t weigh a whole lot.  But Albies kick up quite a commotion when they’re around and they run and fight like nothing else if you’re skilled enough to hook one. Verizon Charlie chased them in Montauk, Southampton, and the Long Island Sound waters near his Port Jefferson home. In his honor, Big Brother Frank and I present this year’s Fishmas Card: “Albie Home For Christmas”. Jingle, Jingle, y’all!

ALBIE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

(To the tune of I’ll Be Home for Christmas, with apologies to Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, Buck Ram and Bing Crosby) 

Albie home for Christmas

But you will not catch me.

Cast ‘til dawn, but I’ll be gone

Opening presents under the tree.

Northeast wind will find me

But I will never bite.

Keep your blues, and fishing news

I’ll tease you just for spite.

Albie in the Weed Bowl

Water deep, deep blue.

Stripers here, that bunker fear

I’m here, just not for you.

Albie in Port Jefferson

My blitz, a sight to see.

Many try, most I defy

Except Verizon Charlie.

Albie home for Christmas

When the baitfish gleams.

Sharpies try to hook me

But only in their dreams.