Timely fish calls put us into early September bluefish large and small
CLARK’S COVE: At sunset, voracious blues attacked our surface plugs with explosive hits.
September 10, 2015: Come Labor Day, the weather typically is still beachy, and my fall surfcasting season officially opens. This makes for a late-summer opportunity to combine a fresh catch of the day with farm-fresh tomatoes, basil, corn and more. Can you say Long Island BLT (Bluefish, Lettuce and Tomato)?
Bonus: my son, “Can’t Miss Dan” was arriving on the bullet train to spend the weekend. In anticipation, a fish report from Verizon Charlie (VC) told of a slow afternoon pick of bluefish earlier in the week at Shagwong Point, which escalated to bunker-fueled mayhem by evening on a dropping tide.
CAN’T MISS DAN: Scored early and often with gorilla bluefish.
Dan and I conspired for an early supper tailgate party at Gin Beach, complete with grilled sausage-and-peppers, black bean salad, beer and wine. The BW and her Uncle Tono came along for the ride. So called because it was a surreptitious landing spot for illegal Canadian whisky during prohibition, Gin Beach is a 2 mile stretch facing Block Island, within striking distance of Shagwong, the scene of the previous day’s crime. If all else failed, we’d at least be well wined, dined and tanned.
Not to worry. A late breaking fish call from VC reached us en route: gangster blues were hitting at Clark’s Cove, in Montauk State Park. “Change of plans”, I announced to my passengers. The BW immediately protested: “let me out”. “You’ll love it”, I promised, “Clark’s Cove has it all: sandy beach with a view, benign waters and sunshine galore.” Hopefully there also would be a bounty of fish for us to catch.
The BW remained skeptical.
BIG & NASTY: Blues to 12 pounds made sure we knew we were in a fight.
Negotiating the dusty, rutted dirt road and soft sandy dune-grass lined beach trail to Clark’s Cove, I was itchy for those first casts of the season. Was my gear ready? Was I ready? Would the fish still be there? It became noticeably hotter inside my truck. That was the BW’s temper.
At Clark’s, VC was already in the water, along with his sidekick, the Amazing Randy. Billy the Boot, as he shall be known this season in honor of his injured Achilles tendon, was off his crutches and casting into the kill zone from the shoreline. Further out on the bar, casting about a gazillion yards with every throw, was the perpetrator of this fish fest: “Ranger” Matt, who had put in the original fish call to VC.
BLOODY LOG: Field filleting chopper bluefish on the beach.
The bait was abundant–we could see it as we waded in ankle deep water–but the hits were few and far between at first. Still, Dan and I got our first fish of the season–big, ornery, chopper blues that let you know you were in a fight. No others keep bluefish, so we were the benefactors of one gorilla from Matt and another chunky 8-pounder from VC. Without a cooler on hand, I field filleted this catch on what shall ever now be known as “bloody log”.
After an hour or so, most of the boys drifted away. When we finished our picnic, Dan and I got up to cast again. The bait was even thicker: tiny bunker, chased by full size bunker, preyed upon by bluefish.
Multiple hits. Hits on every cast. Tail dancing head shaking, snarling hits. The fish hit deep at the end of the cast, and close in, just before the pick up. They’d come once, twice, three times at the lure until they gulped it down to their gills. When the fish came to shore, they’d have an eight inch bunker sheared in half already in their guts and another in their throats.
All fish were at minimum, six pounds, with most in the 8 to 12 pound class. And they fought to the last curl at the shoreline. Perfect candidates for the new electric smoker back home. It grew dark. We were happy. And the BW wasn’t furious. A very successful day.
RANGER MATT: Scoring a big blue on one of his gazillion yard casts.
Montauk Surfcasting Rule #2 says “Always return to the scene of the crime”. Problem is, the fish don’t read the rules. We returned to Clark’s the next afternoon after a luncheon on my deck of grilled bluefish with farm fresh tomato and basil salsa and grilled eggplant. The usual suspects were already on the beach. Ranger Matt hooked up only three times in more than an hour with his here-to-the-moon casts. VC dropped a pair of fish. Zilch for the rest of us. After a couple of beers and a few casts, we were gone.
For our last session of the weekend, VC said he’d be on station at Gin Beach the next afternoon, so Dan and I patrolled Montauk from North Bar to Oyster Pond Cove. We saw some bait fishermen casting from the rocks, but all they were getting was suntanned. We cast a dozen or so times just to keep it honest and then left to meet Charlie at the appointed time. We were greeted at the entrance to Gin Beach by squawking gulls hovering above serious splashage from medium size fish, half a cast out. A quick fish text to VC, then Dan and I sprang from the truck to toss plugs and metal to the school, which was feeding on peanut bunker. Dan and I hooked up once, then again, and yet a third time.
Tailor Blues: A September seafood treat, grilled with fresh oregano and served with local corn salsa.
But these little tailor blues kept spitting the hook. We chased the fast moving pod east and finally landed a few. Back and forth went this action for another hour before the fish moved off to deeper water with the tide. At that, we headed home to one more tasty September grilled bluefish dinner–with fresh corn salsa, asparagus, spinach and sweet potato fries in the supporting roles. A little bluefish crudo started it all off.
Next challenge: An inaugural batch of bluefish fillets in the electric smoker.