If at first you really suck, cast, cast again….and again….and again….

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014: What can I say? I sucked. Been doing this surfcasting thing for about 45 years, so you’d think I’d have it nailed by now. Not! We really sucked. I say we because BBF (Big Brother Frank) and I watched big bruiser bluefish caught all around us on Montauk’s north side during our post Labor Day season opener. But we got none. A few days later, things brightened considerably. But for the time being…..did I mention that we definitely sucked?

FISH EYE POV: how the fish see my truck on the beach

FISH EYE POV: As the fish see my beach rig.

Granted, the high hook of the morning, Pete from NYC, was younger and stronger. Working in his wet suit perched on a rock , he had a fifty yard advantage on us from the start. But oh how far he could throw it. He whipped a 10-inch, 5-ounce pencil popper at the end of his waxy InvisiBraid line seemingly half way across Block Island Sound, his 11-foot surf rod whooshing through the morning stillness. I was merely wading in my shark shoes and bathing suit among the slimy rocks, trying in vain to reach the other side of the rip where bluefish were exploding on Pete’s lure with virtually every cast.  While Pete was casting and catching, BBF and I were working out the kinks in our gear.

THE FISH WALKER: Pete was nailing a bluefish on virtually every cast

THE FISH WALKER: Pete nailed a fish on virtually every cast.

Frank’s brand new reel broke down, my line kept knotting, and I snapped off the one big white popping lures that seemed to be the ticket to mimicking Pete’s success. I know it is a poor workman who blames his tools. I take full responsibility for not being up to the task on this, my shakedown foray of the 2014 fall surfcasting season. How many times do you want me to say it:  I sucked! Okay?  But a turning point was just a few days ahead.

Two mornings later, Pete the fish killer (to be fair, all his blues were caught and released to fight another day) was working the rip in his customary spot, again making sport with hapless gorilla bluefish. This day, I decided to “mug” Pete, sidling up to him, a few dozen yards to  port, engaging in friendly fishing banter. Long arcing casts were getting the job done as usual on the dropping tide. Pete must have caught 75 fish!  I was no match, but my luck and proficiency had turned: I raised four fish, hooked two, but landed none.

CURE FOR THE BLUEFISH BLUES: It took a while, but finally got mine.


The next day,  there were three guys plus me casting in the same location.  I raised and hooked the only fish I saw all morning. But I got bit off at my lure’s tailhook. Served me right. I had rummaged around my truck for the heaviest popping lure I could find. The oldie but goodie I tied on was a tad rusty, and I paid the price.


Bluefish in the 5 to 10 pound range are big and nasty.  And it takes a big and nasty plug to get their attention. The wooden popping plug I rooted out of the depths of my tacklebox was hand painted a sickening Dayglo yellow. I probably picked it up for 50-cents at a garage sale many years back. It was the biggest I had, about 4 ounces, and I matched it with my largest rod–a 10-footer–and a fresh out of the box VS200 reel loaded with 50-pound Powerpro braid. Up until this moment, I had been fishing, Now, with a strong shiny steel treble refitted to my lure, I was finally ready for some catching. Okay you green-eyed devils, bring it.

BILL GETS THE BLUES: On his "last" cast

BILLY”S BLUE: Nailed on his “last” cast.

My buddy Billy Black was on the scene for the weekend and we began our hunt at 0-dark-545am. The sandy ocean beaches of Napeague, Hither Hills and Montauk village were all socked in with fog. The water on the north side of Montauk lighthouse–the scene of the crime, if you will–was still too high as the sun began to rise. We tested it. A good workout with a gentle WSW breeze to our back. We broke for breakfast in town and when the tide was one hour into its descent, we make our way onto False Bar and began to cast in earnest. My big and nasty wooden popper ain’t pretty but it casts true and far. It wasn’t long before it produced an explosive strike, ten cranks after my cast hit the water. A big and nasty bluefish, virtually launched itself onto the lure. And this time, it didn’t get away. Later, I switched to a spanking new white little neck popper which also nailed a bluefish.

DUELING CHOPPERS: The cure for the bluefish blues.

DUELING CHOPPERS: A pair of green-eyed devils.

This one hit much closer, half way into my retrieve.  I walked the two fish to the truck and returned to cheer on Billy.  We’d been at it more than an hour and he was ready to quit. When Billy called “last cast” I protested that there can’t be just one last cast, but there must be three–all of them perfect. On cast number two, Billy scored.  This chopper was a veritable clone of the previous fish–a hefty, fighting and jumping 8-pound bluefish. It was high noon and we headed home. After a sucky season start, redemption had come at last. And dinner, pesce ‘all acqua pazza, shortly followed. Back for more next week.

BLUEFISH AQUA PAZZA: Dinner for four

BLUEFISH AQUA PAZZA: Dinner for four.


  1. If this is what it means to suck…

  2. Charlie says:

    Nice read Fred.
    Perseverance pays off!!

  3. Ron says:

    All I see are Clam Shells in the dish. Where’s the bluefish? Is this one of your “reduction” dishes????

  4. Fred Abatemarco says:

    Oy! Another old geezer with bad eyesight. Ron–like the commercial used to say: “It’s in there”. And oh so yummy! Come join me this season!

  5. Felix says:

    Breddie-persistance pays, enjoy the season!

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