The 2016 Rosh Hoshanah Blitz: Shofar, So Good

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

3 Responses to “The 2016 Rosh Hoshanah Blitz: Shofar, So Good”

  1. Chaweensta says:

    Outstanding! Wishing you and all the other East End fisherman continued Blitzful Holidays

  2. Felix says:

    Fred-more High Holidays this week so keep trying to “catch”. Make sure to save some for when we arrive on Friday!

  3. Kathy says:

    Your Fish Tales are always highly anticipated and a joy to read. I especially like the extended video infused into the mix. Seems like you had a great experience!
    Happy Birthday, dear friend. I wish you many more catching days and a long productive season. Looking forward to the next report.

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