Season Opener 2017: Ranger Matt, Fish Whisperer

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.

2 Responses to “Season Opener 2017: Ranger Matt, Fish Whisperer”

  1. VC says:

    Great read as always Fred!

  2. Kathy says:

    As usual, I am impressed by your descriptive writing. Is there such a thing as a Fish Whisperer? At least you know there are fish around! The weather must be beautiful for fishing.
    It’s now your birth month, Fred, so you won’t be skunked. Happy Birthmonth! May you enjoy fresh fish on your birthday caught by you…. Put a candle in it.
    Love you, Kathy

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