Whither October?

November 1st, 2019

September’s promise fizzled badly as we reached the shank of the surfcasting season. Is this to be the fall run that wasn’t?

OCTOBER BLOWS: Three vicious storms took their toll on East End beaches and the fishing prospects during surfcasting’s signature month (click here for video).

They came from afar.  Jeff from North Carolina, Big Brother Frank from California, Ken and Lisa, Steve and Dina from Delaware.  

Even the widely-scattered Red Hill Gang made the pilgrimage —Felix from Florida, Doc from Virginia, Bob from South Carolina. Representatives from Gotham were on hand too: Don Dolce from the upper east side, Broadway LeeBob from the UWS.  They came to this Mecca of surfcasting, Montauk, for the fall run of striped bass and bluefish.

But it never happened.

A small bass here, a rare bluefish there. Some one-and-done schoolie striper blitzes. Essentially, not a run of keepers or Albies to be found all through October, which should have been the shank of the season. Even the professional gill-netting crews working the beaches were flummoxed. With so few bass in their haul, they discarded dogfish and skate along the Napeague stretch in disgust.

NAPEAGUE BEACH MASSACRE: Sand sharks (dogfish) and skate abandoned by gillnet crews dismayed by a lack of more lucrative stripers for their efforts.

Things were so bad even “The Faithful” sought alternatives.  Verizon Charlie fished the North Shore from Port Jefferson to Orient Point. He struggled even there to catch stripers-in-diapers, though he reported sightings of an occasional keeper.  LeeBob hit Robert Moses State Park mid-Island where he had fun-filled sunny mornings catching micro-bass before going on stage. Billy Black fished his secret bay locations and scored some double digit evenings. Amazing Randy and I got well with some small bass early on.  Robo-arm Big Brother Frank returned to the east end with high hopes and his casting wing healed.  It was a good thing he caught fish in the summer, because this fall he only got clams.

PLAN B: Chicken mushrooms in the woods for North Carolina Jeff……..
……GIANT QUAHOGS in the mud for Big Brother Frank and me.

The Delaware crews came and then left town in record time this year. Scarce fish drove North Carolina Jeff to Plan B: ‘shrooming (mushroom hunting) in the East Hampton woods and Montauk dunes. Last I heard, he’s alive and well, but lacking any trophy fish. However, he did go home with a cooler filled with 4 pounds of bluefish filets and 10 pounds of chicken mushrooms.

All this was most puzzling because the ocean was alive with humpback whales, harbor seals, frolicking dolphins and sharks of a dozen varieties. All feasted on acres of bunker bait that had gulls and gannets hunting and diving furiously, and should have attracted the predatory migratory species that we surfcasters await the whole year long. However, the crescendo we all expected after a hopeful September simply did not materialize. The season to date has been an overture without the symphony.

TEEMING OCEAN: Bunker bait that should have attracted game species offered much to diving gulls and gannets, but little to fishermen on the beach (click here for video).


For a few days at least, as summer turned to fall, history happily attempted to repeat itself. The Red Hill Gang of Brooklyn came fishing earlier than usual this year. Good timing; we ran into a few days of small bass blitzing on the north and south side of Montauk.  Doc Charlie the Cat paid the price of a treble hook through his index finger for the short bass he connected wth at the Sewer Pipe, just hours off the plane from JFK. He winced at his wound, but smiled broadly at his catch and kept on casting. He notched one more milestone on his determined quest to be a local sharpie.

RED HILL REDUX: For one morning only, the glory days of the Brooklyn Capos’ annual fishing trip returned.
FISH AT ANY COST: Doc Charlie paid the price of a treble hook through his finger for this shortie bass. But he never lost his smile.

The next day, with a nearly full complement of the Red Hill googans aboard my truck, we chased a splashing school of stripers far into rock-strewn Oyster Pond Cove.  When we couldn’t travel any farther than the beach boulders allowed, we waiting hopefully for the fish to double back in our direction. And they did.  I knew if they came within reach of the water’s edge where we stood, we’d get only a single cast or two at them. So I demanded that everyone hold their cast.  Amazingly, my usually undisciplined buddies complied.  All was quiet. Without warning then, the fish boiled up in the shallow water among the rocks less than 50 yards out from where we stood.  “NOW!” I shouted.  In seconds, everyone of us was fast on a fish.  No keepers, but the nearly decade-long skunk was off for Felix, and Don Dolce.  Bob wouldn’t arrive until the next day. He had to settle for a tailgate lunch on the North Bar as we watched the fish bust water well out of reach.  They never came within range again for the rest of the weekend.

TAILGATE PARTY AT THE NORTHBAR: BBQ wings and cold beers on Montauk’s North Bar took the sting out of a fishless afternoon.


September’s promise carried over to the first Saturday in October. It was early evening, and I was deep into dinner prep with guests expected around 7pm. Suddenly, my phone came alive with a text alert from Verizon Charlie: “Fish blitzing here at Shagwong Point.” I answered with a non-commital, boilerplate message: “Good luck. Catch ‘em up, big guy,” then went back to my chopping and dicing. Five minutes later VC followed up: “Get here NOW!” his text demanded. When the fish text rings twice, woe to those who flout its call. I left instructions for the BW to keep an eye on the eggplant roasting on the grill, suited up in my waders, and took off to the east . “On my way,” I alerted VC.

For the next two hours, the fishing was epic. Thick schools of bass roved in the wash an easy cast off Gin Beach, Shagwong Point, and into Oyster Pond Cove. VC and I tossed bucktail lures at them—the fish eschewed any others—and caught schoolie after schoolie for nearly two hours. VC had 30 fish or more. I had about a baker’s dozen. Nothing large enough for the table, but an old time blitz of fat, feisty fish here, there, everywhere. We left them biting in the wash at dark.  When I returned home, the eggplant was a burnt mass of charcoal. Small price to pay.

“JUST LIKE THE GOOD OLD DAYS:” Perhaps an exaggeration, but two hours of non-stop schoolies at Shagwong was as good as it got this October (Click here for video).


Before the 2nd week of October was gone, two massive nor’easters tore up the east end beaches.  And a third blow, a stormy, somber sou’wester on Halloween, shut down the fishing hard for two days or more each time. Times like these are why God invented clamming, I tell myself. 

As the month waned and new moon tides surged, there was no sign of a recovery.  October was for all practical purposes a bust on the east end. Interestingly, water temperatures remained above normal, leading some pundits to theorize that we’re still in a summer bite.  The big fish are simply not sufficiently incentivized to furiously feed for their winter journey south. That’s fishologist-speak for break out the golf clubs.

So, is November the new October? Is the fall run moving to December?  Or are the good old days gone for good? I guess anything is possible in these times of climate chaos. Even the forecast for the coming scallop season is morose. . Let me get another look at that clam rake.

WHO’S THAT GUY WITH THE SCHOOLIE? “Hey, mister, leave that fish alone!”
SECRET BEACH: In secluded bays, Billy Black has been known to have double-digit catches in the dark of night.
BEHOLD THE RARE BLUEFISH: A gorilla the likes of which we seldom saw this October. The fish, I mean; not the fisherman.
BROADWAY BASS MAN: LeeBob and company have more fun per fish-pound than anyone else on the beach.
WHO SAYS THERE’S NO KEEPERS IN MONTAUK? A couple of 30-plus pounders kept hopes alive for stalwart surfrats.
JUNE SWOON: Before he left the beach for the injured reserved list, BBF was a cocktail bluefish’s worst nightmare.

FishTales 2019: So It Begins

September 16th, 2019
The Fall Surfcasting season ticks towards its onset as a Good News/Bad News story.
SEASON’S GREETINGS: Amazing Randy and I got well in an “old time religion” blitz of schoolie bass under the Montauk Lighthouse.

GOOD NEWS: The weather is fair, mild and dry. Perfect for wading in the surf in a bathing suit or light waders.

BAD NEWS: The weather is fair, mild and dry; Stripers like it tumultuous.  We need a snotty storm to perk up the bite.

GOOD NEWS: Plenty of bait in the waters, bayside and in the ocean.

BAD NEWS: So far, not much on that bait except big ass seals, dolphins, sharks and blue whales.

GOOD NEWS:  Hurricane Dorian didn’t cause much beach erosion.

BAD NEWS: Hurricane Dorian didn’t lower the water temperature much, delaying the bite.

GOOD NEWS: Getting lots and lots of “fish reports” to chase.

BAD NEWS: Most of those chases turn out to be fools’ errands.

GOOD NEWS: At least we haven’t missed the bite yet.

BAD NEWS: The bite hasn’t started yet.

GOOD NEWS: Montauk is not that crowded with fishermen so far.

BAD NEWS: There’s a season opener Surfcasting Tournament this weekend, which means combat fishing conditions if the bite breaks loose.

GOOD NEWS: Amazing Randy and I got into an “old time religion” bass blitz under the bluffs at Montauk Point at dusk this evening. 

BAD NEWS:  There ain’t no bad news in this case.

VC and Billy the Priest searched mostly in vain for the fish—including elusive albes—all weekend long.  Big Brother Frank is out of the game this year, nursing a busted wing back to health on the West Coast by charting LA Dodgers pitch counts. He’ll be missed.

GOOD NEWS FOR BBF: Big Brother Frank teaching bluefish the meaning of life in the surf at Shagwong, before his busted wing took him out for the season.

Amazing Randy, who sat out most of the weekend follies dining on porterhouse medium rare, responded early on Monday to the fish reports touting hard hitting bass at Turtle Cove.  The morning was a disappointment, but the afternoon shined.  Randy got a head start on me arriving at the Sewer Pipe around 430pm. He scored about a half dozen blues and bass there, reporting: “All the fish you want at Camp Hero.” He had one striper to 30 inches. Meanwhile, I was en route, fielding and retweeting fish reports from LeeBob, who was first at home on the UWS, but continued to relay and receive reports while onstage on Broadway.  Talk about multitasking. 

I arrived at Turtle Cove—the gates are finally open to the approach road—at 530pm, only to watch the blitzing bass pass me by. Around the Lighthouse Jetty they went.  So did we. Randy and I intercepted the blitz under the bluff near Scott’s Hole

It was old time religion: fish busting in the rolling waves, finning in the rocks as the tide began to build. We each brought in a half dozen schoolies and had many many more strikes and drops. A rock jockey swam out to a boulder right in front of us. We had to cast left and right of him, so the fish we nailed played us into and around the rock piles, which didn’t do our braid line much good. Randy had one quality fish. My biggest was only about 25 inches. All our fish were over 22 inches. I had some on a green teaser fly—and one “duble!!!” All the rest, to my visual delight, exploded on top, hitting a blue Super Strike. We left them biting at dusk.

The Red Hill Capos are due here in a few days and they will appreciate the Good News about the weather. Most are not here for the fishing, anyway. But for those who are, hopefully, the Good News about the bite will continue to improve.

Bad News? LeeBob! Where are you?

LET IT BE WRITTEN: Move over Alabama. Time for the Montauk “sharpie” fishing forecast.


December 25th, 2018

With the joy of the Christmas season, comes the end of the striped bass fishing season. And so, too, our annual “Fishmas Card”. Tight lines, y’all. #Fishtales2018

(to the tune of “Donde Esta Santa Claus?”)

Mamacita, donde esta Striper Blitz?
Donde esta Striper Blitz?
I want a keeper to retrieve.
Mamacita, oh where is Striper Blitz?
I look for them because, 
It’s Christmas Eve.

I know that I should still be casting,
Cause maybe they’re up on the beach.
Out of the truck I’m now leaping,
Hoping they’ll come within my reach.
I fish for them all night, and when I find the bite,
I’ll call my friends and say:
“Oh Charlie! Oh Billy! Oh Randy! Oh Frankie! Oh Freddie”
Ole, ole, ole! Ba-ca-la!

Mamacita, donde esta Striper Blitz?
Oh where’s the Striper Blitz?
It’s Christmas Eve.

Alright, Mamacita. I’ll keep casting now.
It’s Christmas Eve…

Lyrics by Fred & Frank Abatemarco; Graphic Design by Chaweenee Cecchini (With kudos and apologies to vocalist Augie Rios, the Mark Jeffrey Orchestra, writers George Scheck, Rod Parker, and Al Greiner).

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…


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 my 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)


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!


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