October 8 – 13
A Surfcaster’s Wet Dream
Before going on this trip I honestly thought I was prepared. I had the best rod, a proven reel, a myriad of plugs and countless hours of fishing under my belt. On top of this, I did extensive research on the area I was about to fish. At least…..in my mind I was ready. Eric, a long time friend since high school, accompanied me on this fishing adventure of a lifetime. When we boarded United Airlines in San Francisco, we both had that look of sheer anticipation for what was in store. After enduring a long tiring flight, we finally landed in LaGuardia Air Port in New York. Soon after, Jay came around the bend in his Jeep Cherokee with rods mounted on top and fishing gear spilling over the back seat to pick us up. When loading my luggage, I found it quite amusing that he brought a rice cooker labeled “Mom” on the handle. After sharing greetings we jumped on board for the final leg of our trip to our destination…..Montauk, The Surfcasting Capital of the World.
On the way I asked Jay, “So how much longer before we touch down?” He replied, “We got about 3 hours so keep your panties on beatch…” As we continued towards highway 27 we made a quick pit stop at Dunkin Donuts. Damn! That was the best donut that I’ve had in a while I thought. After a quick meal we were back on the road and before I knew it, we were entering the quaint little town of Montauk, NY.
MONDAY October 8, 2012
We didn’t waste any time. Jay bought the parking pass and we suited up at a nearby parking lot. There were guys already parked, waiting for something to happen. I have to admit…..it was a bitch trying to get set up with all your shit still packed, but we managed. Hell…nothing was gonna keep me from getting into some action at this point. We were finally set! Gear ready, parking fees paid, took a dump….here we go. As we made our way to the first spot on the south side in Camp Hero known as Kings I felt a bit jet lagged and fatigued. I thought to myself…..“I’m just gonna break my line in and get comfortable with my new rod”. Just wanted to relax, take my time and learn the new environment. NOT! Not only was my gear not ready but “I” wasn’t ready for what I had coming!
As we made our way down the trail I could see that the rocky shoreline was picketed with anglers from one side to another. What was even more of a surprise was how close the boat guys were to shore. They were just a cast away. Luckily we found some open area to our immediate right. As I surveyed the area I noticed something peculiar that tingled my fishy senses. It was something that I have never encountered in the California surf. “Look!!!” I yelled. Striper fins ducking in and out of the water well within casting range. I say to the guys, “Dudes there’s fish right here!” The terrain was rocky on shore and in the water. Boulders peppered the the surf making it very challenging to get out a decent cast, (or so I thought.) Once Jay was aware of the situation, he methodically worked his way into a comfortable casting position standing about waist deep in the water. On his first cast….Wham! He landed a very nice schoolie striper in the 27” range and he continued to do that for the next several minutes. I then look to my right and I see Eric hooking up a nice striper on a floating li’l neck popper. I was practically pissing in my waders and determined to get into the action.
I casted a Bernzy Slider in the mix, twitch, twitch, pop……BAM! but oh shit my line is wrapping around the shaft of my reel and gets locked up. Crap! So here I was trying to untangle myself while Jay and Eric were getting into some serious striper action. As I fumbled all over myself like a frantic retard trying to get into the action I see Jay land at least 5 nice sized stripers on a white bucktail paired with a red/white rind. By the time I get it together, the schools of fish vanished. But I still kept going thinking I could make up for my earlier screw up. I had a terrible time trying to get situated in that terrain. Balancing on softball size rocks with current was unlike any fishing situation I had encountered in the past. Beaten and demoralized on that first day I worked my way back up to the car. In that first outing, Jay had at least 8 fish and Eric 1 and I got the the big donut. To my pleasant surprise though, while getting ready to head back out there, we run into Zeno Hromin, author of The Art of Surfcasting and The Hunt for Big Striped Bass. Star struck? At least I was. His books make up most of my bathroom reading material. SCHWING!!!
Well after meeting Zeno and resting up at the car, we decide to head back down to Rat Hole. We were hoping for a repeat of the earlier action but nada. There were several fish landed though. Most were by a fly fisherman situated right next to Rat Hole. On the way back to the car Jay decided that we should go ahead and check into the East Deck Motel early instead of the original plan of roughing it in his Jeep Cherokee overnight. That was a relief. At least I could get my gear all laid out in front me in preparation for the next session. It was was still Monday 10/8 when we got settled in at the motel. Once settled and rested we headed right outside to fish. Behind the motel was a small jetty about 40’ long. To the right was a sandy shoreline and to the left was a semi rocky boulder field…a surfcaster’s playground. We fished a little more that Monday night. I started to the immediate right of the jetty and got 2 solid bumps within a half hour. Jay landed a short on a SP minnow more towards the center of the beach. Soon afterwards we ended the night with hopes of getting into some action first thing in the morning. I was still pissed about my earlier screw up at Camp Hero but even more determined to redeem myself. Stay tuned beotches!!!
Tuesday October 9, 2012
On Tuesday October 9th we were up at the break of dawn. We decided to fish behind the motel again. The wind was blowing about 10 mph from the north with overcast skies. The terrain landscape, a mystery the night before, was now quite apparent. I make my way onto the jetty with a Bernzy Spook already snapped to the leader. This was the same plug I used the day before at Camp Hero. I positioned myself just to the right side of the jetty before launching the plug a country mile. I proceeded to walk the dog in a seductive cadence that no pelagic species could resist. Within seconds I get a solid hit. Then I see this 20” blue skyrocket out of the water just missing my plug. I repeated the dance on the next cast and sure enough WHAMO! A feisty 18 – 20” bluefish inhaled the spook. Boy what a fight!
I haven’t caught a blue since the late 90’s when residing in Jersey fishing the jetties and beaches at Manasquan and Deal. Back then I remember only carrying 3 plugs with me: a red/white jointed bomber, rattle trap and a crocodile spoon. At this point I was just plain happy to get on the scoreboard after that dismal first day. After several more casts I decide to hit the left side of the jetty. The current moved from left to right. I replaced the slider with the Jackall Dagored.
As the plug approached the tip of the jetty I get another HARD strike. The sensitivity of the CTS blank transmitted the hit immediately as I set the hook. It was a striper in the 30” range. Adrenaline was pumping at that point baby! This fish battled like a champ. However when I go to unhook this striper I notice something weird about its mouth. Part of it was deformed….like he got into a fight with Manny Pacquiao…LOL. Anyway, off he went back into the blue sea. I continued using the Jackall Dagored. After seeing the video of this plug on YouTube I just knew it would be successful. I casted it up current as before, worked it towards the jetty, three S-L-O-W cranks then SMASH again! Another strong bass engulfed the plug taking me for a nice ride on the shores of Ditch Plains. Three fish in 30 minutes. These numbers were unheard of in California this year. As far as I was concerned, I was already more than satisfied. Jay and Eric came over from the beach side to emulate my success but the bite tapered off. While contemplating our next move we notice several surfcasters walking north around the bend towards Cavets Cove. Peaking our interest, we followed suit. Given that I had some action closer to the motel, I stayed behind for a moment while Eric and Jay moved on to the next spot. I continued slowly behind them casting at various structure. After about 45 minutes of fruitless casting I crossed paths with Jay and Eric at the northern corner of Cavets Cove. They too were not getting any action in spite of walking even further…all the way past the stairs and into Morgan’s Cove. “Did you see any action or bait?” I asked Jay. He said, “no action, but I did see some big bait”…..“Where?” I said, and Jay pointed right where we were standing. Additionally, upon making his trek with Eric to Morgan’s Cove Jay noticed another angler working pencil poppers on a perfectly situated and shaped rock in which was now vacant. (stay tuned) “Let’s try right here then” I told the guys. I figured it was just as good as any other place, and with the promise of bait, you always have a chance. After surveying the area I found a good spot to anchor down where I could get a cast off into a nice hole between several boulders. To my left I noticed jumpy terns indicating the presence of bait. As my Jackall Dagored sailed through the air I visualized the pattern it would take back to the shore between the structure. After 4 turns I was rewarded with an electrifying strike. “Fish on!” I exclaimed. Jaylooked over at me with a smirk as he made his way to a perfectly situated rock he had eyeballe earlier on the trek to Morgan’s Cove. His position was even more ideal. With his new Century stick he was able to cast beyond the crest of the wave allowing his white bucktail with a red/white pork rind to glide into the midst of frothing white water, boulders and starving bass. Within seconds he impaled his hook into a gorging striper. This was the theme for the next 3 hours. One fish after another baby….I landed at least 20, 6 of them being keepers. Jay killed though….he landed at least 30. And of course, Eric got into the action with his favorite plug….a Super Strike Little neck popper.
After 3 hours of constant action we were spent. We were so tired that we left the water with fish still biting. On my way back to the motel after that fish frenzy, I thought to myself, “Wow! Man this is what I came out here for. It can’t possibly get any better than this….” Several anglers were also making their way back, each carrying their limit of stripers. For the first time in a while it looked to me that every angler was satisfied with their results. I noticed Jay’s phone blowing up from friends eager to get into the same action. We rested for the entire afternoon and then headed back out to the same area in the evening, but conditions changed. Later that night we tried Turtle Cove but the only thing I caught was a nice 8” 3 oz Yo Zuri Pencil Popper.
Wednesday October 10th 2012
Later in the evening, Jay’s friends Scott and Keith arrived on the scene. Then the next morning I was right back on the water with Eric behind me. The Jackall Dagored plug that I used in Cavet cove the day before was destroyed…so I had to improvise. The only plug that I had that was somewhat similar was a 5” silver jointed red fin swimmer that I purchased at Paulie’s….which proved to be an adequate replacement.
Like the previous day, the weather was again overcast with a bit of a south wind. I was the only one out there on the jetty. First cast to the left yielded a very hard bump. I was like “Yeah boy…. let’s do this!” Next cast I was on! This fish hit extremely tight to the rocks……within 2 or 3 inches. The fish attempted to bulldoze his way into the rocks. I knew I was into a pretty good fish. On the second run he stripped line out from my spool….drag screaming he disappeared somewhere deep in the pocket. I knew my 60 lb Yo Zuri leader was being tested. I then re-positioned myself onshore and angled my rod so I could pull the beast away from the rocks. After a back and forth struggle I was finally able to subdue him. It was vibrant 34” striper baby. I brought this one back to the motel. As I carried the fish, he was still flailing away trying to escape. As I approached the motel deck I could see Jay, Keith and Scott prepping their gear. I’ll never forget the look on their faces when they saw the fish wagging away in my hands. They were overcome with excitement as they worked even faster to get out on the water. Jay helped me bag the lively fish before resuming the next hunt. (The funny thing was that when we returned to the motel later, Jay found the fish on the floor. Apparently it had busted open the freezer door after we left for the beach.)
The next few hours were very slow. No one had caught anything since the one I caught that morning. Jay decided to head back to the motel and take Keith and Scott to the north side to fish under the light house. Keith hooked a short but that was it. Meanwhile Eric and I were just chillin' out in the motel waiting for the afternoon tide. When Jay, Scott and Keith returned from the light house we decided to go fish the Ditch Plains area again behind the motel and Cavet’s Covet where we scored big the day before. It was quite slow again that afternoon but at least Keith and Scott got a couple of fish each before heading back to Jersey.
Later that Wednesday night Jay took me and Eric to a treacherous area under the lighthouse. Eric and I didn’t get a chance to see this area in the day so we just had to wing it. Boy what a mistake. No one should fish that area unless they have seen it during the day. Jay had reconned the area earlier with Scott and Keith and his striper senses were firing and charged to hit the spot in the cover of darkness. One wrong step and you could end up between the cracks of those huge stone boulders. But I’d rather fall in those cracks than into the crack of Chad’s ass.
We just took our time and eventually made it down to the corner just underneath the left side of lighthouse. The tide was outgoing and the sets were about 8 seconds apart. Conditions were good… I just couldn’t focus properly on fishing when I didn’t know the structure or currents around me. That was a lesson learned. It paid off for Jay though, the exact location, exact rock, exact observation of the sweeping current, upon his 2nd or 3rd cast...he hooked up with a nice 30+ inch striper on a white SS darter. The only thing I got was a quick swipe on a Blue Soldati Slim. After about an hour or so we headed back to the motel to meet cousins Ray and Mark. Those guys were hot and horny to get on some fish after hearing about our first two days. I just knew they were gonna get on fish simply because Ray has always proven in the past to be a fish magnet. They arrived a little after midnight to fish early morning tides on Thursday. I was totally beat already by that time so couldn’t even get up for the bite. But before I hit the sack, I told Mark and Ray that I’ve been doing reasonably well at the jetty behind the motel.
Thursday October 11, 2012
On Thursday morning I got up real late….like 7:30 am. When I walked into the living room I noticed Jay was still sleeping. Then I peered out the back window and I see mark strolling back from the jetty with a nice 28” striper. I said “Good stuff homeboy”. He was gleaming with excitement…like a little child. I was so happy for him that I almost tried to carry him and throw him in the air…
He landed that fish with a white bucktail paired with a red/white pork rind.
Later in the day Me, Eric and Jay finally got our asses out of bed and decided to hit the south side towards Caswells. That terrain was brutal on my ankles and feet but it’s amazing how you just don’t feel pain when stripers are involved. It was a beautiful day…sunny skies, no wind but unfortunately no fish. Oh, and another thing…..Eric lost his gloves again, like in ’08…but luckily Mark stumbled upon them on his trek back to the car. So we left and headed back to the motel to get my head lamp and to rest up a bit. Jay was convinced that there would be fish at the north side given all the bait and boat activity. So we headed over there after dark. It was around 10:00 pm when we got to our spot. After a few casts I realized that I forgot my plug bag. What a fool I was! So I had to walk all to way back to the lower lot to get it. What a drag…
So as we continued to fish the north side on that Thursday night into Friday morning. Jay managed to get a swipe on his homemade eel skin plug and Ray caught a nice schoolie on a white lil neck popper in the cove near the light house called Scott’s Hole. Overall, it was a very slow session so we decided to head back to the motel where we met Jay’s other friends….Jay and his brother James.
Friday, October 12, 2012
Overall, the action slowed since the epic day we experienced on Tuesday but we still managed to get a few fish here and there. When morning arrived I continued to fish with only an hour of sleep. I caught another schoolie behind the motel and so did Jay (my cousin’s friend). It appeared that the action died near the motel. The last few outings have been slow. We were hungry to get into more action…..somewhere!
At this point the water got sloppy. I go back to the motel to get some much needed rest. Jay on the other hand took the other Jay and his bro to the lighthouse where they got skunked again. I remember being so tired by Friday that I was having difficulty recalling exactly what we did that night. Anyway, once Jay returned to the motel after trying to get Jay and James on some fish they all decided to rest up…..but I decided to do a little recon with Mark. We first check out the south side but it was dead. Then we headed over to the north where there was plenty of boat and bait action. While surveying the area I noticed some rocky shoreline off at the distance beyond north and false bar. I say to Mark, “Man that spot looks pretty fishy….I would love to give it a shot.” It was Mark’s last day so he knew it was now or never. He called Ray who was still sleeping in the motel urging him to go fish. Ray complied. I on the other hand, still extremely fatigued, could not get up enough energy to hit that spot in spite of its fish holding appeal. I regretfully decided to stay back for another quick cat nap like a pussy. Later in the day I get a text from Mark saying “Fish on!” I asked where they were at and they said “the spot that Joe liked on the north side”. Together Jay and I scoured the map for their location and determined that Mark and Ray were at an area called The Stepping Stones.
We were on our way….but by the time we got there… the action died. At least Mark got a nice keeper and Ray lost a nice fish breaking off his white li’l neck. I ended up with a tiny short on metal. As the afternoon progressed, the wind picked up quite a bit. The water was fishable but the wind made conditions unbearable so we decided to take off for some pizza at Pizza Village. Hot fresh food was all I had on my mind after that long fruitless session.
By this time Friday everyone was worn out. Mark, Ray, Jay and his bro James had to take off. So we were back to the original 3 - me, Eric and Jay. Now we had some time to strategize our next move. The clock was ticking so we knew this one had to count. Given that I was able to pick up fish from behind the motel consistently during the week, we decide to fish it first thing in the morning on the incoming.
Saturday, October 13
So it was Saturday October 13. Our flight back to CA was the next afternoon Sunday. I get out to the jetty at about 5:30 am. The first lure out of my bag was the 5” jointed red fin (black over silver). For the duration of the trip, that plug probably produced about 15+ fish. To my disappointment, when I got out to the jetty there was someone already fishing my spot…so instead, I decide to hit the sandy beach. After about 10 fruitless casts the guy vacated the area so I hurriedly took position before anyone else entered the scene. At that point I was the only one fishing. Jay and Eric were still boofing each other in the motel so I knew they would be there a while. The one thing I took from fishing Montauk is that precision and timing are critical. I studied the jetty carefully and knew there was a deep pocket near the left tip where bait resided. My suspicions were correct when I saw bait leaping from that specific spot earlier in the week. I would cast just beyond the jetty tip…to the left. Then I would swim the plug slowly until it hovered just over the pocket. The cast had to be perfect. No room for error. If the plug swam too far from or too close to the rocks, you didn’t get bit. I believe fish lurked on the ocean floor adjacent to the pocket in ambush mode.
As I manipulated the plug through the current and structure, it was suddenly inhaled by a hungry striper. We battled for several minutes before she finally succumbed to the power of the CTS/Van Staal combination. The next cast yielded the same result. I then got another hard bump on the beach side…but that was it for the jetty. I had no action for the next 15 minutes but catching two stripers in less than 20 minutes was not bad at all. At least I was getting action I thought to myself. After a few more casts I decide to work my way north towards Flagpole Hole. I reconned this area at minus tide and knew there had to be fish holding there. Flagpole Hole extends from the shore to about 60 – 70 yards out. By this time Eric shows up on the scene. He was pumped up to get into some action (other than boofing Jay in the motel) especially since I had already landed 2 fish. It was maybe 7:30 am. The water was very calm and the sun was about to rise. I switched plugs and went back to my small Bernzy Spook (aka. howdy).
The plug was working beautifully in the calm clean water. I was walking that dawg like no other… I knew exactly where the hole was so I limited my casts to just that area. But after severaI fruitless short casts I decide to launch one way out there…..beyond the hole. I swear that the CTS Vapor Trail series rods are the best casting rods I have ever tried. I thought the St. Croix Legend was the best, but it pales in comparison to the CTS. Effortless casting….ability to throw a wide range of plugs (½ ounce to 4 oz) and enough back bone to turn any brute striper in Montauk.
My eyes were fixated on the the plug as it waked seductively across the topwater. Suddenly its momentum was interrupted by a violent disruption. The plug went under and I felt the unmistakable weight of a feisty lineside. I knew I was ON fool! These migrating fish were fighters. They tugged and pulled like a dog on a meaty bone all the way to your feet. I guess the frothy whitewater fueled their bodies like performance enhancing doo doo. And this bad boy was no different. It took, what seemed to be an eternity to land this baby. Probably because it pounced on the plug two cranks into the cast. By the time he was beached, I was pooped. Measured him out and it was a fat keeper… 28” fish right on the dot. I decided to keep this one for my aunt, since Jay wasn’t catchin’ shit. By 8:00 am the sun was bright and over my head. Eric was fishing just to my right. Once again he was throwing the famed li’l neck popper. He was quite adept at manipulating that plug across the surface that I just had take a minute to observe the dance. As the plug chipped away at the topwater towards shore it was suddenly intercepted by an angry striper. I say angry because of the way that thing hit…you just knew it had very bad intentions. Once the water settled after that magnificent strike….the bend on Eric’s rod told the whole story. “Fish on baby!” I exclaimed. He had a smile from ear-to-ear at that point as he leveraged himself on the boulders in preparation for the inevitable landing. It was just shy of a keeper but like I said earlier, these migrating fish were strong and felt bigger than they actually were.
After about another 15 minutes of no action I glimpsed back over to the jetty and noticed a guy landing a small schoolie striper on the sandy side. Hmmm… I thought maybe I should give it a shot so I yelled over to Eric that I was headed over there. On the way, something caught my eye near the jetty tip. Approaching 50 yards from the jetty I notice bait shimmering in the water’s surface and going airborne. I motioned over to Eric yelling, “The fish are bustin’ fool!....Hurry up shithead!” I remember almost tripping over myself like a retard as I sprinted to take position. A kid fishing bait with his parents also noticed the panicking bait and he too got in the action. When I got to the jetty, I casted the Bernzy spook just beyond the busting bait. Booyah!!...... Immediate hook up baby! The excited snot nosed kid hooked up too. No skill was required in this crazy action. My first blitz fish was an impressive 38” lineside baby. By that time Eric got neck deep in the action as well…..as he did the tango with a bluefish, deceived by his yellow/white SS lil neck popper. Unfortunately for Eric, that big blue ended up swimming away with his popper stuck to his head. HAHAHA!!! While he was fighting that fish I looked for where Jay was. His slow ass was still on the rocks where I caught my earlier fish. I yelled over to him, “Jay, you fag! The fish are here….hurry beotch!” I felt like a fool screaming like a Sally while bystanders watched in awe as I landed one fish after another. I wasn’t sure if Jay heard my ass but I really didn’t care. The next dozen casts I land fish. It was either a feisty blue or a broad shouldered striper. It really didn’t matter. I was cool just gettin’ bit... I recall at one point the action being so intense…..striper tails stickin’ out of the water as they cornered bait in the crevices of the jetty. These were BIG fish ganging up on the resident spot! Stripers and blues in slaughter mode. It was so bad for the bait that they had to congregate in small pools near shore to avoid getting snacked on.
After battling another fish I looked to my left to see Jay struggling with a huge blue on his new noodle rod. His plug of choice was a yellow Eel Punt Small Swimmer. After he landed that monster Blue he decided to do something smart by standing next to me. While deciding on his next cast, Eric and I continued to massacre the fish on topwater. I continued to use the Bernzy Spook while Eric used a 2 oz Lordship pencil. Jay proceeded to cast the yellow Eel punt swimmer just to the left tip of the jetty. . I thought to myself, “what is this shithead doing casting a smaller eel punt swimmer???”
I observed his retrieve as I battled another fish. Three cranks of the eel punt and he was on baby! When I saw the tail of his fish break water, I said to myself….this fool was a LARGE. After releasing another keeper striper, I watch Jay as he continued to battle that large. The bend on his rod told the whole story. This fish weighed in at an impressive 26 lbs. A good fish for any water...east or west coast.
The action soon began to taper. I remember saying to myself “man I’m friginn’ tired. I think I’m done for now”. And I said this with fish still busting and being caught all around me. Never in my life have I said that while fishing. When you stop from fatigue with fish being caught, you know the moment is special. At the end, we had 6 big fish on the beach. We even gave a few away to onlookers. The tourists witnessing the event wanted photos of us like paparazzi. In fact there was even a professional photographer onsite that caught most of the action. He says we might even make it in the Montauk paper. Picture this: a beautiful sunny day…big stripers laying on the beach, people taking photographs and congratulating you. Damn…we felt like stars. THE END
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