SURFCASTER’S j o u r n a l
Many men go fishi without knowing that it
ing all of their lives is not fish they are after. ~Henry David Thoreau
Ask any surfcaster to describe the sport of surfcasting in one single word and I bet that â€œsolitudeâ€? would rank as one of the top choices. But is this true or is it something that we have heard and repeated so many times that it has become a top choice by default? Yes, there truly is something magical about standing in the surf, casting your offering into the ocean and working your lure like an artist works his paintbrush on the canvas. All in hope of that moment when it all comes together. The fish strikes the lure, you lean back on your rod and the battle ensues.
For me, the serenity of surf fishing is enjoyable only until the fish strikes, after that I often scan the shoreline to see if any of my friends are around. No, not because I have an ego the size of the Empire State Building and I need to have an audience watch me land a fish. Instead, it’s a moment that I yearn to share with a friend, hoping he will hook up too. For all that “solitude” is cracked up to be, think about how much you would enjoy this sport if you were the only person who fished? If you had no one to talk to about lures and spots, no one to share your triumphs and failures, no one to take a picture of that monster you know you will release but would still like to have a memory on film. Would you be willing to go on a road trip alone, would you wade out on a offshore bar on a dark night knowing there is no one to lend a hand if you get washed off the sandbar?
In my opinion, it is the friendships we make along our journey in life what makes this sport so enjoyable. Everyone needs a time to clear the head and to spend time casting into the vast ocean, hoping for a strike. But as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, you will make that call after you are done to share your experience with a trusted friend. They are always there to lend you an ear, to accompany you on a road trip or to offer you a helping hand if you need one. In this issue of Surfcasterâ€™s Journal magazine you will read about friends who are hoping to gather the group for one last memorable trip, about friends who received a baptism by fire and about friends we lost along the way.
Life is a journey that takes us to unexpected places, a joyride in which we meet our future lifelong fishing buddies in the strangest of places, and often friends are there to give us a helping hand when we need it most. Yes, you will always remember that monster you caught but you'll probably forget most other fish you brought to the shore and released. But you will never forget who you fished with when you caught them. Because fish are here today and gone tomorrow but your fishing buddy will remain by your side forever....or as long as you keep sharing those expensive lures you been hiding from your wife!
-Zeno Hromin June 2010
Surfcasterâ€™ s Journal Issue #3 Summer 2010 12-Geared Up 24-Postcard From Down Under-Robley 57-The Rod Corner- Caruso 64-A Day In The Life- Barone 68-In Memoriam Kurt Stokes 79-AOK Tackle Interview- Hromin 97-Confessions of a Poacher- Doe 109-Wetsuiting With A Newbie- Moreno 127-Fishers Log- Skinner 149-Veterans Day- Papciak 206-Contributors
Surfcaster's Journal is published quarterly by Surfcasting LLC. Publisher reserves the right to accept or reject any advertising submitted for publication. Surfcasting LLC and Surfcaster's Journal assume no responsibility for errors made except to republish in future issue any advertisement having an error. Use of this material without express written permission of Surfcasting LLC and Surfcaster's Journal is strictly prohibited.
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When Super Strike Custom Lures announced this spring that they would make a heavier version of their best selling large needlefish, we were not happy. After all, weâ€™ve invested hundreds of dollars in a drill press, buck shot and epoxy so we could load the lures ourselves. And besides, we were getting very good at doing this with our remaining six fingers. Well, at least now our wife will understand that we werenâ€™t out of our mind when we spent hours in the basement loading our plugs. Maybe she will even find it in her heart to forgive us when we accidentally glued her Burberry and Coach handbags together. Hey, we had to test our epoxy on something! We make no secret about our love affair with any lure from Super Strike, especially with its large needlefish, darters and sinking poppers. We always did yearn for a heavier needlefish on those days when the winds were kicking and the surf was wild. Super Strike delivered with this new weighted design that cuts through the wind like a hot knife through butter. Now if we can only get them to go back to the drawing board and make that pencil popper that we have heard rumors about over the years. We can dream, can't we?
We have seen many reincarnations of old lures brought to market over the years. Being old cranky farts, we don’t get too excited about many things these days except when we find a Members Only jacket that actually fits our expanding waistline. But recently Salty’s new darter got our attention and after testing it, we had to buy more bibs to contain our drool. Look, you can buy just about any plug made today, yesterday or twenty years ago. The problem is that most are either metal lip swimmers or needlefish lures. Not many builders attempt to produce a darter. Maybe it’s because the darter is considered to be the hardest lure to produce with consistency from wood. Salty not only produced a good looking darter but a darter that is the spitting image of the deadly Danny Pichney design last made thirty years ago. Yes, you can still find some from other builders on eBay at highly inflated prices but why? Salty has not only brought a great lure back into the market but they are also available as lure kits. This will be great for those of you who have more than six fingers left from your previous project. We tested the lure, we liked it and we definitely approve. Now if Salty can make a smaller version of Danny’s darter, our Christmas list would be much shorter.
How many times, after feeding your lure or bait to an oversized striper, would you have bet your house that its belly was full of sand eels, bunker or herring? And how many times, after cleaning your catch, you found nothing but crabs in its belly? Probably more time than youâ€™d like to admit. Big girls are opportunistic feeders that seem to prefer inhaling crabs instead of joining in a blitz with their smaller siblings. After all, crabs, unlike baitfish, rarely ever get away from a hungry striper. We have always been intrigued with plastic crab lures made by CW Crab. They look so lifelike that we thought a striper or a weakfish would have a hard time resisting them. Maybe it was our dumb luck or maybe we were just at the right place at the right time. Whatever it was, the first time we took the CW Crab lures for a little testing last October, the fish were all over it. Although this particular spot we went to is known as schoolie territory, no fish that we caught was smaller than 14 pounds. We particularly liked the sinking version at this inlet spot but we can definitely see the floater being very productive on the back bay flats. It is not the type of lure that we would pull out of our bag on the oceanfront as itâ€™s more suited for light tackle in the inlets and back bays. We do wish there was a bigger version, something we all have heard a few times over the years from our wives.
Have you ever stood on the dunes overlooking the ocean and looked for breaking fish or a pod of baitfish that every one of your friends could see but you couldn’t? Did it make you wonder if maybe you needed glasses or maybe more carrots to improve your vision? We think you have a problem but a visit to the optometrist or a vegetable stand might not be what was needed. What you have is called cheapoglassitis. When translated from the Latin, it means you are too cheap to buy a good pair of sun glasses and instead you keep sticking a cheap piece of plastic in front of these most important body parts. Do we need to remind you that it’s the only pair of eyes you have? You should head to your local tackle shop and check out a pair of Costa Del Mar polarized shades designed by fisherman, for fisherman. They reduce the sun’s glare on the water and allow you to see beneath the water’s surface where the fish of your dreams are roaming. We particularly like the 580 lenses which enhance color, contrast and definition and are light as a feather. And Costa Del Mar glasses come in so many styles that we are sure that you will find one that suits your taste and will fit your gigantic head.
Costa Del Mar The way we see it, you have a choice to make. You can either be the coolest cat on the block with a pair of Costa’s on your nose or you can stick with your outdated and oversized 70's Ambervision shades and continue to scare small children and animals. Your choice...
When it comes to new products, surfcasters as a whole are probably the last group of fisherman to embrace them. Let's be honest, our freshwater cousins invented a darter decades before we ever had one. They’ve been playing with plastics long before it became fashionable to toss them in the surf. Braided lines, plastic swimmers, giant metal lip swimmers all can trace their roots to freshwater applications long before we “adopted” them as our own. When it comes to scents used to freshen your natural bait or to spice up your artificial lures, we again find ourselves in the rear of the train.
We understand certain reservations on the part of surfcasters to add scent to their lures. Only someone who has never left a dead eel in his truck for few days during a scorching heat wave wouldn’t know why. But there is a time and place for everything. You can't tell us that that frostbitten rigged eel from last August could not use a little makeover? And how about that bunker head that still has all its meat intact but looks washed out? We tried BioEdge scent on our trip to the Florida Keys and found that dropping a dab of a Shrimp scented BioEdge onto our Tsunami Shads increased our hook–up ratio with snook. Of course, you could say this could just be a fluke so we welcomed the opportunity to do some more testing this spring in our home waters. We opted for squid scent as squid are often on the menu of post-spawning stripers. Our unscientific research showed that there is some merit to the claim that scented bait out-produces the unscented ones. On one night when we couldn’t buy a bump after a zillion casts we liberally squirted some Squid Juice on our bucktail and hooked up on our first cast. Coincidence? Maybe, but it gave us incentive to keep it in our bag. You know what wouldn’t be a crazy idea? To drill a small hole in your plastic plug, squirt some BioEdge scent in the cavity and plug it with a piece of sponge that would release the scent slowly. Yeah, we know, we are not originators but we do a darn good job copying other’s brilliant ideas.
We will readily admit that first time our buddy showed us his Aquapac waterproof case, we were unimpressed. Not because the product didn’t look sturdy enough or we did not like the design, but because we are cheapskates. Why buy a waterproof enclosure case when you can just steal your wife’s Ziploc bag? In only took us few weeks to realize, after we ruined three cell phones in the process, that Aquapac is not a luxury but a necessity. Let's face it, everyone and their mother heads to the beach with a cell phone in their pocket. Keep it in your pants, under the waders and you are certain to miss every phone call you receive. By the time you strip enough gear to get to your phone, the caller has long since hung up. With Aquapac around your neck, you will now be able to receive those pesky “bring home milk” text message instantaneously, which should make your wife very happy. The best feature of these incredibly tough and completely waterproof bags is that you can talk through the bag without ever exposing your phone to the elements. We swam with Aquapac under our wetsuits in many places and our gear always remained a 100% dry. We can honestly say that there are very few products that never failed us throughout our years in the surf. Aquapac is one of the items on that very short list.
We were fans of Yo-Zuri lures long before it was fashionable to cast Surface Cruisers in the ocean and watch stripers and blues go “ga-ga” over them. We still remember when we used to get bewildered looks and sneering comments like “Youse are fishing for tuna with those?” Who’s laughing now when every surfcaster up and down the coast has one in his bag? Not us, we don’t hold grudges but we do know a good thing when we see one. As a connoisseur of fine “pluggage”, it did not take us long to notice YoZuri’s new Sashimi line. It is a proven fact that many species change colors when either in distresses or when trying to blend into the surroundings to evade predators. These lures accomplish this same thing as they change their colors when looked from different angles. Its unique ribbed body design produces vibrations that fish can hone in on via their lateral lines. If that wasn’t enough, they also feature ball bearings that produce a rattling sound when retrieved. Although we love our Surface Cruisers, they are prone to splitting in half when slammed against a rock. No need to worry about that with the Sashimi series, they are made out of flexible plastic, through wired and seemingly bulletproof. We tested the poppers and swimmers and we like them both. We were always fans of Yo-Zuri swimmers since they caught us a ton of fish in the past. We won't, however, leave home without our Surface Cruisers. Ever!
You are perched on a rock on the night of the new moon. The tide is rising and you know you only have a short time before you get washed off the rock. With every cast you anxiously keep one eye on the waves coming at you while the other is roaming the darkness for any sign of life. Then it happens, you are into a fish! After a battle of wills you bring the fish to the rock, all while still keeping one eye on the waves that mercilessly pound you. You know that landing this pissed off fish with 3 sets of treble hooks hanging out of its mouth was going to be tricky. You turn on your head lamp but nothing happens. You shake it, twist it but the light will not come on. Now what? We all been in this predicament and let's face it, it's mostly due to our own silly habit of buying the cheapest product that â€œlooks good.â€? Let us be the first to tell you, the mighty ocean can smell cheap equipment a mile away. It will chew it up, corrode it and spit it out in no time. We are big fans of Princeton Tec lights, from their smaller models like the Rage to the super-duper dive lights. We took spills with them on jetties, swam with them in our wetsuits and carried them on our head and around our necks and they just keep working. Recently Princeton Tec Remix caught our attention, not only for the big pushbutton on the top and the pivoting head, but also for its white and red light that can be adjusted for brightness.
You can continue to buy the cheapest light but just like that fake Coach bag you tried to pass off to your wife as the real thing, it will show its true colors. In fact, our wife insisted we buy them a few Rage lights for those days when we are without power and they need light to rummage through our wallets looking for Benjamin Franklins. Princeton Tec lights are affordable and we love how they perform in the surf. Their five year warranty is just a cherry on top of the cake.
TOP OF THE LINE
MADE IN THE USA
WOOD FISHING PLUGS
MADE IN THE USA
BY JAMIE ROBLEY
Australia is a huge island surrounded by 21,250 miles of coastline. While a large proportion of our population lives near the shore and most of our big cities are also right on the coast, there are endless miles of very remote beaches, rocky shorelines and peninsulas. Some of these locations require extreme planning and effort to get to. There are many areas, especially in the north of the country that are almost never fished. It’s just too difficult to get there!
For the most part, however, Aussies love their surf fishing and they don’t have to travel very far at all to enjoy their sport. In fact, within a ten minute drive, at least a quarter of our population can be standing at the water’s edge, casting a bait or lure into the surf. We are a nation of beach, sun and water lovers. Apart from fishing, swimming, surfing or just lazing around at the beach is almost a national pastime. Call us lazy or even spoiled, but that’s the Aussie way of life!
OUR FISH There are many species of fish in our coastal waters that are both popular as sport fish and as food. So some of us fish for fun, others fish to get a meal of fresh seafood and most fish for both reasons. Others fish simply to get out and enjoy our clean air and water. Some of the fish encountered along our surf zone are unique to Australian waters, while others are very similar to fish found off the east and west coasts of America, South Africa and other countries. First let’s look at one that you’ll be familiar with - the bluefish. Here in Australia we have a very close cousin of the bluefish, which we call the “tailor”. Our tailor are almost identical to bluefish and have the same sort of habits, including that aggressive attitude. Tailor are found mainly along our east and west coast, venturing into southern waters from time to time. An average tailor would be from one to three pounds. Tailor from 5 to 10 pounds are occasionally caught and every once in a while some lucky angler will hook onto a lunker of 20 pounds or more. The biggest recorded in our waters is close to 40 pounds, but catching one of that size would be highly unlikely these days. In the past it was possible to catch up to 50 or even 100 tailor within a couple of hours, but these days we just don’t see those big numbers anymore. To catch 5 or 10 tailor around two pounds is far more likely.
Another very popular and prolific fish is the Australian salmon, known in New Zealand as the kahawai, this fish is no relation to the true salmons of the northern hemisphere. While the Aussie salmon shares very similar habits to tailor or bluefish, rather than a mouthful of sharp teeth, it has a large mouth a bit like striped bass. Salmon prefer cooler waters and can be found around the southern half of the country, sometimes venturing farther north along the east and west coasts. An average salmon is around two or three pounds, but fish of 5 to 8 pounds are commonly caught. A big one is anything over 8 pounds, but they can grow to around 20 pounds. Through our winter months, we look forward to huge numbers of salmon migrating northward along the coast. A big school of salmon will turn the surf black and when they move in close to shore the fun begins. Cast after cast, itâ€™s possible to hook these powerful fighters. They are a very stubborn opponent and will make a number of leaps in an effort to shake off the hook. One of our better sporting fish, they will take a wide variety of lures, flies and baits. Small, thin metal lures around a half to one ounce cast out into the surf are best most of the time. The only negative aspect of Aussie salmon is that they are a poor eating fish, but thatâ€™s probably their saving grace.
Two very common favorites, that are highly prized on the dinner table, are bream and whiting. These are smaller fish that like to move right in close, looking for food churned up as the surf hits the sand. Bream grow to around 6 or 7 pounds while an average one is closer to a pound. Whiting are only a small fish mostly caught at half a pound, with a big whiting being two pounds. Bream look very similar to a sheepshead, with a more silver or chrome color, while our whiting are very similar to bonefish in both shape and color. Small baits like mussel, worm or shrimp are used to catch both species at the beach, although they will take lures in some situations.
The greatest prize of the Aussie surf is the mulloway, also known as jewfish or grouper. These often elusive fish are a member of the croaker family and look a bit like a weakfish. They can grow to 100 pounds, although any jewfish over 40 pounds is considered a good one and above 50 they can rightfully be called a giant. Our jewfish will take a range of different baits or lures, but most fish are hooked on very fresh baits like squid or mullet. From wave lashed rock walls and peninsulas quite a few jewfish also fall to large swimming lures, so fishing for them is not unlike fishing for striped bass. Needless to say, the gear used when casting lures must be strong enough to deal with the fight of a large fish in a pounding surf.
At times, the smaller jewfish, which we call “schoolies” can show up in good numbers and it’s possible to catch 10 or more at a time. The bigger fish however, are far more elusive and it’s not uncommon to spend many long nights at the beach only to come home empty handed. When your luck turns though, there is nothing that gets the blood pumping more than the sight of a big jewfish being left high and dry on the sand, as a wave recedes. Those who dedicate many long hours chasing this species are a special breed. Not often seen, these fishermen are very secretive and are looked upon with great respect and admiration by other surf anglers.
There are a number of other fish that can be caught from the sand or rocks and one of the more unique Aussie fish is the “flathead”. There are around 40 subspecies of flathead in our waters, but the main one of interest to anglers is the dusky flathead which grows to around 30 pounds. Most flathead however, are 2 or 3 pounds and at this size they are a fantastic fish to eat, with very white, mild tasting flesh. Around the northern half of the country, the surf becomes quite calm as our northern waters are protected by many offshore islands and reef systems, the largest being our famous “Great Barrier Reef” which runs along most of the Queensland coastline.
Species encountered in our northern waters that are of interest to shore based anglers include Spanish mackerel, queenfish, barracuda, tuna and of course our world class sportsfish - the barramundi. All of these fish are great lure takers and require robust tackle. In the case of Spanish mackerel and some of our other smaller mackerel species, wire is a must if you donâ€™t want to lose all your lures!
THE WAY WE FISH There isn’t a huge difference in the way we surf fish down under. The basics of surf casting remain the same, however we do tend to have certain gear, bait and lures that are preferred. Spinning and conventional reels are used, however there are many who prefer to use our Aussie made Alvey sidecast reels, due to the way these simple reels can handle being dumped in the surf, filled up with sand or bumped around the rocks, with almost no ill effect. Although these reels are tough, they are also quite bulky and not as easy to use as a spinning reel. Another thing about us Aussies, we like the reel handle on the “wrong” side of the reel. So down here a right handed reel has the handle on the right side, to be wound with the right hand! For many years the average surf fisherman down here has used our locally manufactured rods which have been specifically designed for our rock and beach fishing requirements. In the past they were often quite heavy, but over the years these rods have become lighter. The 12 footer is about the most popular length, particularly in southern areas, but you’ll also find a lot of 13 and 14 foot rods at our beaches. In recent years, we’ve started to change our ways and a lot more people are leaning towards 10 foot rods to punch out lures into the surf and we will also use much lighter 7 footers when the surf is calm and we are targeting smaller species.
Bait is the way to go for many anglers, especially around the southern half of the country, but around 30 percent of keen surf anglers cast lures for our tailor, salmon and jewfish on a regular basis. Up north however, lures are a more popular choice, especially when casting from the rocks for spanish mackerel, tuna, queenfish or barramundi. One to two ounce metal lures are certainly the main ones used, as they get the distance often required to reach fish like tailor, salmon or tuna. These fish have a habit of staying in deeper water. Surface lures like large poppers are often used when casting from the rocks and once again, they are a popular choice in our northern areas. Larger soft plastics and big swimming minnows are the choice of those chasing jewfish or mulloway.
HOT SPOTS There are a number of well known rock and beach fishing hot spots dotted around Australia’s coastline. So the following is a list of such places, state by state. NEW SOUTH WALES Australia’s most densely populated state has many miles of great surf fishing hot spots and it’s even possible to enjoy good surf fishing in Sydney, our largest city. While Sydney’s beaches can become crowded with people surfing or swimming through the day, later at night or very early in the morning you’ll encounter fish like salmon, tailor, bream, whiting and jewfish in the surf. Lure casting from Sydney’s large wave lashed rock platforms will result in salmon and tailor through the cold months and tailor, bonito, tuna and kingfish through the warmer months. Within a few hours drive north or south from Sydney, there are many great beaches. QUEENSLAND Our northeastern state, Queensland is famous for the great surf fishing there. Without question the most popular place to cast a line into the surf in Queensland is at Fraser Island. This large, sandy island can be reached from the mainland via a barge which can take your car or four wheel drive vehicle as well as all your fishing equipment. Fraser Island is known as our tailor fishing mecca, although most other species of fish will also roam the beaches here.
VICTORIA Our most populated southern state also has many miles of pristine surf beaches. Here, tailor are also abundant, as are salmon and from some beaches jewfish and sharks can be caught. The part of Victoria known as East Gippsland is largely an untouched national park and although access to some of the beaches here is difficult, the fishing is worth the effort. SOUTH AUSTRALIA As the name suggests, this is our big southern state. Once again, there are miles of surf fishing options here. Perhaps the two areas that excite most South Aussies are the mouth of the big Murray River in the eastern part of the state and the very isolated wild surf beaches of the Yalata area, which is land owned by our native aboriginal people, over in the west. Plenty of big salmon roam the beaches down in this part of the country, but itâ€™s the big jewfish or mulloway caught at both the Murray River mouth and over at Yalata that are the stuff dreams are made of. Avid surf anglers from all over Australia make the big trip to Yalata each year in search of a mighty mulloway over the 70 pound mark. For many the dream comes true and fish of up to 90 pounds have been beached here over the years.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA Western Australia is our largest state, covering an area of around three and a half times the size of Texas. The true “wild west” is located in this part of the world and as you can imagine, the fishing here can also be pretty wild! About half way up the coast we come to Shark Bay which is famous for its big tailor and mulloway. For a real taste of the wild west, Steep Point is an out of the way rocky point north of Shark Bay, which is also the most westerly point of Australia. Here big Spanish mackerel, cobia, tuna, queenfish and large sharks are caught. Although Steep Point is well known around Australian fishing circles, only the most dedicated anglers put in the effort needed to get there. Then we come to the town of Carnarvon which is Australia’s premier jewfish or mulloway hot spot. Although both are a long way from anywhere, the highways are well paved and it’s possible to drive there with a normal sedan or wagon. Fishing in our other states, Tasmania and the Northern Territory is also first class, however most of it isn’t really for the surfcaster.
CLIMATE AND HAZARDS For the most part, Australia’s climate is harsh, with extreme temperatures right around the northern half of the country year round, while the intense heat can penetrate into the southern states for weeks on end through summer. Winds blows from all directions year round, with summer having mainly onshore wind and in winter offshore. Strong southerly winds can blow up from Antarctica. While it’s mainly quite a dry country, we often experience heavy rains and flooding, especially during summer and into fall. Yes, it does snow in Australia, but only in a small part of the south east, for a few months during winter. Mid summer temperatures can are generally between 80 and 105 degrees, while it can get down to near freezing temperatures in the coldest parts of the country through mid winter. Australia’s waters are not without certain hazards. Although swimming and surfing are popular pastimes down under, each year there are a number of shark attacks around the country, some fatal. Our most dangerous waters, as far as big sharks go, are in South Australia, where the great white sharks are king of the sea.
In our tropical north there are also plenty of sharks, but on top of that we have huge man-eating crocodiles that have been known to bite outboard boat motors. Then there are a whole host of dangerous marine stingers. Along the east coast thousands of small “blue bottle” stingers are swept in by onshore winds through summer, which feel like a severe wasp or bee sting if you come into contact with them. Perhaps the worst creature is a larger marine stinger called the “box jellyfish”, which has very long tentacles. They drift inshore from about September through to the following April in our northern waters. The box jellyfish can inflict such intense pain that the nervous system can send a person into spasms and emergency treatment is required. There have been a number of deaths resulting from box jellyfish encounters and I’ve seen what an affected part of the body can look like, months after a major sting. It looks like a white hot iron bar has been wrapped around your skin - ouch!
VISITING THE LAND DOWN UNDER
Aussies are a friendly bunch and we welcome our American surf fishing comrades with open arms. Apart from the fact that we have the handles on the wrong side of our reels and also drive on the wrong side of the road, our way of life is very relaxed and quite similar to America. There are quite a few guided fishing services around the country, from the big cities to the most remote areas. Flights depart from Los Angeles daily and it takes around 15 hours or so to fly across the Pacific. When ya get here, just say “G’day mate” and from that point on it’s all fun and fishing.
Handcrafted to be eaten ALIVE!
produced by handmade in MASSACHUSETTS - vmc HOOKS wolverine TRIPLE SPLIT RINGS - thru WIRED kroc SWIVELS - sealed AYC length-6” weight-2.3 oz
SWIMMER METAL LIP 2.3 OZ
“Fish it like a Pencil Popper for amazing top water action.” 3oz
Surface Tension Lure
with patented channel design.
.4 SIZES .ABS PLASTIC .THRU-WIRE CONSTRUCTION .MADE IN THE USA
Why choose a custom rod? Some time ago, a potential customer came to me looking to buy a custom rod. After we went through the usual chat about the type of fishing he does, where he fishes and pricing, he posed this question to me: “Why should I buy a custom rod?” This got me thinking of all the pros of having a custom rod. I’m guessing my closing argument was not up to snuff because I never saw him again…..
There are many good factory rods out there today. Some of them use the latest technology by using “low riders” or “concept guides” or even multiple detachable handles, but are they maximizing the potential of the rod? I started building rods back in the early 1970’s because I have always been “vertically challenged” and couldn’t find fishing rods that fit me properly. My way around that was to build my own. Let’s compare a factory rod to a custom. One of the critical factors in building a fishing rod is reel seat location. If the seat is too close or too far from the butt, you could wind up loosing power and accuracy in your cast. Factory rod reel seats are at a standard location, which may or may not fit you. Your reel seat also dictates guide location and the amount of guides needed to have good static deflection. Static deflection is the stress put on the blank, through the guides, while under load. Next, let’s look at guides. A factory rod will use guides set up in a standard layout. Most standard factory rods will also use the most durable guides, which may not be the lightest. Let’s take a look at factory rods using “Fuji Concept” guides. These are great guides and they do work on a factory rod. However, if you are going to use these guides wouldn’t it be prudent to lay them out using the concept system to optimize their potential? This requires the use of a specific formula and is based on the reel you are using. With a custom rod, this will be taken into account on the blank you select.
FACTORY ROD PAC BAY CHANNEL LOC PLATE REEL SEAT
HEAVY FACTORY ROD GUIDE FUJI ALCONITE
CUSTOM COLORS AND THREADWORK
If you are using a rod for a specific type of fishing, a custom will excel. Let’s say you are looking for a stick specifically for fishing bucktails from a jetty. Yes, you could go with a factory rod that will be set up for general applications, but a custom can be tailored specifically for the task, from selecting the blank, to setting the reel seat and finally picking and laying out the guides. If you do decide to go with a custom, do your homework. There are many good builders out there. Ask around. Get feedback. Some specialize in particular types of rods. Some do unbelievable artwork if that’s your thing. When you finally decide on a builder put together a checklist to go over with him. This will help you have an idea of what you would like incorporated into the rod. Your checklist should include: 1 – Type of blank, (Lamiglas, Rainshadow, St Croix, etc.) and length you were thinking about. 2 – Standard reel seat, plate reel seat or no reel seat. 3 – Type and layout of guides. Are you looking for a standard cone of flight or maybe the concept layout? Do you want alconites, or silicon carbides for lightness or hardloy’s for durability? 4 – Colors and threadwork 5 – Type of butt and fore grip, cork, cork tape, shrink tube etc.
Discuss these items with your builder. He or she will guide you in the right directionâ€Ś We spend an awful lot on equipment for our sport. To me your fishing rod is most important and not the place to be cheap. If you can afford it, make that investment and go for the custom rod of your dreams. Tight Lines, Lou
Lou has been wrapping custom rods for over 30 years. Visit him on the web at: LousCustomRods.com
Your fishing partner since 1986. O L D S AY B R O O K . C O N N E C T I C U T . 8 6 0 . 3 8 8 . 2 2 8 3
A Day In The Life By Stephen Barone A mile gone, over sand and stone Night time falls, you stand alone Climb up on a rock, dig in your feet Searching for a lure, plug bag’s not neat Snap on a swimmer and cast toward the east Steady, slow retrieve, awaiting a beast Cast after cast, without a hit Keep changing lures, ‘til you get bit Hours have passed, sunrise is near Still no fish, a skunking you fear You whisper, “Last cast”, the famous phrase And hope the fish show, in the next couple days On the ride home, ponder what went wrong Turn up the radio; it’s your favorite song Pull into the driveway, unload the jeep Climb into bed, a few hours asleep As you drift off, for linesiders you’re wishing Even in your dreams, you’re striped bass fishing Arise for work, the day is new Can’t wait for the evening, just the ocean and you
Losing a good friend is like losing a little part of yourself. All of us at Surfcasterâ€™s Journal were shocked and saddened when our fellow surfcaster, Kurt Stokes, recently passed away at a young age. We had the pleasure of fishing with Kurt quite often during the last few years as he liked to fish the same beaches as we did, usually after the whole world had gone to sleep. We know that using superlatives to describe someone who is not with us any more is common but Kurt was truly an exceptional human being. We knew him as a devoted dad and husband, a member of a local surf fishing club and an accomplished angler and author. But it was his personality that drew us to him. He was such a joyous person, so full of life, that we cannot think of a single instance when he didnâ€™t greet us with a smile and a hearty handshake. This season and in the future, we will miss seeing the footprints in the sand that he would leave when rushing home to get breakfast bagels for his family. We will miss his greetings in the middle of the night and most of all, we will miss his smile that could light up the beach. We know that you are looking down on us and we hope that you find nothing but blitzing stripers in Heaven.
ad My D tokes S e i r e l a ld By V years o an. m 8 r e ish e. f a as the tim d w d a a l My d went al ee my d ch He still s he bea . t I can ding on his hand n. a Stan a rod in m r ishe ng Club f With a as Fishi er. w d a e My d nt of th for dinn ide g fish s er. e h r c P tchin a a te fish Ca s a d w me to er a d My aught the riv ite. He t ing by fish to b d Stan for the ad. . d t a i ng gre herman t i a a s W d wa an a fis ving; a d My tter th and lo be kind n. u n f e d Ev e was s an H nerou ory m e e G a m rever. s i ad art fo d y M y he dad! u m o In love y I
MY MEMORY OF M Y DAD By Nicole Stokes 12 years old One memory I hav e of my Dad was th e time I visited my aunt an d uncle’s house in Rockville Centre. My aunt an d uncle live near Mil l River. I have always loved visiting them. That day, my Dad and my uncles took me, my sister and my cousin fishing at the ri ver. There wasn’t a dock, so we sat on the grass overlooking the riv er. My uncle baited my ho ok, and my dad sho wed me how to cast the line. When I was waiting for a fish to bite, I did handst ands while my sister held my line. It was beautiful to lo ok at the river and list en to the geese fly overhead. Even though we did n’t catch anything, I still had fun spending time w ith my family. When I mis s my dad, I think ba ck to this beautiful and happy day.
A Trust Fund has been set up for Nicole and Valerieâ€™s future College expenses. Anyone interested in donating to the Kurtis W. Stokes Memorial Trust can do so by sending it to: 2697 Windsor Avenue, Oceanside, NY, 11572.
READ MORE, DREAM LESS!
Striper Tales is the best book of surfcasting stories since Robert Post’s “Reading the Water!” Available at a shop near you or by going to www.djmullersurfcaster.com
a o k
You reside in PA, not a place many would consider a hotbed of surfcasting. What made you fall in love with the sport? I’ve had a love of fishing ever since I was a little boy. My dad helped instill in me a passion for fishing at our lake house in northern NJ. About 12 years ago I fell in with a group of guys who fished from the beach in New Jersey and Massachusetts. They told me tales of blitzing striped bass and marauding bluefish, all caught on lures from the beach. They told me the size of the fish they were catching, which literally blew my mind. I was used to catching largemouth and smallmouth bass, pickerel and catfish. A big fish for me was 5 pounds or so! So when they made mention of striped bass over 20 pounds and bluefish in the teens, well my interest was piqued for sure. The first few trips were not much more than learning the gear and learning how to read the beach. I was NOT used to casting a rod more than 6 ½ feet long, so there was a big learning curve. After a few more outings with very patient friends, I was able to hook my first striped bass. It was a schoolie, but I caught it in that great big ocean! An old cliché, but after that fish I was hooked on surfcasting. The catching turned out to be only a part of the greater whole. The whole surfcasting experience is what made me fall for this sport of ours. The lonely, deserted beaches! The pitch black nights! The big surf and foul weather! The challenge of finding fish on a long expanse of coastline! The great friends I’ve found through surfcasting! The peace it brings me! That's what I love about surfcasting.
Tell us a story about how A.O.K. Tackle came into existence. We understand you have mad machining skills... Well, I feel fortunate that I came across a trade or career or whatever you'd like to call it, that I’ve been able to excel at. It is pretty cool to take a chunk of metal and make it into something useful. A master carpenter does the same with wood. Metal just hurts more when it flies off the lathe and whacks you good! A.O.K. Tackle came about because I wanted to see if I could build a better mousetrap. It started when I received in the mail some metal lures that I had ordered. After taking a close look at them, the wheels started turning, and I set out to see if I could make something similar. These funny looking pieces of metal catch fish, but I really couldn’t believe the amount of money I was putting out for these lures that honestly, looked pretty cheap and not well made. So while I was at the milling machine at work one day, making parts for a job out of hex stock, I took a bar end scrap piece, cut the nose the way I thought it should look, then turned it 90 degrees and cut the tail end. The profile looked good, kind of like a thin baitfish such as a spearing. I cut a couple of end holes for the split rings and added some stick-on eyes. II had what I thought was something that might catch fish. I just want to point out here, that my first few batches of lures were made out of 304 series stainless steel. Profile was what I was keying in on. During the testing phase I found out how well the lures cast. Yes they’re metal, and yes they should cast far, but I was surprised on how well they cut through the wind. My first casting test was in the parking lot behind the shop where I work. I brought in my 10’ plug rod, which had a Daiwa Tournament 2600SS reel spooled with 30# braid. I took aim at a patch of grass along side of the parking lot, reared back and let it fly. It didn't hit the grass, or anywhere near it for that matter. The metal landed quite a distance beyond my target and actually went over a telephone wire during its maiden flight. So, it seemed to me that they cast pretty well. So off to the water to see what’s what. The closest water to me is the Delaware River. After explaining away all the funny looks I was getting from the shoreline anglers with my big lure and big rod, I cast out into the river to see what the T-HEX did on the retrieve. The result, not a wild side to side action, but a sweet, subtle little wobble. Phase 2 completed. Now, will it catch fish? On the first outing to the beach, I was able to land a few bluefish, so I was happy. I made a few dozen for friends and they caught fish. I made more for more people and they also caught fish, so I had a
crazy idea: why not make them for sale? A.O.K. Tackle Co., LLC was started January 1, 2004. I also make bait rigs for clam and bunker chunk fishing, and sand spikes too. The T-HEX, as I mentioned, started out being made from 304 stainless steel. My main problem with this material was the surface finish. All bar stock comes from the mill with a specified outside finish such as mill, polished, ground etc. To get material right from the factory with a polished finish is a pricey endeavor, so for me the mill finish was the way I ordered it. It was nasty to say the least. Pitted and scaled, it needed to be sanded. Then I had to polish out the sanding marks and then apply the finish polish. Way too much labor to get a finish I was happy with. One day I took a Kastmaster to the sanding belt to see what it was made of. To my surprise it was brass. Ok, now we’re thinking. Brass is much easier, and much faster to machine, and its weight is very close to the stainless steel that I was using. The price was comparable and after some research, I found that with a nice chrome finish, the lures would look nice and also be very durable. So brass is the material that all of my lures are made from ever since the first few hundred back in ’04. After the T-HEX got some beach time, and caught fish for some anglers, I set out to make a lure that better matched the wider, fuller bodied bait fish like peanut bunker and small butterfish. This is how the PB-40 P-Nut Bunker slab spoon came about. After some trial and error, I took the 2oz. version to market. The error was that I first rigged this spoon with the bucktail hook on the other end of where it is now. I figured this was the heavier end and it should lead on the cast…………………….WRONG!
Going back to your vast oceanfront villa in PA, it must be a pain to do testing. Or do your lures cast so well you can reach the New Jersey shore from your house? Don't laugh, we've heard all kinds of stories from plug builders over the years. Haha…………that would save me lots of gas money if I could reach the beach from PA, but hey, road trips are part of the fun right? My initial testing is done in the Delaware River, not far from my home. I enlist the help of a good buddy, and try to do all of my testing in the summer months and here’s why. Metals, unlike wood surface lures are virtually impossible to see under water when you don’t have a high vantage point to see the action on the retrieve. So, we test a couple of different ways. Usually (always!) it’s me out in the river up to my waist. That's why summertime testing is preferable. My buddy casts out the lure past me, and I get a good visual of the action while he retrieves it past me. If he doesn’t hit me on the cast, or hook me on the retrieve, it's a good testing session! This is how I found out that the PB-40 was quite a dud the way I originally rigged it. On the retrieve, it looked like nothing special. I took the bucktail and switched it onto the thinner tapered end. Repeating the testing sequence, I hit upon the action that I was looking for. The big front lip and the thinner tapered end gave the spoon a really nice wobble. And it cast very well also because the bucktail lays down flat on the lure surface and doesn’t create much drag.
Your metal lures are a little different from what most surfcaster are used to, namely straight or curved tins. Some of your models are six-sided. Tell us the reason behind your design. Some would say they are a lot different. And that’s OK. Actually a lot of folks said more than that, such as “No way that metal stick will catch fish.” Well, with the design of the 6 sided T-HEX, I truly believe that the more surfaces available to catch and reflect light, the better attention getter it will be to the game fish. Plus the hex shape lends itself well to casting, as it’s almost a round shape, and the nose and tail cuts just enhance the appearance and action. This profile is fairly stable while coming through the water, especially in rough conditions, meaning it doesn’t have a tendency to roll. And it’s heavy for its size which helps in all aspects. But mainly it’s because I’m a machinist who wanted to build a lure myself, out of stock material that I was accustomed to using. Unlike most tins, your lures feature a defined lip. Is this by design or your cutting blade just went nuts one day ? I’ve had cutters go nuts and I can tell you it’s not a pretty sight! But yes, both the T-HEX and more so the PB-40 were designed and machined with lips to add to the profile and/or action.On the THEX it adds a bit to the overall profile and action.On the PB-40 spoon, the lip helps define the rounded head area of a p-nut bunker and adds all the action to the spoon. A local sharpie calls the PB-40 the “Metal Darter”. We noticed that your lures feature oversized split rings on the nose. We liked this very much as with our clumsy hands we often have a hard time getting our snap onto tins. Are there any other benefits to these split rings besides ease of attaching it to the clips? They’re a necessity and a benefit. On some of the T-HEX sizes, a larger split ring is needed to prevent hang-ups of the hook on the tail end. I believe it’s important to have a good, free swinging hook on my metals. It adds to the action and catchability. A metal needs to have a good swing to it! You may notice, however, that some models have a smaller split ring in the nose. This is to lessen the obviousness of the ring, and for it to be more in line with the look of the lure. Please note that the split rings I use are all American made Roscoe Stainless Steel split rings rated 80-120#.
The durability of your lures has been one of the things that has not been talked about very much. Tell us about durability upon impact and also, how do you make them so shiny? We are suckers for shiny things although not nearly as much as our wives are. Well, that could be a good thing right? As in this business, bad news travels much faster and further than good news. What I mean is that if you have a good product, people will use it, like it, but not necessarily talk much about it. Some keep secrets close to the chest. On the other hand, a sub-par, inferior product will set the internet fishing websites and phone lines on fire! The plating process I use is what some call a triple chrome process, which is misleading. It is a triple plating process which results in a very bright, durable long lasting chrome finish. It entails a thorough 3-4 hour run through a vibratory tumbler to remove all the sharp edges and smooth out the surface and shine them up. Then it gets a bath in an ultrasonic cleaning station followed by a bath in copper, then nickel, then finally chrome. Rocks, gravel, sand and bluefish teeth have had their way with AOK metals and they’ve held up very well. I still fish the same lures from a batch I had plated 5 years ago. Not as pretty as when made, lots of bluefish teeth marks, but the plating has not chipped. Dented a bit, but still intact. We understand that you make all your lures in your garage. Thousands of pounds of metal being stripped and finished must be music to your neighbors’ ears. Either you are living like the Unabomber in seclusion or you bought each household earmuffs. Which one is it? Yes, I make all of the lures in the shop in my garage. I have CNC machinery that I use in the metal cutting phase of production. 12’ bar stock comes in, gets rough cut to length, up on the CNC to be finish machined, tumbled, then off to be plated. Then back to me for assembly and packaging. I need to give credit here to my wonderful wife Nancy who has: a) been extremely understanding and tolerant of the messes I create in our home with my “fishing business stuff”, b) the long hours in the garage shop after coming home from my “real” job and c) for all her help in bookkeeping and computer stuff, with which I’m totally illiterate.
We've heard good things about your lures when it comes to fooling bass and bluefish but now the stories about the success "south of the border" are making the rounds on internet boards. We've seen some impressive pictures...fill us in. Believe it or not, A.O.K. metals found their way to Mexico via an internet friend who lives in Minnesota! Talk about a long, strange trip. I read of this friend’s exploits fishing the remote beaches of the Mexican Pacific. Catching exotic, beautiful fish such as Roosterfish, Jack Crevalle, Needlefish, Cubera Snapper Sierra Mackeral and Mexican Bonita. On a whim, I e-mailed him and asked him if he’d like to give my metals a go down there. So a package was soon sent off for a trip south of the border. My hopes were high, but my friend had upsetting news upon his return. He and his small crew lost all of the lures fishing the rocky coves for snapper and local grouper species. So, another trip was planned and another box of metal went north, then south! Better news this time around, as I had sent my friend some lighter T-HEX metals to try. Fish were targeted and caught, and my friend was anxious for more metals to try on his next trip. He felt bad that the nice pictures he took of the fish caught on AOK’s went the way of a hard meeting with a rock and the camera was destroyed. So, once again, a package of metal goes north, then south. Third time's a charm, so they say right?
Once again, the hunt was on. My friend was now determined to get me some nice pictures of the fine fish he’s been catching on the lures I’ve been sending him. I'll just state here that you should always make sure to empty out all your gear when you return the rental car. The camera was left behind, and heisted from the car before my pal could get back to claim it. So here we go again. Hurricane season on the Mexican Pacific coast, my buddy is flying down and needs more lures. I wish my packages were getting frequent flier miles! But we were both happy with the results of the trip. He caught a 40 plus pound Cubera in extreme tidal conditions on the 3oz. THEX. His biggest to date, and he also filmed a nice video of the action and catch. I was fortunate to be invited along on a future trip and was eager to try my stuff myself on these incredible fish. The clear warm water can be frustrating to the angler, as the fish have great eyesight and are not apt to attack anything that looks out of place. The T-HEX’s matched the hatch, as we say, of the local baitfish quite well, being slender and shiny. Long casts and a good presentation has resulted in catches of Roosterfish, Crevalle, Needlefish, Cubera, Bonita,and Sierra Mackeral. And friends that have fished Cabo and other areas south of the border have done well on Barracuda, Yellowtails, Bluerunners, Tarpon and other species of jacks. I have to tell you , that’s it’s quite a rush to see the metal swimming through the swell of a wave, so bright it looks like a beacon of light is shining on it, then to see the silhouette of a crevalle or roosterfish close in on it, mouth wide open and poised for the take, right behind it. That is part of why I love surfcasting. I’ve fallen in with this small select group of gringos and I make annual trips to paradise to revive my soul a bit and to have fun times and great fishing with my amigos South of the Border. Thank you Steve, and good luck in your future endeavors
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Confessions of a Poacher -Joe Doe
My name is Joe Doe and I was a poacher. I didn't mean to be, it just sort of happened. I was a commercial bass fisherman from the early 1970's up till the moratorium that started in November, 1985. I always had some customers that bought for cash and after the moratorium started many of them asked me if I could still get them bass. I needed money and I loved to catch bass so I just went back to doing "business as usual". Often I would get so many fish and my market was flooded so I had to expand by knocking on a few doors and I found that my "black market bass" were welcome almost everywhere! When I had really good loads I could take them to dealers and when I had just a few hundred pounds I would peddle them to restaurants. It was never an issue to get rid of all the bass I could catch. I averaged about $2-/pound cash and didn't pay taxes. It was a happy time for me. In the winter I would do "odd jobs" to get by, waiting for spring and the bass to come again. Some of my friends and acquaintances, all former professional bass fishermen, were doing pretty much the same thing. I know of many of them and each of them know many others. It seemed that there was an inexhaustible market for bootleg bass. For some winters I worked in a wholesale fish processing plant and we often would get truckloads of bootleg bass from the Chesapeake and Delaware areas. Forty thousand pounds at a time, some of these fish were only 12 to 16 inches and we packaged them as "farm raised bass". Sometimes these tractor/trailer loads of bass were mixed with legal fish from Virginia and/or Maryland or Delaware. The legal ones had tags locked in their gills. What we would do when we got a hold of a large number of tagged heads was to freeze them and sell them "legally", 3 or 4 (or 10) times over to restaurants that didn't want "discounted, bootleg bass". So inadvertently, the restaurants that didn't want to participate in black market fish (and there were damn few of those) did so anyway! Money photography: Andrew Magill
The issue, as I know it extends from Florida to California and everywhere in between. I have not been a poacher since 1993 and in the past 10 years or so I have actually had a "respectable profession". Due to my job, I now travel the United States quite a bit and one of my favorite fishes to eat in a "good restaurant" is Chilean Seabass. I have been served Striped Bass, represented as "seabass" in restaurants in almost every state I've been in over the past 15 years. East coast wholesalers distribute Striped Bass fillets as "grouper", "snapper", "Chilean seabass", "Barrimundi", "Branzini", "Lake Victoria Perch", etc. These are sold to the big hotels and restaurants in cities like Las Vegas, Miami, New York and Atlantic City daily. The idiot chefs in those places couldn't tell the difference between a crab and a lobster much less one fillet from another. "Scaled and skin onâ€? the fillets are "Striped Bass", skin off and meat side up (in the fillet container) it is "grouper", skinned side up it is "snapper" (or take your pick from the list above). The "misrepresentation issue" is so prevalent, not only with striped bass but with many dozens of seafood items, that I am willing to bet that if I had free access to 100 restaurants kitchens, freezers and coolers I could find discrepancies in at least 95 of them. In about 1/2 the cases the restaurant will not know and in the other half they are a party to it. Where is the "enforcement"? If you ask they will say that they do not have the manpower, they need more money, etc., etc... This happens because the "enforcement people" can't tell the difference between one thing and another just the same as the restaurants-they are clueless! Manpower? One man that knew what he was doing could make more "busts" in one week than the entire force of one stateâ€™s "authorities" make in a year (or more likely several years but I'm being conservative).
And let's talk about the "enforcement": Why has this been going on so blatantly for almost 25 years? Because they allow it! I was in Fulton Fish Market with 1100 pounds of illegal, untagged bass in May of 1992 and I was talking to "my buyer" when two uniformed DEC officers came up to us (they were patrolling the market daily as part of Giuliani's "mob clean-up") and carried on a conversation with us while one of them was leaning on the boxes of the pallet of bass I had just dropped off. There were other pallets of illegal bass there too but they didn't even look in any of the boxes. When they finally walked off I asked my buyer if he was crapping a brick with all the bootleg bass in his place and he said "no, they know all about it. Bring me more tomorrow, I'll take all you can get!" While I do not poach any more, some of my "friends and acquaintances" are still at it. As a matter of fact, they all are and none of them have ever been caught! Crime obviously pays as I've heard that some of the dealers I used to sell to have been caught and fined but that never stops them for more than a day or two. After all, if you make thousands of dollars a day on bootleg bass why worry about a few hundred dollars in fines once in a while? It's a fact of doing business. Even today, when I go out to eat and the owner of a restaurant finds out that I fish for striped bass (yes, I still do but only for fun and I don't inhale) I frequently get solicited to bring some to the back door for cash and "no questions asked".
I am willing to bet "anything" that the illegal take of striped bass far, far exceeds the legal quotas. This is happening in almost every state on the east coast, every day of the year. The striped bass population is being hammered and it seems that very little is being done about it. Yes, you hear in the news every year about the "big bass bust" where they nail "Joe the Illegal Commercial Fisherman" and his merry crew with 6,000 pounds out of the 30,000 that he took that week. What about the 100's of thousands of pounds that the thousands of poachers are taking for the black market up and down the coast 12 months a year? The issue is so far out of proportion that if you realized a tiny fraction of it your head would spin. I personally would like to sell striped bass legally again one day. When I retire, which would be in about 6 or 7 years that could be my "retirement income". But it will not happen for one of two reasons: One is that at the current rate of depletion there will be no bass to sell by then. Or the other reason, and I now hope this is the one that happens, Striped Bass become federally protected. No sale-anywhere in the USA is the only answer! These fish swim up and down the coast more so than most species and it seems every state regulates bass differently when a unified approach is called for. Until there can be no striped bass in any market there will always be a black market for people to exploit.
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WETSUITING Manny Moreno
I met Anne over a decade ago while we were attending classes for our Dive Master certification. We instantly hit it off well, becoming dive partners and lifelong friends. Now retired from her job as an athletic director, Anne explores the world diving, skiing, golfing and shooting nature photography. Over the years, I’d made Anne curious about my surfcasting adventures. Many times, I’d shared fishing stories with her over a grilled fish dinner. When the opportunity arose, she jumped at the chance to join me. But this wasn’t going to be a typical first timer surf fishing trip. I had found a large body of quality striped bass hanging around one of the local rocky points. Fishing off rocks with rigged eels the previous night, I’d landed three dozen fish with a good third of them being over 20 pounds, up to the low 30 pound range. I had been forced to leave the fish biting when the incoming tide and swells had driven me off. But I was planning to come back for more.
When Anne arrived the following afternoon, she found me in the back yard sipping a beer and rigging eels. I had recently finished writing the rigged eel chapter for Zeno Hromin’s latest book and needed pictures to go with the text. Anne, an expert photographer, immediately got out her SLR and did a great job of capturing the rigging process step by step. Not squeamish at all about the messy process, she was curious to learn about eel rigging techniques, asking many questions along the way. After rigging eels, we went over the equipment we would be using in the coming night. Anne has spent her whole life boating, fishing and swimming around Long Island. She has done dozens of night dives and hundreds of day dives, many of them with me. Surfcasting on rocks was going to be a new experience for her but she was comfortable being in and around the ocean so I wasn’t worried. Anne brought along her own cold water wetsuit, complete with hooded vest and gloves. To that outfit, I added Korkers for gripping the rocks, a surf belt with pliers and a couple of neck lights. I was going to stick close to her so she wouldn’t need a surf bag, besides, we were primarily going to fish rigged eels and I could carry enough for both of us. No outfit is complete without the proper accessories, so I added a ten foot medium Kennedy Fisher surf rod matched with a VS 250 reel. That was my second mistake. This is not exactly a beginner’s fishing combo but I wanted her to be properly equipped.
My first mistake was underestimating the conditions that we’d have to deal with. The powerful storm from the previous weekend had pushed out to sea but had left us with easterly swells with occasional bigger, more challenging waves. Along with a good batch of fish the previous night, the ocean had given me a pretty good pounding. I’ve been wetsuiting on rocky beaches for two decades so I was used to this physical style of fishing. This was going to be Anne’s first time surfcasting, first time wetsuiting on rocks, first time fishing for striped bass and first time fishing with rigged eels. I was taking twenty years worth of experience and cramming it into one night of fishing. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea but Anne is a tough, athletic, fearless woman and I knew she could handle it. Besides, I figured the seas would have settled considerably. Like I said, first mistake.
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We started out that night around 11pm, a couple of hours after high tide. I would have preferred to take her out on the rocks with some daylight left but we needed the tide to drop some so we had no choice but to start after dark. To complicate matters further, a thick fog had rolled in after sunset. As we slowly worked our way down the rocky beach, Anne was more chatty than usual and I could sense a little justifiable anxiety. I did my best to explain everything she’d need to know and what to expect. When we arrived at the selected spot, I was surprised by how much the seas had not settled. The swell driven tide was still higher than I had estimated as well. It was going to be tough going until the tide dropped some more but I didn’t want to wait any longer. Judging from the previous night’s action, the fish would already be gathered up for a strong bite.
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FishersLog draws on the fishing and software development expertise of On the Edge Communications founder, John Skinner.
Stumbling over the weedy shallow rocks was easy enough for Anne. She’s done this many times while scuba diving from shore. Once we got past the protecting rim of rocks into deeper water, things became a bit more challenging due to the waves but the conditions were still manageable. The platform I’d selected for this evening’s entertainment was only a short swim away but I stayed close to Anne as I led the way. Well…for me it was a short swim since I often have to do much longer swims to reach good rocks. For Anne, I later found out, it was a bit different. Swimming in the ocean, at night without the benefit of fins and mask and with lights turned off and a surf rod tucked into her belt was a new experience for her. Add waves and fog to the mix and I can see how this might be considered challenging.
Our chosen perch had a sloping front and a higher back so the easiest approach was from the seaward side. When we got close, I positioned myself in front of the rock and waited for a bigger wave to push me up. I didnâ€™t have to wait long since the rock was completely awash and I quickly bounded to my feet atop of the large flat platform. Having done this countless times while managing a fishing rod and other gear, it was easy enough for me to get up on the rock. To make it a little easier for Anne, I took her rod so sheâ€™d have two hands free to pull herself up. Soon enough, she was on her feet, getting used to the feel of Korkers crunching as they gripped the rock and leaning forward to brace herself against the oncoming waves. As I often do when fishing on a new rock, I told her to familiarize herself with the size and shape of the rock and the surrounding water. Our perch was surrounded by deep water, well over our heads with no other rocks nearby to worry about if we took a tumble.
When fishing on deep water rocks, new wetsuiters will often be surprised by the force of ocean swells. Many times, wetsuiters fish past the breakers that carry the most punch, but even gentle-looking waves push a lot of water and can rise up suddenly as they climb over your platform. On rough nights, a vigilant and firm stance is required to keep you upright. This was one of those nights when you couldn’t relax or you’d end up in the water. I told Anne that if any wave looked threatening, she should grab on to me and I could hold us both up. In many endeavors, you don’t realize how much experience lets you take things for granted. Standing on a rock on a dark foggy night, you don’t see waves coming as much as you hear and feel them. Sometimes you see a dark shadow split seconds before it hits. Sometimes the water around you empties away as it’s sucked up by the oncoming wave. And sometimes you hear what’s coming before you see it. These and other indicators that I took for granted, Anne was learning under fire, or rather water. Rough as it was, we were standing comfortably so it was time to start fishing. I quickly tied rigged eels to the end of our leaders and we were ready to catch fish. Well almost. Prior to heading out, Anne had assured me that she knew how to cast. We’d underestimated how different it would be to cast using long surf rods compared to the boat rods she was used to. Boat casting is more of a toss compared to the power casting used in the surf. Looking back, I probably should have given her some daytime lessons. It was an overload of information, elements and experience to process all at once.
Standing on a wave-swept rock in the middle of the night wearing a full wetsuit and gloves is not the best place to learn how to cast. But she quickly got the hang of it, and most of her casts went in the right direction. Since there was no one else around, we didn’t have to worry about hitting other fishermen when a few of her casts went astray. To make matters more complicated, Anne had never used a bail-less spinning reel before which provided an extra measure of difficulty. Between the darkness and the gloves, she was constantly dealing with tangles while trying to pick up the line, all the while keeping one eye out for waves. To Anne’s credit, she’s a good sport, open to trying new things and she was giving it a complete effort. After getting Anne casting somewhat competently and giving her a few tips about picking up the line, I decided it was time for me to start fishing. On my first cast, I instantly hooked into a nice striper. Anne was impressed as I quickly slid a high teen fish onto the rock and released it back in the water. My second cast produced a similar result and a realization came to mind. The storm had left a band of weedy brown water along the shoreline with cleaner water beyond where the fish were holding. Anne’s shorter newbie casts were not reaching the fish. After hooking the third fish of the night, I asked Anne to switch rods, but not telling her why. She laughed when she realized that a fish was trying to yank the rod out of her hand. Laughter turned to surprise, when seconds later, a rather large wave rose in front of us, sweeping her off the rock before I could grab her. Looking back it was pretty funny and we’ve laugh about it many times since, but at the time I was quite concerned. Fortunately, her light was on before she went overboard. I remember looking over the side of the rock and seeing a light shining underwater for what seemed like a very long time. What could she be doing down there? I hoped that she was OK. I didn’t want to have to explain to her family that I’d lost her in the ocean. To be honest, I was also hoping she hadn’t let go of my Kennedy Fisher rod and Van Staal reel. Both are expensive and one nearly impossible to replace.
I must have been holding my breath because I let out a long sigh of relief when she finally surfaced. And when she finally did decide to rejoin the world of the air breathing, she was laughing along with hooting and hollering something about the fish. As she passed up the rod with the fish still attached, she was insisting that I bring the fish in and not let it get way. There she was, being tossed around by the Atlantic Ocean, worried about the losing a fish. The fish was the least of my concerns and besides, I now had a rod in each hand and there was little I could do about the fish, which was still taking drag. Once she was safely back on the rock and assured me that she was fine, I handed her back the rod and she was able to land the fish which turned out to be a nice 25 lb striper. And so the evening went, with me hooking fish for both of us while Anne kept working on her casting practice.
Along the way I hooked a couple of nicer ones in the 30 pound class which I kept in the water while she got the waterproof camera ready. The last of these larger fish managed to rip apart the tired rigged eel and bend open the rear 8/0 Siwash hook. In spite of the heavy fog, Anne was able to get some nice action shots of me landing, unhooking and releasing stripers. Somewhere into the third hour, the fishing slowed down and Anne had had enough. I offered to go in with her but she insisted that I stay and fish some more without the need to babysit her. As I watched her light head down the beach, I realized that my respect for her had risen another degree this evening. She had experienced a type of fishing only a few of us ever get the opportunity and have the nerve to do.
FishersLog A Software Based By:John
Approach to Maintaining a Fishing Log
There’s a south-facing spot on Long Island’s South Shore that I fished over twenty times in 2009. I fish it for quality, so I’m interested in poundage. Is there a relationship between my poundage productivity and wind direction for that location? The bar chart in Figure 1 suggests a strong correlation. It looks like this spot produces best with an onshore wind and some lateral push along the shore. The straight onshore and offshore winds did the worst. It’s easy to see a pattern here in that the same types of wind have very similar productivity. Angular onshore winds, SW and SE, average around 75 pounds per trip. Straight winds, S and N, only 20 pounds per trip. SSW, which is between the two types, produced between the two at about 40 pounds per trip.
FishersLog Main Window.
Figure 1 This bar chart shows the relationship of wind direction to striped bass poundage caught from "SS2", a Long Island South Shore location in the author's 2009 fishing log.
That “75 pounds per trip” turns out to be a significant number for me personally. It’s how I do when I’m fishing my systems under good conditions. Consider Figure 2 that displays the results of the same analysis run on a different South Shore spot that I target on a fairly narrow wind direction window. Three of the four bars settled at around 75 pounds per trip, and I’m quite sure with another year of data that I’ll see the “NW” bar catch up. Between the two spots, I have a fair amount of the compass accounted for with good fishing options. That’s something I try hard to do, because although we can choose where and on what tides we fish, we have no control over the wind. 2009 was the first fishing season that I was able to visualize in this graphical manner. The path to getting there started in the winter of 2008 when I realized that the notebook-based fishing logs that I relied on so heavily to steer my trip planning had become unmanageable, and that demands on my time were cutting into the accuracy and completeness of my logs.
Results from another Long Island South Shore location, "SS1", in the author's 2009 log.
Fishing logs are valuable at several levels. While investment firms often warn us “past performance is no guarantee of future results,” the careful consideration of years of past fishing experiences can be the key to consistent success. I rely frequently on my logs to give me clues as to where I might fish under given conditions. I tend to ignore fishing reports, and let my past observations guide me. At the most basic level, fishing logs enable us to preserve memories that we can reminisce about years later. I often flip through logs during the offseason just to relive fishing experiences at a time when fishing is still months away. Pattern spotting is the most advanced use of logs. The objective is to look over a collection of experiences and find relationships between conditions and catches. The relationship of productivity to wind direction in Figure 1 is an example. The way in which a fishing log is maintained and processed will have a lot to do with its usefulness for pattern spotting. Regardless of whether fishing patterns are obvious or subtle, you need to put your time in to find them. The way I’ve always thought about this is that time spent at the water generates data. That data equals experiences – what happened where and under what conditions. The path to doing well on a consistent basis depends on an angler’s ability to accumulate, store, and analyze the data.
The most basic way to do this is to just keep everything in your head. Good luck with that technique. Unless you have a memory like the Spencer Reid character on the TV show Criminal Minds, youâ€™ll have a hard time remembering the details of more than a single season. What scares me sometimes is to see how distorted my memories can be when I compare them to the cold hard facts stored in my logs. Itâ€™s hard to trust memories. Notebook logs are a nice low-tech solution to the data storage problem, but they have their drawbacks. One problem is that as they accumulate with years of logging, it becomes hard to find anything in them. I might know an approximate date on the calendar that something happened, but I usually have to go through a few books to hit the right year.
The worst problem is the time required to keep a written log, and this has become the biggest source of frustration for me. Logging is often most important when the fishing is good. Unfortunately, the free time required to write detailed log entries can be hard to find while trying to balance work and family obligations with a hot bite. I kept falling into the trap of putting it off, and many times I’d fall a week or so behind on the logging and then have to play catch-up when the hot window passed. Then I’d have to rely on a tired memory to sort out what happened over several outings. Between this and the difficulty of finding anything in the notebook pile, I became frustrated to the point where I decided there had to be a better way. I quickly came to the conclusion that the best solution would be to use a computer program written specifically to solve the problem. I would gladly spend the average $30 to $50 price of a specialized program that would make my life easier. It was off to yahoo.com to search for a program. My first requirement was that whatever I chose needed to be a program that ran and stored its data on my computer. I was fully aware that there were web-based solutions in which you could subscribe to a site that would store your log. The advantage of this model was that you could enter your log from anywhere on the Internet. My log is precious to me. I wanted control and responsibility over it. If someone else stores my data, I’m dependent on them. If they go out of business for some reason, what happens to my data? Even if I can retrieve it somehow, it would be useless without the program from which it was generated. I justified this fear recently when visiting just such a site that had been online for four years and attracted anglers with the promise to allow them to “access log data from anywhere on the Internet”. At the time of this writing, their site had a statement in big red letters stating that the service was shut down permanently on July 31, 2009.
I also had no interest in storing, viewing, or analyzing years of fishing efforts on a smart phone. Itâ€™s a rapidly changing market divided among different operating systems that do not offer cross platform interoperability. For example, Android applications do not work on Iphones. Even if I could find a full-blown phone-based fishing log package that I liked, I would be tied to a particular type of phone and data plan for as long as I wanted to maintain my log. I also wanted to work with my log on something larger than a tiny phone screen. Most of the programs I found were based on the userâ€™s computer, and I downloaded the trial versions of several of those. The ones that actually installed and then ran correctly were not what I was looking for. It became clear rather quickly that I was not going to solve my logging problem by throwing a few bucks at it.
As much as I enjoy writing about fishing, it does not pay my mortgage. Iâ€™ve made my living in software development for over 20 years. Almost all of that has been writing experiment control software for a government research lab. My job is to take a complex experiment involving about $10 million worth of instrumentation and present it to scientists in a way that makes it easy for them to collect the data that they use to determine the structures of important biological molecules. I design and implement the user interfaces, which is what the users interact with on the computer screen to control the experiment. Iâ€™m also responsible for the underlying control code and the logging of every aspect of the experiment in a relational database. Itâ€™s major league science and three Nobel prizes have been won in the past several years from work done in part on the research stations controlled by my software. As winter of 2008 hit, I thought it might be interesting to combine my day job expertise with my fishing log problem. I decided to write my own fishing log program. I initially was writing the program just for myself. I had three requirements to start. 1) The program should be immune to future operating system upgrades. 2) It would need to be able to generate detailed log entries very quickly. 3) It should make it easier to find things.
Logging should be a long-term endeavor. There was no way I was going to write a logging system that might not run on some future version of Windows. This was actually the easiest problem to solve. Software written in the programming language Java is not targeted to a particular operating system. Java programs run on the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) that runs on a computer. The saying for Java is “write once run anywhere”, which meant I could write and compile my program one time, and the resulting “executable” would run on any computer running modern day Java, which is nearly all computers.
I accomplished the second goal by making most of the data selectable by dropdown menus. The program will learn your locations, fish species, and techniques so that these will also be available as menu selections. The only typing is eventually limited to entering comments. The sun and moon data is calculated automatically so you donâ€™t need to look up and record it. After some careful research, I concluded that unless you were fishing in a boat tied to a weather buoy, efforts to automatically fill in weather and water conditions by accessing Internet sources would produce inaccurate data the vast majority of the time. It would be faster and more accurate for the user to just select their actual observations from the dropdown menus. (Figure 3)
Figure 3 The FishersLog trip editor interface. Care was taken to reduce typing to speed up the creation of trip entries. Sun and moon data are calculated automatically.
Specific trips are easier to find because you can sort on the most important trip details, such as date, location, and wind direction. I provided several ways to generate trip reports, including sending one or more trips to a printer, text editor, or a web browser as HTML (Figure 4). I allowed the association of pictures with trips. Already, I was much better off than I was with the notebook pile. My project progressed much faster than I expected. While there was still snow on the ground that winter, I realized that the program might be worth marketing, but there was no way I would make it available to the public without a season of testing. I made a few tweaks, developed an installer, and distributed it to a few people for the 2009 season while I also used it. A couple of my testers urged me to add graphical analysis tools to mine the data. This was not part of my original plan, and I was initially reluctant to put that effort in. When off-season boredom hit in December 2009, I decided to explore the possibilities of analysis tools, and my opinion of their value did a complete turnaround when I started crunching the data of my complete 2009 log with some prototype code.
Figure 4 Reports in several different formats may be generated for one or more trips.
The data in FishersLog is stored in an embedded relational database. This makes some types of analysis queries rather easy, because that’s what relational databases are designed for. So it’s easy from a coding perspective to ask something like “how many bass did I catch where location equals Montauk”. The results of that query might be interesting and fun, but not particularly useful. Where I ended up investing a lot of time was in designing ways to look at the data that might help me see trends I didn’t see before. The analysis results that I cited at the beginning of this article are a prime example. I knew I wanted to fish onshore winds in the first location, “SS2”, but wasn’t aware that the angular component of the wind was having such an impact on my catches until I looked at the bar charts. Figure 5 shows the query tool configured to produce those results. Figures 6 and 7 show how one can do further analysis of the relationship of fish size to wind for a specific location. I also added the notion of trip rating, and the analysis of that user-defined score. There is no way any computer program can guess what a “good trip” is because that’s something that changes from season to season. For example, if I landed 4 false albacore on a fall 2008 trip, that was excellent. If I landed 4 on a fall 2009 trip, something was off, because I frequently had double-digit catches that year. The only way to account for this was to allow the user to rate each trip. Then it would be possible to ask the program questions such as “Where do I do best on a north wind?” That query is also shown in Figure 5.
The FishersLog analysis tool interface.
Figure 6 A query for the average number of striped bass heavier than 19 pounds for each trip to location "SS1".
Figure 7 The results of the Figure 6 query.
Most users will install the program on their computer’s hard drive, but if you would like to make your log mobile, you can install it on a portable drive instead. These include thumb/flash drives and external USB drives. This will enable you to edit and view your log on different computers. This has obvious advantages for anglers who might want to view or edit their log while at work or at home. FishersLog runs on Windows and Mac Leopard and Snow Leopard systems. The download is free, and the program will work for a 7-day free trial period. To use it beyond the trial period you’ll need to purchase the program’s license for about the cost of one good plug, $19.95. This is a one-time payment for a lifetime license. You can learn more about the program at www.fisherslog.com. User suggestions have already helped shape the program, so feedback is always appreciated. Even if you have no interest in maintaining a computer-based log, the trip editor screenshot in Figure 3 can be used as a guide to the important pieces of data that could form the basis of trip entries in a notebook journal. When you start keeping a log, you’ll likely be surprised how often you go back to it to recall important information. As years pass, the log will take on sentimental value. There is no substitute for time spent on the water when it comes to developing one’s fishing skills. The maintenance and study of a personal fishing log that preserves the details of your time spent on the water can be crucial in working toward consistent fishing success.
Montauk New York, 2004 Surfcasting is a proverbial journey, not a destination. Each fisherman has a story. It almost alw exciting. Then thereâ€™s the taste of blood, after landing that first really big fish. Some are conte to a whole different level, swept into a brutal nocturnal existence, a slave to wind and tide. D this, chances are youâ€™ve either been there, or are hell bent on getting there.
At some point, you might stop to reflect on what a life on the beach has come to mean, both g the pull of a fish. For many, the friendships forged along the way are really what keeps us going The story below is part of a larger work-in-progress on the journey of one surfcaster: the trips, This particular passage is about old friends.
ways begins with a period of intense fascination, when everything about the sport is new and ent to revert to a balanced life, keeping surfcasting in perspective. Others are driven to take it During the height of the season, weeks can go by where little else matters. If you are reading
good and bad. You may come to realize, as I have, that thereâ€™s much more to this sport than g. the lessons, the triumphs, and even some of the failures.
Veteran’s Day Part 1 At some point in most surfcasters’ careers, the toll from years of obsessive-compulsive fishing begins to show. The competitive atmosphere that many of my old fishing crew had thrived on for so many years now began to wear thin. It broke apart just after 9/11, when family issues, health and work all conspired to weigh us down. We were losing much of that commitment to fish hard and fish together. September 11 was the emotional trigger that finally cut us loose. Like leaves falling from a tree, we all moved on, until one day it was striking to see how the seasons had changed us. What happened? Kenny moved to Nantucket, Scott’s job was killing him. Mike joined a new dental practice. A few others looked to be teetering on the verge of divorce. I had my own issues. I worked in the World Trade Center and was relocated to a backup office in Piscataway, New Jersey. Weeks were spent living out of various New Jersey hotels, away from my family and my home on Long Island. The fall run of 2001 was a write-off. I was jealous that others could carry on and fish that fall, as if nothing had happened. But it could have been much worse. Let’s make that point perfectly clear - I did make it out of the WTC complex that morning.
9/11 brought hardship and dramatic change for many of us New Yorkers, yet I tried to cling to any shred of normalcy that I still had left in my life. Since the mid 1970s, fishing had been my constant, my escape. Now fishing, at least the surfcasting and related camaraderie that I had come to know, was just another source of loss. It hurt to see the guys now starting to go their separate ways, but I could only watch from afar. Between the relentless CNN updates on terrorism flashing from every TV screen and the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the now fragile financial markets where I worked, Montauk might as well have been one thousand miles away.
The years immediately following 9/11 didnâ€™t help to mend our group to the degree I had hoped, but I still wanted to see the boys take over a stretch of beach and whoop it up like we had a decade earlier. A call from Kenny in September of 2004 about a Nantucket ferry reservation put the wheels in motion for a potential reunion. I asked Kenny to come down to fish with me in Montauk for the long Veteran's Day weekend. Once we nailed down our own fishing plans, I extended the invitation to the entire crew, not knowing exactly how the invitation would be received.
It only took a few phone calls to see that nearly every one of the dozen or so of the old crew was in, either for the weekend or just that Saturday. I still approached the date with the same trepidation one might feel preparing for a high school reunion. Things change, people change, and sometimes not for the better. Still, I wanted this fishing trip to be a reminder of the past, the good times.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004 Southwest 10 knots, Air 50-55, Water 56 Kenny was first to arrive, Wednesday afternoon, well ahead of me. Compulsive surfcasters have their shortcomings, but being late is never one them. So it is when your life revolves around tides that wait for no one. I knew Kenny would be twitching to get to Montauk and would arrive early, so I Fed Exâ€™d him a key to the house a week in advance. There he was: six-foot-four, with his signature look, oversized carpenter pants, a XXL single pocket T shirt and big red suspenders. If Santa Claus ever took up surfcasting, he might look like Kenny.
Kenny was a retired Riker’s Island New York City corrections officer. Maybe not the job for just anyone, but the shifts afforded him time to fish while he and his wife Ruth raised two daughters on Long Island. Kenny took up surfcasting after years in freshwater, but his time spend chasing largemouth honed skills and insights that transferred wonderfully to the salt. By many accounts, Kenny was quickly recognized as a gifted surfcaster, and it didn’t take long before he began putting up some impressive numbers. Several 50’s, numerous 40’s, all on plugs, Kenny reportedly drove many of the older salts crazy with his ability to pluck that one large bass while the rest of the beach flailed away.
My first knowledge of Kenny came from a photograph out of the book “Surfcasting With The Experts,” a local surfcaster’s “how-to” published by William “Doc” Muller, and a mustread when printed in the early 1990’s. In the Montauk chapter, there stood a young (and at the time thin) Kenny in waders, holding a large striper with the caption “A good bass under the light.” I must have read that Montauk chapter one hundred times, but it was only after joining the Farragut Striper Club years later that I connected this larger thanlife-figure to that photograph. Kenny turned out to be the perfect mentor: positive, patient, eager to teach and an endless source for dirty jokes and fishing stories that he fed to new club members on winter nights in the off-season. This was a refreshing change from years of interaction I had with other “top” surfcasters, most of whom came off as abrupt, cranky or otherwise full of their own self-importance. Kenny retired from Rikers, sold his place in Great Neck, and built a house up on Nantucket, just before the island real estate got out of hand. “I got in at the right time up there, literally as the door was closing,” he freely admitted. The Farragut Club at one time ran annual surfcasting trips to Nantucket, but when I went to see it for myself in 1996, the bill for the car ferry alone made it clear why the club later switched to Cape Cod. While Nantucket was historically considered a prime surfcasting destination and the main reason for his moving there, there was no hiding that Kenny’s first love was Montauk.
I cut out of work in Manhattan early that Wednesday, leaving dozens of unanswered emails in the in-box. I had to dodge the speed limit to get to Montauk by dusk. If Kenny had made it to the sand, there was that chance he had located fish and was still on the beach. Instead I found his red pickup in the driveway, rods on the roof. On the front of his truck hung the MA plate â€œTINSQUID.â€? I was relieved to see his tires were aired down. At least he had information. I found him asleep on the couch in the great room. He smiled even before he opened his eyes.
“Nothin’ doing, John,” he began, as he tried to clear his voice. “…Shagwong dead, behind town dead, Hither Hills dead, up front dead…Hey, you hungry? Right? Let’s go eat?” I knew ahead of time not to eat. If I knew Kenny, I knew he would want to go out to dinner. As much as Kenny loved to fish, fishing was quite possibly rivaled by his love for good food. It might have been different at one time, but that “let’s skip dinner and just hit the beach” was no longer part of his MO. And to be honest, after his downbeat report, my mind was already thinking a large bowl of steamed mussels and a pint of Bass Ale from the Shagwong Tavern. OK, maybe I was changing a little too.
After dinner, we talked well into the night, sitting at the kitchen table, each with a bottle of Sam Adams Octoberfest. The table was turned into a make-shift work bench. Tools were lined up and put to use as we operated on our gear. Had my wife been there, she would have been appalled by the state of her kitchen table. We caught up on family and mutual friends as we sharpened and replaced hooks. I filled him in on how the year was goingâ€Śthe sand eels of the spring, summer eeling, the mullet run, the white bait, how well the lighthouse and the north side rips were producing. I sprinkled in the current scuttlebutt about beach access and turf wars, whatever was being circulated among the flaky tribe of Montauk regulars.
Veteran’s Day Part 2 Thursday, November 11, 2004 Southwest 10 knots, Air 50-55, Water 56 We awoke just after dawn, but Kenny’s assessment from the day before was still fresh in my mind. I was in no rush to hit the beach. Kenny no longer wetsuited, and since the north side had been dead for days, I was in no mood for a pre-dawn swim either. Fish or no fish, a decade earlier, I would have been in that wetsuit, floating from rock to rock, and casting right up until first light. Today I was perfectly fine to be in waders, actually looking forward to a day of “lazy man” fishing: cruising the beach with an oversized cup of Joe, looking for birds. Kenny placed two ten-foot glass rods matched with 706’s in spare rod holders on the cooler rack that was welded onto the front frame of my aging Explorer. Only a small box of tackle went into the back of my truck. One plug bag. He wasn’t expecting much. I aired down and pulled onto the beach by the Royal Atlantic Motel, “behind town” as it is known to Montauk locals.
Not good. Clear skies. The ocean was flat, a couple of trucks were moving west, but two others were coming back east. “No thanks,” I told Kenny. “This ain’t gonna work. You ok we go west?” I asked. Of course he would be fine with the ride, but I held out the chance that he had an idea up his sleeve. Not today. We checked every beach right up to Georgica. A couple of casters stood on the tip of the Georgica jetty, but a half dozen other trucks sat idling on the beach, drivers either chatting on cell phones or looking aimlessly toward the horizon with binoculars. Such is the curse of surfcasting. There needs to be a good supply of bait fairly close to the beach in order for this game to work. In most cases, fish need to be feeding within 200 feet in order to reach them with most plugs. Looking through binoculars at birds working one mile off the beach is nothing but a tease, you might as well be watching them on TV. We worked our way back east, spending the better part of the morning at Napeague State Park. A formation of trucks caught my attention from the moment we emerged from the dune trail. As we neared the circled wagons, it was clear that no one was fishing. Mostly locals from Springs, nobody I knew well, but some familiar faces. As we pulled up,
Kenny stuck his head out of the window and broke the ice with a joke about “only delinquents having the time to be out cruising the beach on a work day.” This struck the perfect chord with this mostly over-60 bunch, one of whom might have also been from a law-enforcement background, referring to us surfcasters as “perps.” And as we talked, still more trucks came, no doubt also tricked into thinking something must certainly be going on a half mile east of the 4X4 cut. The morning chill relented and we moved outside our vehicles, each caster still caressing a large coffee cup. Topics soon moved from fishing to other favorite East Hampton topics: escalating real estate prices and the growing difficulty of the working man to be able to scratch out a living on the South Fork. No fish, but out of nowhere, for the better part of two hours, we had ourselves a do-ityourself surfcaster’s convention. All were invited.
Later that afternoon I ran some errands while Kenny went to look up Percy Heath and his wife June. Percy was a world renown jazz bassist and a bit of a local celebrity who fell in love with all things surfcasting and Montauk. At one time, Percy too was a member of the Farragut Club. While I had come to know Percy over the past ten years, he and Kenny shared a fishing past that pre-dated me by decades. It did not feel right to invade Kennyâ€™s time with Percy. I met up with Kenny late that afternoon. We took another obligatory run on the beaches, but dinner prospects quickly became the key discussion topic. This weekend might turn into a bust, fish-wise, but you could be damn sure we were going to be well fed. About half way into my second pint of Bass Ale at dinner, I dismissed all chances of wetsuiting that night.
Friday, November 12 Northeast 15 knots, increasing in the afternoon, Air 52, Water 55
Friday we were joined by Mike, the dentist, in his new Ford Expedition. Only two days were fully loaded. His new Vezco cooler rack was attached to the front bumper, a quiver of rods w the Expedition was loaded up to the windows.
Mike was a self-described â€œBrooklyn Italian,â€? with an Andrew Dice Clay demeanor. He repo class at NYU Medical School. He once confided that his Med School classes and Dental surfcasting became his therapy. We met through a local fishing club and instantly hit it off, b for the better part of a decade. It made sense - we both came back to the sport after a grad back into surfcasting after burning myself out in business school, on my way to a job on Wall
e left in this fishing trip, but Mike came was locked to the roof rack. The back of
ortedly graduated near the top of his residency nearly burned him out, so becoming inseparable fishing buddies d school hiatus. I also jumped headfirst l Street.
Together, we logged some ridiculous hours fishing spots all over Long Island and accumulating stories that might sound far-fetched to some fisherman. But at this point it really didn’t matter if others wanted to believe any of it, and besides, some of those fishless nights held highlights as well. Picture two guys in their early 30’s, bucktailing at 3am on a weekday night at the Moriches Inlet. There we’d stand, in splash pants and korkers, perhaps talking about Wall Street layoffs or the latest advancements in cosmetic dentistry. Just before the talk got too serious, I could still see Mike interrupting to set the hook. “Oh…shit…how did I miss him?” Perhaps he’d reel in the line, now pissed as hell, cursing at the fish he just missed, and threatening to send his rod into the inlet like a javelin. “Oh..c’mon…fuck you, you little mutha fucka.” That was Mike. Intelligent, an expert plugger and bucktailer, but above all, highly entertaining.
Mike did so well in 1996 that he broke all club records for pounds of bass landed in a season. In fact, the club changed its contest rules after that year, so that no other angler could accumulate points and run away with the trophies as easily as he had. But unlike so many other competitive surf rats during that era, Mike’s true talent came through with his sharp one-liners and his social commentary on the dysfunctional lifestyles of the “hardcore surfcaster” circuit. When Mike was involved, fish or no fish, the night almost always ended in fits of hysterical laughter.
Seeing all the fishing gear he had brought with him today, I had to start in with him right away. “What’s with all this shit, Mike?” I joked. “Where do you think you are going, to the Flemish Cap?” It was Kenny’s turn next. “Hey, do I see you put on a few pounds?” jabbed Kenny “Hey, screw you, Kenny, I see you ain’t missing any meals!” Mike shot back. Among women, this might have been the ultimate insult. But with these two, being able to trade jabs about food served as a right of passage, almost an admission of prosperity. With the obligatory shots out of the way, we exchanged a round of bear hugs and back slaps. Too much time had passed. It felt good to have these guys with me again. The morning session had been slow, so it was now my job to break the news to Mike.
“Oh, I knew that the fishing, was going to suck,” he moaned. “Of course, Mikey is here, so of course, all of friggin’ Montauk has to shut down.” As talented as Mike was as a fisherman, optimism was never his strong point, his glass way below the half way mark. The mood was a bit contagious, and thirty minutes later we sat at the counter of a local deli, out of sight of the beach. We barely got through eating before a change in the air was obvious, even from indoors. By the time we made it to the beach it was clear we were missing something. Dark clouds had moved in and that “hint” of a Noreaster was now blowing a hard twenty. A band of light rain blew through and I flicked on the wipers as I prepared to pull onto the sand by the Surfside Overlook. Mike followed in his truck. We were greeted by the sight of gulls moving quickly to the west. How did we miss this?
I parked just ahead of the birds and ran to the water’s edge in my jeans. Each cast with a little neck popper was pounced on by a small bluefish. I then switched to a bucktail which was immediately inhaled by a school bass. Kenny sat in the truck and watched. At first, Mike seemed to be less enthusiastic about the small fish, but finally yelled out of his window that he would shoot west to intercept them at Hither Hills. For the moment, I was happy to run like a googhan after these fish. And run I did - before I finally realized I would need my vehicle to keep up with the schools. So went this “run and gun” pattern all the way west to Gurney’s, slowing only for a brief period as the fish crossed a large sand bar that went off on a 45 degree angle to the southwest. I stayed with a white bucktail, despite splashes much further out that could only have been reached with a tin. If there was a better fish in there, a bucktail was my best hope. As one school dissipated another appeared to the east, and the stop and go continued until we found ourselves just east of the Hither Hills State Park boundary. By now, light was fading, and while a line of trucks was now spread as far as the eyes could see in either direction, the number of bent rods was fewer and fewer. The birds offered no help, so we moved back to the east hoping to intercept just one more school.
Just as quickly as it turned on, the window closed. My own tally was about fifteen bass, all under ten pounds, and a half dozen blues no larger than five or six. Kenny only got out at a few of the stops and managed at least a dozen fish, but on far fewer casts. At the overlook we ran back into Mike. I pulled by truck along side his and rolled down the window. “Not too bad, eh Mike?” I offered. “What do you mean?” he responded. As I recapped our afternoon, it became clear that his run west to Hither Hills was a total bust. “Just like I said,” Mike moaned, “I am just destined to spank this weekend…I didn’t get shit.”
I tried to ease the pain by offering that I didnâ€™t see a single good fish picked up by any of the fifty or so casters who had eventually gotten in on the blitz, but it was of little use. Even if the schools had shown up right then and there, Mike was done fishing for the day. We were now cold and wet from the on and off rain, my hands were covered in bluefish scales and blood. There are times when a long hot shower cures all, and my offer that we call it quits now and clean up before dinner practically brought a round of applause.
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In one hour we were back at the Shagwong Tavern, digging into fried calamari. As I ordered another pint of Bass, I could hear the wind humming between the buildings. I could just picture the building seas. Nope, wetsuiting was not going to happen tonight either.
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Veteran’s Day Part 3 Saturday, November 13 Northeast 20 knots, Air 35, Water 55 We awoke just before dawn to find a biting wind from the Northeast - so much for that switch to North that the digital voice from the NOAA weather radio had been broadcasting for the last two days. The temperature had plummeted by almost twenty degrees, and a thin coating of snow now covered most of the deck facing the southwest. Light snow was still coming down in circles, caught in a wind eddy created by a lee from the th house. November 13 and already the first snowfall of the year! Mike and Kenny were rummaging for food in the fridge, but I knew with this weather they’d be bitching if we didn’t get on the sand quickly. I needed a plan. Convincing these guys to follow a single plan would be a challenge all on its own. How do you guide surfcasters who have been there and done it all?
As the saying goes: “Never leave fish to find fish.” Another buddy, Manny, had phoned in spotty reports from Smith Point. Then more came in from Robert Moses and Westhampton. The temptation to chase reports can be strong, but with a known body of fish tracking peanut bunker somewhere just west of Montauk, and only twelve hours ago, it seemed an obvious call to stay local. Each of our trucks was already loaded, so off we went, in single file. We were met with others from the old gang as we drove through town. Now we were a convoy, and somehow I was in charge of finding the fish. I didn’t need this type of pressure, but at least I did have a plan. My late fall scouting plan went against the grain of some surfcasters, who simply aired down and began running vast stretches of open beach between Montauk and East Hampton. My approach by day was to probe with binoculars at very specific 4x4 access points, but only committing to the sand when tire tracks, birds, bait wash-ups, water quality, proximity of rigs, or some fuzzy combination of the above confirmed the game was on. Starting east, Ditch Plains, Royal Atlantic, Surfside Overlook, Hither Hills, White Sands, Indian Wells, and Georgica would all get a look. But by not airing down, I found I could more efficiently monitor the 17.8 miles of beach, allowing multiple passes if necessary during a tide. With any luck, I would be floating over the sand at 15 psi, and closing in long before even one full “up and back” circuit.
Thank God, the first Royal Atlantic stop offered hope. Birds, mostly gulls, but now some gannets, were circling over wide areas about one quarter mile off the beach. Trucks were moving in both directions, a few had stopped for casts. Of the twenty or so active fishermen that I was able spy on with my binoculars, one was hooked up. I stood on the sand in just jeans and a flannel shirt, no match for the biting Northeast wind. The water was surprisingly clear, but the sky was steel grey. The saw tooth of the sea on the horizon made it quite clear few boats would be leaving the harbor today. The north side was probably looking more like a scene from â€œVictory At Sea.â€? Soon enough I had my answer on the angler who was hooked up, a very small fish. And with no other anglers displaying bent rods, we would have to move on. It was the same story at the next stops, but a thicker concentration of birds far to the west of White Sands finally enticed me to dump my air at the Napeague State Park 4X4 entrance. The decision was made, in part, due to the fact that not everyone had the East Hampton Town permit. Had there been fish on East Hampton property, we would have had to quickly transfer gear to those trucks with the coveted sticker.
Our caravan of trucks bounced through the trail among the pitch pines and beach grass. The path was filled with ruts, created by fishermen who had not bothered to air their tires down at the Napeague entrance. With tires still at street pressure, the wheels of a truck can catch in the sand and spin before the remaining wheels engage to restore forward momentum. The first truck creates a small rut, successive trucks just dig them deeper. I cursed as I bounced over the ruts. When we got past the last dune and onto the beach, I realized that what I had seen through my binoculars at White Sands was an optical illusion. Wishful thinking, but those birds were actually spread over a much wider area. Yet here were, committed. A few of the guys had already killed their engines and were rushing to change into waders. They just wanted to fish. I would not be the buzz-kill, so I changed into my waders and grabbed my 10 foot Kennedy Fisher matched with a Van Staal 300, along with a single-hooked Hopkins from out of my plug bag. I left my plug bag, belt and pliers on the cooler rack. About 10 cranks into my first cast I was startled with a fierce strike, but I was quickly pulled back to reality when the fish failed to hold its place, let alone take drag, clearly very small. This feisty twenty-four inch striper was still full of fight, but no match for my outfit. I let the small fish wear itself out on the sand before thumbing it on the lower lip to remove the hook. I wiped the slime off on the neoprene waders, but my wet hands now ached in the
cold wind. I looked over to see Mike was in as well, but the bend of his rod suggested he had connected with a twin brother of the fish that I had just released. The rest of the crew maintained position, each hoping to break the ice for the day. Within fifteen minutes plugs were changed, alternate colors of bucktail were swapped out. A lone pencil popper was danced across the surface. But it was not to be. We jumped back into our trucks and moved east, stopping at each prominent bar for exploratory casts. Thereâ€™s fishing and then thereâ€™s catching. Some of these guys clearly were not getting out much these days, and I could see them relishing in rediscovering the freedom of just casting, without having to watch the clock or worry about having to be someplace else. By the time we worked to the extreme western boundary of Napeague, it was late morning. The dropping tide began to expose more cuts and bars created by a steady succession of fall storms. The dayâ€™s expectations began to dull as our slow pick of small fish failed to maintain interest. Stops at all points west of Napeague revealed much of the same: isolated birds, scattered fishermen and a lone bent rod here and there. Despite the fact that our rods sat in the front racks, fully ready to go, there was nothing worth casting for. Calls from
Bob, Tony and a host of others who were coming out for the day were coming in now. Did we find fish? Where were we now? Had we heard of anything? Some had already started fishing to the west: Southampton, Westhampton, Shinnecock, and all pretty much the same story. Now I was getting worried. I was running out of ideas. Clean water, a modest Norâ€™easter in progress, evidence of bait, but no real concentrations of fish. Maybe Mike was right, maybe it was just not going to happen this weekend. Kenny began lobbying that we break for lunch, but I was able convince the crew to make one more run back east, scouting along the way. We by-passed Napeague and Hither Hills, taking the Old Montauk Highway through the rolling hills, past Gurneyâ€™s. This route offered just enough breaks between houses and trees to get potential glimpses of birds. We pulled into the Surfside Overlook and I jumped out of the truck to get a full view of the beach in both directions. Game on!
Just below the overlook, birds were circling in tight formation above numerous large swirls across a sand bar that was now showing from the falling tide. There were only two fishermen on the beach, both leaning heavily against bent rods, their body positions clearly demonstrating they were fighting respectable fish. I was the only one that had gotten out of my truck (I guess my job as the “guide” here), so I gave a simple two thumbs up and pointed with both hands down toward the water. Kenny and Mike both rolled down their windows, each looking surprised by the sight of me now running back to my truck. “Ok guys, this is it,” I announced, “You can either jump into my truck or you can park and walk down. They are right here.” They both motioned that they would go down, and this was not the time to negotiate. I fully intended to get as much out of this before it was over. We pull onto the beach and drove several hundred yards west until we were even with the overlook. By now, that field of two fishermen had grown to eight, and we were about to dump another five guys into the mix.
I am not sure I even got a full crank on my Hopkins before the line went tight and I heard that lovely sound of my drag clicker. The rapid slashing and head shakes told me right away what I had – bluefish. Bass fishermen, sometimes known for snob appeal and their interest only in large bass, have been known to curse bluefish, but I am not one of them. This was action and any fish that could peel drag off my VS 300 like this fish was fine by me. I backed up to let a wave put the fish up on the beach. As it thrashed, sand flew in every direction, and I used pliers to remove the hook. This was a “low teen” fish. Above ten pounds their jaws can be a bit intimidating, so when it came to hook removal, blues in this class were strictly “pliers fish,” as far as I was concerned. As I released the fish, I looked back to see how the rest were now faring. Mike was into a fish, but Kenny was still playing with his rod by his truck. What the hell was he waiting for? Another cast and three cranks on the reel put me back in contact with another bluefish of similar strength. And while horsing this fish, turning down on the drag slightly, I noticed an angler to my right now landing a ten pound bass on a bucktail. I spent the next twenty minutes getting my fill with these bluefish. Every now and then I could see either bass or bluefish in the face of a wave as it broke over the bar 150 feet out from where I was standing.
Hapless peanut bunker were schooling and then scattering over the bar before moving inside the trough. I wanted to be on the bar, but five steps forward made it clear the trough was still too deep to wade through. I was now ready to try something different. I took out a medium Danny swimmer and removed the tail hook. This modification generally allowed me to intentionally miss the bluefish, which typically attack from behind, while hooking a bass on the belly hook. I leaned into my cast, but the wind took the plug far to the right of my target. The bow in the wind pushed the plug into action immediately. A wave broke ahead of the lure, and then it was gone. I took a few quick cranks to regain contact, and I was surprised to find I was fast to a fish holding position well inside the trough. This fish did not run or thrash, it just held its place â€“ bass. After a short battle I slid the twelve pound bass up onto the sand. With barbless hooks I was able to release the fish quickly and get my plug back into the water. By now I had plenty of company on both sides of me. I had plenty of fish in front of me, but no place to cast without crossing someone elseâ€™s line. I noticed a flock of birds in a very tight formation just off of a sandbar a few hundred yards to the east. I left the action thinking that I might be able to wade out onto the sand bar for more elbow room.
While it was now almost dead low water, the trough was still about waist deep. I push on and was lucky to get back up onto the bar before the next wave. Had I been a few seconds slower, the wave would have come down my neck. The fish were certainly here too, and as before, I only got a few cranks on the reel before I was leaning into another bass. And so it went. We’ve all fished our share of blitzes. Some last only a few minutes, some last hours. Sometimes, despite the frantic feeding, it’s still difficult to hook a fish. Other times it’s like fishing in a barrel. Blitzes induced by bluefish chasing peanut bunker are among the best of the “small bait” blitzes. The gamefish rarely seem picky as they chase the bait very close to the sand. They can hit large plugs or small plugs, top water or bucktails. In blitzes like this, one can lose track of time, let alone the count of fish. I’ve often wondered how someone can walk off the beach saying “I caught 67 fish.” Personally, I’d have no clue.
To that end, I can’t really say how long I was out on that bar. I’d hook a fish, horse it in, unhook it and toss it back. I’d glance back occasionally to see if I could spot any of my fishing buddies, most of whom had also moved down the beach by now to join the main body of the melee. Everyone was hooked up, the whole damn beach, as far as I could see in either direction. In time, my lower back ached from leaning into fish. I stopped for a minute to raise both arms and stretch. I am sure the guys fishing next to me thought I was nuts. I didn’t care. I now had fish scales on my eye lids. My thumbs were raw to the point of bleeding from handling bass. My job as surf guide was now complete. How I wanted to see the guys together again, enjoying themselves, fishing. My prayers were answered. The day started out slow, but I kept with the plan. And just before all hope was lost, we ran back east to hit the jackpot. I continued to cast to fish from the bar, but by now it was stupid fishing. I could see bass and bluefish swimming no more than five feet from my waders. I caught a few more of each species before officially hitting the wall. That was it, no more, not one more fish. I didn’t care that all rods in every direction were still bent. I was done, period.
As I waded back through the trough, I could now see Kenny sitting in his pickup. He looked “done” too. His eyes were fixed forward, he wasn’t even looking toward the water. This once die-hard surfcaster now looked more like a drunk, just booted after last call. I had to march over to him and give him the business. What’s the matter, can’t take it no more?“ I jabbed. I expected a smile - that surfcaster’s high from being in right place at the right time - yet again. Instead, he glanced back toward the ocean, maintaining a somewhat puzzled look. Then, quickly enough, that puzzled expression turned pensive as he stroked his thick moustache, eventually teasing out a slight grin. He finally broke the silence and offered his own philosophical interpretation of what had just gone on.
“There were two bulls standing on top of a hill - a young but strong bull and a much older, but wiser bull. Together, they looked down over a heard of cows. The young bull could barely contain himself. “L-L-Look at all those cows,” he shouted. “Hey, let’s run down there and fuck a couple of them.” “NO,” protested the older bull, “Let’s WALK down there and fuck them ALL.”
Then he smiled. “Yeah, you caught a lot of fish, I saw you out there. But while you were out on the bar, did you bother to look behind you? Just once? Did you see the size of some of the fins in the trough? I didn’t even put on my waders! Take a look under the truck, John. We’ll broil that one. Yep, that one should be enough to feed the guys tonight.” Under the front axel of his truck lay a still lively 25-pound bass, burying itself in the sand with each successive flip of its tail. The vast majority of the bass landed during the afternoon’s melee were in the 10 to 12 pound range. I am sure any surfcaster who saw Kenny land this fish dismissed it as a statistical outlier. This was no accident. The sight of Kenny taking his time earlier in the day, fooling with his gear - now it all made sense. Very few people demonstrate the composure to stand in front of an ocean of rolling fish without succumbing to fits of frantic casting. I thought I was seeing an aging surfcaster, no longer having the energy. But the years had not changed his approach nor dulled his senses. He had observed the sheer numbers of fish, but his intention and technique was still all about those statistical outliers.
I smiled when it hit me, one of those rare moments when being out-gunned brings immense satisfaction. I wanted everything to be like old times. And for a brief moment in time, yes it was. I was no longer the “guide,” no shit, and who was I kidding? I jogged over to my truck to find my cell phone ringing off the hook. 16 MISSED CALLS 8 NEW VOICE MAILS “Fuck it,” I said to myself. “If anyone else got a good fish, good for them, I don’t wanna know. I need a shower… and a beer.” But I played the messages as I drove off the beach. A mental tally after hearing the first few voice mails made it clear - King Neptune himself had turned on the switch for all south facing beaches. Those working their way east never got to Montauk, because they had all found fish! Mike, who was nearby, had fish. Bob was somewhere in Amagansett. Tony had them in Southampton. Scott found his batch at Georgica. Manny had them in Westhampton, but had even better reports from FINS. The list went on.
I returned as many calls as I could: “Hey, screw the fish, leave them, they are here too. Everybody is coming, so just get your asses to Montauk for dinner and drinks.” And in due time these burley fishermen transformed themselves into “Kitchen Slaves.” Kenny took over the stove as the boys argued over the exact cooking time for perfect pan-seared Nantucket scallops. Bob cleared the countertop to give a lesson on his signature linguini with clam sauce. The broiler was fired up for the bass. I took to opening bottles of wine, the good stuff that I usually kept hidden.
As we raised glasses after dinner, it became clear that the magic, the chemistry that kept us fishing for so many years, was still very much with us. Fishing stories we re-told, the old favorites. Like watching a favorite movie for the one hundredth time, we listened despite knowing we could recite it almost word for word. And we laughed as if hearing the punch lines for the first time. This much had not changed. At one point someone asked, innocently enough, if the tide might be right for Shagwong? The room got quiet as we looked at each other’s face other for a reaction…who was game?”
Then a big grin came over each face, as a collective “Nahhhhhhh” reverberated off the walls, followed by hysterical laughter. There would be no turning back the clock to the way things truly used to be. Maybe we would have dropped everything and gone back out there to fish another tide fifteen years ago. But not now, not tonight anyway. So things had changed. We had all changed, together. And, finally, I was beginning to think I was ok with that.
Manny Moreno is considered by many to be one of today's most prolific big fish hunters. His exploits are well known whether you fish Block Island, Cuttyhunk, Cape Cod or Montauk Point. He is a contributing author of the book “The Hunt for Big Stripers” and possibly one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet at the beach. Just don't ask him where he catches all his big fish... Roger Martin has fished the rocky beaches of Rhode Island, plowed through soft sand on Cape Cod beaches and navigated the treacherous rocks of Montauk. But most of the time you'll find him close to home, on the sandy beaches or the back bay marshes of Long Island’s south shore. Over the last half century he has written numerous articles, authored a chapter in William Muller's book “The Secrets of Surf Fishing at Night” and given many presentations on the subject of surf fishing. He was taught how to rig eels by his friend, the late Al Bentsen and has passed this knowledge on to many others. Roger and his wife Marie are co-editors of the Surfcaster's Journal and they are the ones who labor over our sloppy writing, bad grammar and terrible pronunciation errors. For that alone they should be saluted. Zeno Hromin is the author of two recent bestselling books, “The Art of Surfcasting with Lures” and “The Hunt for Big Stripers.” He is a budding angling photographer who has won numerous awards for his camera skills and a surf guide who specializes in instructional guiding. He is one of the founders of the Surfcaster's Journal and a frequent contributor to the Surfcaster's Journal Blog. You can get more information about Zeno on his website www.zenohromin.com
Lou Caruso is a long time member of the Farragut Striper Club, Surfcaster's Journal official "Rod Guru" and one of the most well regarded custom rod builders on Long Island, NY. You can contact Lou via his website www.louscustomrods.com Tommy Corrigan is an insanely driven, ridiculously talented dude who designs the Surfcaster's Journal magazine from his head. No guidelines, no drafts and no boxes to plug articles in. Everything that you see is a result of late night inspirations on those nights when his better half makes him stay home. When he manages to sneak out you will probably find him on a local beach, plying his craft. His talents are vast and range from music CD cover designs, to posters, books and t-shirts. Don't be surprised if the shirt you or your kid is wearing was created by our design guru. Stephen Barone is a surfcaster from Massachusetts who fishes anywhere from Plum Island to Martha's Vineyard. He is currently in grad school studying for his MBA and fishing any chance he gets. John Papciak is a well respected New York surfcaster. As much as we all admire his fearlessness when swimming to the rocks in the middle of the night, we are even more impressed with his conservation ethic. He was one of the people involved in the â€œBring Back Big Bassâ€? campaign in recent years and he has always been at the forefront of conservation efforts in the surf fishing community.
John Skinner is the long-time Surf Fishing Columnist and former Editor-in-Chief of Nor'east Saltwater Magazine. In addition to his weekly surf column, he has written many articles for Norâ€™east Saltwater and On the Water magazines. He is the author of the book A Season on the Edge and a contributing writer to the book The Hunt for Big Stripers.
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