Out of the La-Z-Boy

Fishing during these conditions can be dangerous and painful
Ben McCharron landed a 55.14-pound bass under the Lighthouse on the evening of Oct. 4 to lead the Montauk SurfMasters tournament’s waders division.

While most East End fishermen wisely retreat to the comfort of home during a period of fierce northeast wind and rain, others pull on their waders, grab a stout surfcasting rod, and head toward the Point in search of big striped bass. 

Fishing during these conditions can be dangerous and painful. A fall from a rock perch under the Montauk Lighthouse can be life-threatening. Rain droplets propelled by 50-mile-per-hour winds feel like a shotgun blast of small needles against exposed skin. 

Fishermen brave these harsh conditions because the outcome can be spectacular. Albert McReynolds hooked his then-record 78.5-pound striped bass in a northeaster.

The roiled surf produced by a strong northeast wind pushes and tumbles schools of small baitfish toward the shore, where they get trapped in the churning whitewater created at the intersection of breaking waves and water retreating from the beach. Large striped bass, with their powerful tails and broad shoulders, can easily navigate this rough water and feast on the disoriented and vulnerable prey. 

Big fish are naturally lazy. In normal conditions, they prefer to position themselves behind a rock, which deflects the current and allows them to utilize very little energy to maintain their position while they wait for their next meal to swim by. But when conditions turn nasty, with strong northeast winds and cloud cover in the mix, large striped bass get out of the La-Z-Boy and become active and aggressive feeders close to shore. The first day or so of a storm is golden time for surfcasters, before the on-shore winds dirty the water with suspended silt and every cast lure returns dressed in sea grass.  

Surfcasters who are inclined to rear back and sling their lure as far as possible must adjust their strategy in windy conditions. A long cast buys nothing when the fish are feeding in the wash. Here a sidecast that keeps the lure below the full force of the opposing wind can work better than the traditional over-the-top cast. Of course this might not be practical if you are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a fellow angler. 

One can’t go wrong with a bucktail adorned with pork rind when fishing angry surf. The size, shape, and color of the bucktail will depend on multiple factors, including what time of day one is fishing, depth of the water, sweep of the current, etc. The surfcaster who is experienced in fishing these conditions will quickly deduce the winning combination while the novice might have a difficult day. If the angler a few yards away is catching fish and you are not, observe what lure he is using and how he is presenting it. Even if you don’t catch anything that session you’ll take one step forward on the learning curve.

The way things are going there’s a good chance the East End will experience another bout of strong northeast winds and those who want to try rough water fishing for the first time will have their opportunity. But newbies should first visit a local tackle shop to make sure they have the right gear to make the trip both safe and rewarding. 

Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor reported a successful opening to the blackfish season with fish up to eight pounds caught among rock piles northeast of Plum Island. Some nice sea bass are mixed in with the tautog and a large striper was diamond-jigged around Jessup’s Neck, he added. Stripers up to 35 pounds were caught on trolled tubes off Montauk Point and fish up to 50 pounds were found off Block Island, Morse said.

Sebastian Gorgone at Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton reported that the opening of Georgica Pond last week yielded stripers on bucktails and pencil poppers. Some monster blues were caught at Gerard Drive and small pods of albies continue to roam the bay, he said.

Paul Apostolides at Paulie’s Tackle in Montauk said that a change in the wind over the weekend dispersed the fish somewhat, but fish continue to be taken around the Point and ocean beaches. Paulie’s is holding a fishing tournament from noon Friday to noon Sunday with just a $25 entry fee. Prizes include a Van Staal reel, custom GSB surf rod, Rockhopper gear, and other items precious to surf casters. 

Ben McCharron landed a 55.14-pound bass under the Lighthouse on the evening of Oct. 4 to lead the Montauk SurfMasters tourney’s waders division. John Bruno made the first move in the wetsuit division with a 37-pound fish to take the top spot. Montauk surfcasters were finding 20-pound-class fish north and south of the Point, according to tourney organizers. 

Harvey Bennett at the Tackle Shop in Amagansett reported stripers and false albacore at Hither Hills State Park, blowfish in Three Mile Harbor, and blues and bass between Bostwick Point and the Ruins.

Reports of strong albie and striper action from Rhode Island to Cape Cod suggest the fall season is just beginning. The relatively warm water pushed in by northeast winds is keeping fish to the north of us in place. A few blasts of cold weather should start sending them in our direction.


The Star’s fishing columnist can be followed on Twitter, @ehstarfishing. Photos of prize catches can be emailed to David Kuperschmid at fishreport@ehstar.com.