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On the Water: The Last Fishing Trip?

Thu, 11/30/2023 - 11:21
Bill Bennett of Sag Harbor caught this nice blackfish on Sunday on the Simple Life out of Montauk.
Jon M. Diat

My alarm clock was set for 4:30 a.m. on Sunday. When it went off, part of me wanted to stay in my warm and comfy bed. It was pitch dark outside and the temperature hovered around 20 degrees. Staying under the covers would have been the smart and prudent move. 

But with the season for blackfish and sea bass concluding in a few weeks, I was already awake before the alarm went off. Despite many decades of fishing, I was excited for what would likely be my final fishing trip of 2023. 

After I put in my contact lenses, I went downstairs to the kitchen to warm up some tomato soup for my thermos. Some may give me grief, but it was old-school condensed Campbell's soup, the one with the iconic red-and-white can we all grew up with. 

In 1962, the artist Andy Warhol, who owned a large encampment for many years east of Ditch Plain in Montauk, painted one of his most famous works of art: the aforementioned humble can.

Want to see it? The Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan is where it has resided for many years. That said, I doubt the two-star Michelin restaurant there dares to serve the soup to patrons of such refinement. My fellow foodie colleague here at The Star, Laura Donnelly, may want to chime in.

The drive out to the Montauk Marine Basin was uneventful, except when a large deer abruptly crossed in front of my Jeep as I drove along the Napeague stretch. I slammed on the brakes. Catastrophe was narrowly averted. Man, machine, and beast thankfully survived.

"Hey, good morning. It's great to see you again," said Capt. Tyler Quaresimo of the 42-foot charter boat Simple Life, when I stepped on the stern deck.

Quaresimo, while still only 26, has quickly built a fine reputation and business in Montauk for his fishing acumen. It's no wonder, as he has had a great mentor in his father, Jamie, who runs the large party boat Miss Montauk II, which sets sail about 100 feet from where his son is docked.

My friend Anthony Caputo fished with Quaresimo the day before and came back to the dock with a nice haul of sea bass, blackfish, and a few cod. My hopes were high when the first mate, Brian Damm, untied the dock lines and we headed toward Block Island, 15 miles to the east.

The trip was organized by Bill Bennett of Sag Harbor. Bennett is truly hard core when it comes to fishing. When he's not working as a plumber extraordinaire (he quickly removed a most stubborn clog in our shower basin last week), he is usually not far from being on board a fishing boat. 

Beyond his fishing and plumbing skills, a big bonus that morning was the tray of deviled eggs he brought aboard that his wife made the night before for all of us to enjoy in the main cabin. 

After a nearly two-hour ride, Quaresimo anchored us up on a rocky piece of bottom he liked in 70 feet of water. A few other boats were in the area trying their luck on the outgoing tide. 

"Let's see what happens, guys," he said from his helm chair, giving the six of us the okay to lower our green crabs baits into the chilly 53-degree water. 

It only took me a minute or two to land a chunky four-pound blackfish. An excellent start. Shortly thereafter, I landed a nice sea bass that would be prepared for dinner on Monday. Everyone else at the rail was also into fish in rapid succession.

For the entire morning, we enjoyed consistent action. It was rare to go without a bite or a fish within 30 seconds. By noon, the seas were building steadily from a strengthening southeast breeze, and the bite began to dissipate. 

By then it didn't matter as we retained more than enough blackish and sea bass, in addition to two codfish. Plus, we had a long ride back to Montauk in a deepening following sea.

If this was my last trip of 2023, I could not have been more satisfied. But fingers are crossed for one more outing.

Over at Tight Lines Tackle in Southampton, Ken Morse is gearing up for Christmas and the holidays, with some nice sales. Basically, just about everything in his store at 260 Hampton Road is anywhere between 10 and 15 percent off. Tight Lines is closed on Wednesday and will be open until Dec. 21 or 22 for those on the hunt for holiday gifts.

As for the local fishing scene, he said that "a few small striped bass are running in the ocean surf, but fish reports are now becoming very scarce." 

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