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On the Water: Motorcycle to Montauk

Wed, 05/31/2023 - 17:32
From left, Ian Burge, Sienna Hirschman, Cole Gaines, and Niya Minardi, East Hampton High School students, enjoyed a day of fishing with Second Choice Charters out of Montauk on May 7.
Capt. Jeff Nichols

On May 24, before the much-expected heavy crush of traffic that I knew the Memorial Day weekend would bring, I took my motorcycle from my garage on North Haven for an extended cruise to Montauk. I wanted to catch up with several friends along the docks.

All told, I traveled about 75 miles on that beautiful, sunny day. It was nice to get back on the bike again and take in the sights and smells along the back roads heading east. Having undergone two heart surgeries within the past six weeks (with another one scheduled today) I savored every moment.

Arriving first in downtown Montauk, I noticed it was incredibly peaceful and quiet (the calm before the storm?). The first stop was to catch up with Paul Apostolides, the longtime owner of Paulie’s Tackle Shop.

Blessed with a fine sense of humor, Apostolides keeps a close pulse on the local fishing scene in his well-stocked shop, and the conversation always flows. Plus, he will never sugarcoat anything, even when the fishing is poor.

“Oh man, there are striped bass and bluefish everywhere,” he said from behind his countertop when I entered. “The action has been truly fantastic. More people need to take advantage of it.”

Heading then to Montauk Harbor, I bumped into Capt. Michael Vegessi and Capt. Michael Potts at the dockage formerly known as Tuma’s Dock on West Lake Drive. The two Michaels have almost 100 years of fishing experience between them. They most certainly know their craft.

Potts was standing dockside in the middle of filleting striped bass that his charter caught that morning. He also was equipped with a vacuum sealer machine to ensure that Bob and Sue Kelsey from Buffalo would have the freshest of fish upon their return trip back to western New York.

Having graduated from the University of Buffalo back in 1985, I wondered if striped bass would serve as a palatable substitute for their famed spicy fried chicken wings? Buffalo bass, anyone? Sign me up.

I’ve known and fished with the savvy Potts for decades. We joked and smiled about our various current ailments, and ultimately concluded, with no surprise, that getting older does not get any easier.

In fact, just the other day, musician Jimmy Buffett, who lives a few houses down the shoreline from yours truly, recently quipped from a hospital bed in Boston dealing with an undisclosed ailment, that “growing old is not for sissies, I promise you.” The chief Parrot Head from Margaritaville certainly nailed that.

As for Vegessi, he was putting the finishing touches on the Lazybones, a party boat business he and his late wife, Kathy, operated for around 40 years. Vegessi will once again put the now gleaming Bones — freshly painted from stem to stern — out to sea to pursue fluke on a twice-daily basis sailing at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. His clever motto of “bring your lunch, catch your dinner” still rings true after all these years.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back out there again,” he said with a smile. “The reports haven’t been all that great from what I’ve heard, but I want to see it for myself. It’s still very early for fluke. But, nonetheless, it’s time to go fishing.” True, that.

In my long ride that day to Montauk, I came across a few more captains and mates at the various marinas that line Montauk Harbor. It was great to reconnect. All were looking forward to the Memorial Day weekend, the starting point to the season for many. It’s also their time to finally make some money.

A late-afternoon stop at the Clam Bar on the Napeague stretch was the final stop of the day as I headed back west. Fresh fried cod and chips made for a perfect ending.

Elsewhere, it’s hard to find anyone who would not agree that striped bass and bluefish continue to keep rods consistently bent. My recent outings in Shelter Island Sound over to Jessup’s Neck to the west have been extremely productive on both species. Weakfish, too, are roaming about in nice quantities.

It’s certainly been a very fine spring on the water thus far. As well as on the pavement riding the motorcycle.

Fishing tips, observations, and photographs can be sent to [email protected].


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