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On the Water: North Fork Easy Rider

Wed, 08/09/2023 - 12:07
Sam Doughty of Springs caught this 11.3-pound fluke on his boat on July 28 off Montauk.
John Ciullo

The morning of Aug. 2 dawned bright and beautiful, with nary a hint of hot, deep summer dampness. It felt more like a premature peek of early September, which is now amazingly only three weeks away. It was a perfect weather day.

As such, I was confronted with a difficult choice. Should I go fishing on my boat, or do an extended ride on my motorcycle to the towns and villages on the North Fork?

I decided that I would ride my motorcycle, a.k.a. the Hog. Given its smaller frame, my friends call it the Piglet. Jokes aside, I wanted to take in the laid-back environs of the scenic farmlands, vineyards, and waterways. Motivated by recently watching the 1969 motorcycle movie classic “Easy Rider” with Jack Nicholson, I was ready to ride and roll.

Also aiding in my decision was the fact I had done some fishing a few days earlier at Jessup’s Neck. That day, the bluefish were hungry, taking full advantage of my four-ounce diamond jig. I had my fill of fish.

On a side note, I also did not appreciate the constant heavy wake brought forth by numerous “weekend warriors” in their high-speed or large pleasure boats, who were oblivious of their careless actions that day. I was wise not to take my blood pressure reading. My cork would have popped.

A special shout-out goes to the 35-foot Contender with its four, 250-horsepower Yamaha engines that came within 25 feet of me. I most certainly enjoyed cleaning up the mess in my main cabin after you whizzed on by. Come a little closer next time: Let’s share a drink or two.

After the two ferry crossings, I landed in Greenport and headed west along Main Road. All told, I made about a dozen stops and significant financial contribution to many fine establishments on my 86-mile adventure. Among my pit stops were Blue Duck Bakery (short-crust blueberry turnovers), Southold Fish Market (soft-shell crabs and squid), WeGo Fishing Bait and Tackle (lures and rigs that I probably did not need), Lombardi’s Gourmet Market (hot stuffed cherry peppers), Wickham’s Fruit Stand (peaches), the Candy Man (peanut brittle), Latham’s Farm Stand (corn and tomatoes), and Braun’s Seafood Market (bigeye tuna and clam chowder).

However, the major decision I needed to make that day was where to lunch? Should it be at the old-school Modern Snack Bar in Aquebogue or the Hellenic Snack Bar and Restaurant in East Marion?

Despite the “modern” in its name, the Modern Snack Bar is anything but. The waitresses still wear fabulous retro 1950s-style poodle skirts and the meringue on the lemon meringue pie is as tall as the Statue of Liberty. While there is no jukebox to spin a 45, it’s very much a back-to-the-future experience. 

The Hellenic Snack Bar and Restaurant, a casual Greek eatery that the Giannaris family has operated for decades, has also survived the test of time and remains consistently consistent in service and food.

With a hankering for their grilled octopus and famous made-to-order lemonade, I rode back east to enjoy some Greek treats at the Hellenic, but as I turned into their parking lot, I was bewildered by the lack of cars. Aside from someone cutting the lawn, the place was totally quiet. At the front door was a sign that said it was closed on Wednesdays. Major disappointment.

Seeing that it was 1:15 and I was now very hungry, I backtracked to Greenport to get some pizza at the highly touted 1943 Pizza Bar. According to many reviews, its wood-burning brick oven has been creating fabulous pies for several years on Main Street. I wanted to try it for myself. I found a parking spot a short distance away, hopped off the bike. and pondered what I would order when I noticed that it, too, was closed for the day.

Heading west on Front Street, I finally ended up ordering a slice of pizza at La Capricciosa, a few steps away from the North Ferry terminal. The slice was fine, with a nice, crisp undercarriage, but it felt like a major letdown from my initial expectations before I left home on North Haven. Lesson learned — I need to do better research in advance.

Back on the bike, I headed out to Orient Point to catch up with Capt. Rich Jensen of the Nancy Ann, a popular charter boat and business that he’s been at the helm of since 1960. The third-generation fisherman knows the East End waters like the back of his hand.

“Hey, great to see you again,” Jensen smiled at me, as he was filling up the Nancy Ann with diesel fuel not far from her berth at Orient by the Sea Marina, now the site of Duryea’s Orient Point restaurant.

The conversation eventually drifted over to the current fishing scene. “Plenty of huge bluefish are in the Race,” he said. “But they were also in Plum Gut today, too.”

Jensen said that there was very good fishing for sea bass but lamented that the low bag limit (three fish) and minimum length (16.5 inches) were a real challenge to meet at times.

“There’s plenty of them around, but the majority are just shy of the size limit,” he said. “It’s really frustrating, as well as with dealing with new reduced slot size for striped bass.”

It was good to catch up with Jensen. We shook hands and promised to continue to stay in touch. I got back on the bike and made my way back to Shelter Island, and ultimately home.


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


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