Fish Over Fame in Montauk

Striped bass were being caught with regularity
Martin Fischer donned his wetsuit Monday morning after he and his wife, Danielle, made their annual pilgrimage from Amityville to Montauk Point in the camper for the fall striped bass run. Russell Drumm

   Upfront is Mecca to surfcasters this time of year, the frontage being the semicircle of rocky beach and headland that surrounds the Montauk Point Lighthouse.
    On Monday morning early, striped bass were being caught with regularity as the sun lighted the white hulls of boats, some close, others farther offshore by degrees like so many stepping stones to Block Island, also lit bright by the sun’s early rays. Casters said black darters, a swimming lure, had done the trick in the dark, according to one, Steve Kramer, but the darters were replaced by bucktails festooned with white or red pork-rind trailers at dawn.
     Steve Van Derlofske, a wetsuited caster from East Islip, was caught between a freelance videographer promising him future YouTube stardom and an offshore rock perch with its promise of striped bass. “What kind of lure is that?” the video man asked, panning his lens the length of Van Derlofske’s rod to the lure in question.
    “It’s a bucktail. Listen, I’ve got to swim to that rock,” the caster said, having chosen fish over posterity.
    Meanwhile, in the Montauk Point State Park’s lower parking area, campers were circled like prairie schooners. Casters who had worked the southeast swell through the night lay about on picnic benches, some dozing, others laying wetsuits out to dry.
    Martin Fischer was suiting up, his wife, Danielle, smiling on the camper’s steel front stoop and praising its comfort as compared to the Bronco they used to spend days in. “We used to go to Hither Hills to shower.” The couple had arrived in the early morning hours from Amityville. “I’ve been coming here since I was six or seven,” Fischer said. “I’ll spend 16 hours in this wetsuit today.” Actually three separate wetsuits, he said. He switched into dry ones every few hours.
    Paul Leo, a friend, had arrived from Farmingdale at 4 a.m., and Donny Rivera, another buddy, had come up from Trinity, Fla. “I got in last night. It’s the first time back here since I moved.”
    Most of the action took place on the north side of Montauk Point, where Allen Vollmer of West Babylon caught the 43.6-pound striper that won two tournaments held Friday and Saturday. One was held from Paulie’s Tackle Shop in Montauk, the other sponsored by the State Parks Department. A bunker chunk did the trick, causing the bass to choose it over the peanut bunker, large spearing, snappers, and mullet, the prey species being offered by Neptune.
    Billy Fisher caught a 37.17-pound bass during the Paulie’s contest, in which 133 casters competed.
    In the ongoing Montauk SurfMasters tournament for striped bass, Klever Oleas caught a 26-pound bass to knock Atilla Ozturk’s 20.6-pounder into second place in the wader division. Fred Kalkstein, an organizer of the SurfMaster tournament and a competitor in its wetsuit division, swam to his favorite rock in one of the Montauk moorland coves on Monday evening only to be “lifted” from it by waves from the intermittent pulse of swells out of the southeast.
    “I got knocked off and swam back out. I made three casts twice. The second time I got lifted off I did backward somersaults. I will be out again tonight,” Kalkstein said on Tuesday morning.
    Harvey Bennett at the Tackle Shop in East Hampton has also been recommending that surfcasters use black darters or any other swimming lure on an outgoing tide in the darker times of day.
    Bennett reported the influx of false albacore continuing in Gardiner’s Bay, although the wind has been adversarial of late.