At 8 p.m. tonight, Montauk, and a notable number of the hamlet’s standouts, including the surfcaster Gary (Toad) Stephens, Capt. Amanda Switzer, the Miss Montauk party boat, Jenny Meadows, chef at the Fishbar, Todd Mitgang of South Edison restaurant, and last but not least, Paul Melnyk, king of “skishing,” will be featured in the premiere of Ben Sargent’s “Hook, Line, and Dinner,” a Cooking Channel presentation.
The plot of the short documentary is straightforward. Ben (“I live for seafood”) Sargent, the show’s host-fisherman-chef, pays a visit to the fishing capital of the Northeast during the 2010 striped bass run.
While the season ended with somewhat of a whimper, the month of October stood out big time, producing one of nature’s more awesome displays; tens of thousands of striped bass on their southerly migration feeding on great clouds of prey species.
Mr. Sargent timed his visit well and the filmmaker Ariel Astrachan has strung together some amazing underwater and surface footage of big bass in the midst of a feeding frenzy.
We often look funny to ourselves when peering into a mirror, and “Hook, Line, and Dinner’s” visit to Montauk will strike locals as a bit hokey. At the same time, viewers will take pride in the filmmaker/chef’s choice of featured characters.
Toad takes Ben Sargent surfcasting, first explaining and demonstrating how he got his handle by jumping over cars. As for surfcasting, he is one of the best, with a gift for colorful, stream-of-consciousness patter. Those fishing alongside him might think it a curse. That voice!
Toad gets him a nice fish that he takes to South Edison, where the chef Todd Mitgang prepares it with creamed kale and wheatberry on a bed of chopped cherrystone clam — “a taste of Montauk in the fall,” Mr. Sargent declares.
The host takes to the sea for a bit of fly-fishing aboard Captain Switzer’s light-tackle guide boat. They find a traffic snarl of similar boats in front of the Montauk Lighthouse, a common, and often dangerous, dangle, but this sequence includes amazing video of stripers boiling on the surface. Acres of them.
Next, the intrepid culinary Nimrod boards the party boat Miss Montauk for a day of porgy fishing with Capt. Jamie Quaresimo at the helm. He takes his catch to the Fishbar, a terrific out-of-the-way restaurant located at the Gone Fishing Marina on East Lake Drive. The chef Jenny Meadows concocts a mouth-watering dish by grilling a fat porgy whole and serving it with a spicy tomato chutney.
This is a cooking show, and Mr. Sargent takes pains to accent the preparations. For the striped bass dish, he stresses that the kale was locally grown, the wheatberries too. Ms. Meadows says that if the porgy’s skin sticks to the grill, it’s not done.
Next up is the fishing chef’s meet-up with Paul Melnyk, “the craziest man in town.” Montauk locals know that while he’s out-there (in a good sense), Paul Melnyk has not yet pledged Montauk’s craziest fraternity, but as the inventor and number-one practitioner of the sport of skishing he could be described as paranormal.
Simply put, skishing means donning a wetsuit and swim fins and swimming offshore with a surfcasting rod. It all began, he claims, when he was pulled into the ocean while fighting a 40-pound striped bass. He says it’s a way to escape the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds that often cram the beach during the fall run. It helps not to dwell on the possibility that a shark could be attracted to the skisher by the blood and thrashing of his catch.
Mr. Sargent joins Mr. Melnyk on a skishing expedition which goes well — “reeling it in with nothing below you but the Atlantic” — until the tide turns and the pair is forced to struggle against it or get carried out to sea.
All in all, Mr. Sargent does us proud. He gets it, and in the process of singing Montauk’s praises, reminds us how lucky we are to live beside a marine cornucopia.