Heavy Surf Pleases Many

A virtual surfing nirvana
Hard ocean swells for the past few weeks have left surfcasters dismayed but spelled pure joy for surfers, who are seeing the best waves of the year. Durell Godfrey

I have to admit that the folks who made the various predictions about the 2017 hurricane season were right on target. Most of the widely followed prognosticators who said it was going to be an active and possibly serious season were spot on in their outlook. Weather forecasters get a tough rap when they are wrong, but get little credit when they are correct. Whether it was Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Maria, or Jose, or one of the other named storms, the trials and tribulations of their destructive wrath have been widely and sadly publicized for all to bear witness to this season. And for those directly affected by those storms, it will take a long time to recover from the damage, rebuilding, and emotional scars. The pain and misery do not evaporate overnight.

Those of us here on eastern Long Island are fortunate that we have not experienced a direct hit from a storm thus far. While we are finally past the peak of hurricane season in the Atlantic basin, we still have another two months to keep our guard up. May our good fortunes continue. 

While some of these storms came rather close to our area, and all of us dread the possible destruction they could bring, other aspects of them are eagerly awaited and deeply appreciated. 

By whom? you may ask. Well, talk to anyone with a surfboard in the back of his or her pickup or on top of the car. For those who take pride in waxing their long or short board, the past few weeks have brought a virtual surfing nirvana with near-perfect, long-period swells formed by several turbulent low-pressure systems that spiraled off to the south and east of Long Island. 

“Surf’s up!” as the old beach saying goes, and quite a few are taking full advantage of some very clean, long waves, courtesy of Mother Nature.

“Great, clean swells the past few weeks,” said Matt Martin of Southampton, a surfer. “Most areas out here have had a good set of waves. It’s been great.” Popular spots for those seeking the best waves include longtime favorites like Turtle Cove and Ditch Plain in Montauk, as well as Flying Point to the west in Southampton. However, there are a number of less crowded spots in between that others actively surf and try to keep to themselves.

“There’s been some good surf conditions out here,” agreed Stu Foley, owner of Air and Speed Surf Shop in downtown Montauk. “I’m not necessarily seeing many new people; it’s a lot of the same crew. It’s always harder for the locals to find time to surf, as most have to actually work for a living.” 

Hard-core surfers ply their trade year round, but it’s clear to many that the fall months are the best time of year to enjoy the sport. “No doubt, September and October are my favorite months,” said Martin. “The water is still warm and the conditions are usually good.” 

While surfers have been enthused by the recent wave action, those fishing from the beach — surfcasters — have been a bit dismayed by the lack of activity since the beginning of September. Rough waters have made fishing a challenge the past few weeks, but that is starting to change as an uptick in action was noticed in several areas, mainly toward the west, along the ocean beaches. 

The Town of Southampton finally made a cut to open up Mecox Bay to the ocean on Friday morning, and those casting under the stars at night witnessed some good action, but not every nighttime outing was met with success. And once the sun came up over the horizon, any action was quick to shut down.

Out at Montauk, Paulie’s Tackle Shop held its annual surf striped bass contest this past weekend, but the action was on the slow side. “Fishing was tough,” reported Paul Apostolides, owner of the shop. “I’m hoping things will change for the better soon.” Richie Michaelson of Montauk landed the largest bass of the tourney, weighing in at 24 pounds. However, those fishing from a boat out in the rips off the Lighthouse reported better success with stripers: Fish well into the 40-pound range have been consistently landed. 

“It finally felt like fall this past weekend,” said Harvey Bennett, the seasoned owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett. “Bass have showed up on the sand beaches along with alligator-sized bluefish. It’s been fun of late.” On the bay side, Bennett was enthused that porgies and blowfish remain plentiful and that the snapper fishing continues to be action-packed from various docks and bulkheads. “And don’t forget the false albacore, too,” added Bennett, who continues to run his special fall sale on clam rakes. “They are cruising around right up to the harbor entrances.”

Over at Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton, the proprietor, Sebastian Gorgone, was smiling about the weakfish bite outside of Three Mile Harbor and the large porgies deeper inside the harbor entrance. “Fishing has been really good,” he said. “And there is still a good amount of blowfish around, too.” Gorgone was also gearing up for the fall blackfish season, which opens today. Anglers are now allowed to retain four fish over 16 inches per person. 

Light-tackle anglers are having some good luck, too. “Some really big bluefish are roaming around Gardiner’s Bay,” said Capt. Merritt White of Gunkholin Charters. “The false albacore are around in good numbers, but they have been fussy and a bit tough to catch at times.” 

Capt. Paul Dixon, the light-tackle expert of Dixon’s to the Point Charters, out of East Hampton, agrees on the increased fishing action. “Fishing has been good with lots of bass and albies, but the fish are spread out everywhere from Montauk to Orient. The swells and fog put a damper on things, but now the weather is better and fishing has really picked up.”

Farther west, Scott Jeffrey at East End Bait and Tackle in Hampton Bays confirmed that the ocean beaches were holding striped bass up to 38 pounds. “We have weighed in quite a few nice fish,” he said. “Most of the fish fell for plugs or rubber baits in the dark. Some schoolies are around too as the sun rises.”


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