Another Bass-Filled Month

This is the time of year when serious surfcasters get serious
To prove what’s possible around Montauk Point these days, Edward L. Shugrue III visited it with a guide, Ken Rafferty. This false albacore was caught on his fly rod. Ken Rafferty

   Word has come that John DeMaio, a veteran Montauk charter fisherman, died on Monday morning in Florida. He had a number of boats during his tenure as one of Montauk’s more successful chartermen. They were all named Vivienne after his wife, who survives. A complete obituary appears elsewhere in these pages.
    This is the time of year when serious surfcasters get serious, and so far Mother Nature has provided fish to get serious about. October 10, 2011, will be remembered as one of the more amazing days for a surfcaster to have been in Montauk. Huge schools of striped bass congregated around Montauk Point. All the signs are there for another bass-filled October within casting range.
    At Montauk Point during the week, schools of bass, with a few bluefish mixed in, swam within range of Turtle Cove, then past the stone revetment in front of the Lighthouse, and on to the North Bar area on either side of the top of the tide. With few birds showing, the arrival of the schools was telegraphed by rods bending in succession along the line of casters that, as usual this time of year, especially on weekends, can be shoulder-to-shoulder,  with an expletive or two thrown in for good measure. 
    Newcomers to the Point’s precarious rock ballet and crossed-lines-untangling tango can get hot under their $1,200 designer wetsuits. Best to relax, not easy when your neighbor’s bucktail takes a wrap on your line and swings like a pendulum, threatening its integrity just as you’re reeling a 20-pounder to within reach.
    And then, when you bring the fish over the rocks with the help of a rush of white water, there’s the challenge of getting it before the next wave breaks on your head, and when it does break on your head, the challenge of holding on to a freshly revived, muscular, 20-pound striped bass that has lost all sense of humor.
    On Sunday, Ken Rafferty, a light-tackle and fly-fishing guide who fishes from Montauk this time of year, visited the Point with a fly-rod-toting Edward L. Shugrue III.
    “We went out from about 1:30 to almost 7 in the evening. There were blitzes everywhere, lots of albies (false albacore), striped bass, and one bluefish. He had a grand slam,” meaning his client’s catch consisted of each of Montauk’s three favorite fall inshore fighting fish. They often show up at the same time, the bluefish attacking a balled-up school of prey, bass swimming below to catch the scraps, and the false albacore swimming circles around the prey as though to corral them before rocketing through the school for a mouthful. It’s an impressive phenomenon, one that often stops fishermen in their tracks. 
    “I’ve had anglers who have fished all over the world, but who have never been here for this. They can’t believe what they’re seeing. They can’t even cast. They just stand there with their mouths open,” Rafferty said.    
    The veteran fly guide said Mr. Shugrue, his client for the day, was an experienced fly fisherman. “He’s one of the longest casters I’ve ever seen in my life.”
    Rafferty was at the helm on Sunday and approached the Point with its phalanx of surfcasters in front of him and a healthy southeast swell behind. “The swells wouldn’t let the boats go too far in. But his casts are so long I was able to get him into some dangerous spots, he’d hook up, and I’d back us out. The first blitz must have been a city block wide. The waves were brown with bass and bait.”
    Big schools of bass continued to circle the Point on Monday. “Crazy good,” was how Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett described the fishing. On Monday he took a client out behind Gardiner’s Island aboard his Moon Pie boat.
    “We had 17 false albacore in the evening behind the island. I took a guy who had never hooked up before.” Bennett reported finding big porgies in Gardiner’s Bay and bluefish at Sammy’s Beach beside the Three Mile Harbor inlet and at Accabonac Harbor. He reported big bluefish schooling along Napeague’s ocean beaches.
    The Montauk SurfMasters tournament for striped bass is in full swing. Using a live eel, John Bruno found a 40.3-pound bass on the north side of Montauk Point on Friday to take the lead in the contest’s wetsuit division. Klever Oleas’s 26-pounder has him in first place in the wader division. In the women’s division, Cheryl Lackner and Christine Schnell sit in first and second places with 11.8- and 10.7-pound bass respectively. Dylan Lackner, fishing in the youth division, is at the top of the heap with a 13.5-pound bass.