Capt. Fritz Hubner of Montauk said that before superstorm Sandy arrived he hauled the Captain Jay, the fishing boat he’s been running for the past 14 years. Experience has proved the better-safe-than-sorry adage many times over, he said in a recent interview.
The veteran charter captain who recently turned 80 said he had planned to hang it up 14 years ago, but a private boat owner liked his fishing experience and offered him the helm of his 43-foot Viking, the Captain Jay; he has been skippering ever since.
He was working for an UpIsland Cadillac dealership at the age of 23 when he began venturing to Montauk to go surfcasting with addicted locals like Grant Adams and Percy Heath. “Fishing’s better now. We never caught that many fish in the 40s back then. Most of us had beach buggies.”
Hubner’s first foothold in Montauk was a trailer at the Ditch Plain trailer park, the starting point for many a fisherman, and gentrified since into the Montauk Shores Condominiums. His first boat was a 19-foot outboard he called the Shudda, as in “you shudda been there.”
Hubner entered the charter industry at the age of 40, when he made the permanent move to Montauk. His first job — to support his fishing — was with Skip Reichart at what is now the Diamond Cove Marina.
Why did he name all his charter boats the Mistress Too, you might ask? Simple, he said: He was not married to his significant other at the time, therefore, his boat was his mistress, also.
The first was a 30-foot, lapstrake Chris-Craft followed by a second 30-footer, also wooden. Then he bought a 38-foot Eldridge McGuinness from Capt. Ralph Pitts, wood-over-glass, then a 38-foot Brownell, and finally, an all-glass (“less work”) Hatterass 41, the Mistress Too he ran for 12 years with a loyal mate, Rob Knapp, and a loyal clientele before going private. “I just got tired of getting up at 5 a.m.” Hubner’s fellow charter captains recently feted him at the Harvest restaurant on occasion of his 80th.
“No,” he said, the charter business is not what it once was, what with ever-more-restrictive regulations, and the influx of part-time charter captains, “half-fishermen,” he called them, “retired firemen and lawyers. I don’t know how these guys pay their mortgages.” And no, he has no plans to retire from the water.
Capt. Lou Rosado has shared Montauk waters with Fritz Hubner for the past 55 years. He reported Tuesday that the “black fishing is as good as it gets,” with one fish over 13 pounds caught over by Fisher’s Island. And, there has been good striped bass fishing since the storm. However, “there’s a lot of rips that ain’t there,” he said, the bottom carved and whittled by Sandy’s forceful currents. “They’re not as high as they were. What you know for the last 25 years, forget about it.”
Paulie’s Tackle shop in Montauk also reports some surfcasting action along the north side of Montauk Point.