A Paddle Back in Time

Should have seen it coming
Mike Milano jumped into the lead in the Montauk SurfMasters tournament for striped bass over the weekend with this 38.08-pounder. Paulie Apostolides

    I believe in wormholes, invisible funnel clouds that now and then lift us to other places or, as happened on Friday, just other times.

    Should have seen it coming. An archaeological fair held over the weekend at Second House, the house that cattle were driven past for summer grazing upon Montauk’s vast grasslands back in the 18th and early 19th centuries, brought visitors back to a time even before Second House when arrow and spear points were wrought from the white quartz dropped here by the last glacier that receded about 10,000 years ago.

    A stone’s throw from the fair, at the eastern end of Old Montauk Highway, the same road used by the cattle of yesteryear, a man pulled an ocean kayak to the side of the road on Thursday afternoon. It had a “For Sale” sign on it. The kayak lay on the shoreward side of the road. On the seaward side of the old highway, terns were seen working over schools of migrating striped bass and bluefish. It’s then that the wormhole set down, causing the kayak and paddle to be purchased for a song and loaded onto the pickup.

    The next morning, as the wormhole continued to whorl, the kayak was launched from Ditch Plain beach along with a six-foot-long boat rod. The sea held not a breath of wind with nary a swell. It was unusually hot for October. As the kayak moved offshore, it also moved deeper into the past with each stroke of the paddle, until the plastic yak became a dugout canoe.

    All through the previous week of exceptionally fine weather, the mosquito fleet of small boats carried light-tackle and fly-fishing aficionados along Montauk’s south coast. They were visible on Friday just beyond, and yet the sound of their engines was unable to penetrate the wormhole. The paddler tucked the butt of his fishing rod under both legs, its tip pointing out to the side like an outrigger, its line spooled out and trolling a silver lure with green tube through the slick, otherworldly calm eastward toward Cavett’s Cove. Minutes passed, or were they years?

    Then, up ahead birds screamed and picked at the surface. About 20 strokes to reach them, and with a violent tug, the rod bent, the paddle was shipped and the dugout towed — a Montauk sleigh ride — by a large striped bass.

    That one shook the hook, but two others were caught, one of them released. The wormhole delivered the other along with the intrepid provider to shore. It then disappeared, leaving a sore back and shoulders to remind the paddler of what fishing was before the disquieting arrival of infernal internal combustion.

    These days it’s the surfcasters’ time to become arm-weary. Bass and bluefish have started to hug the shore on their migrations. In the Montauk SurfMasters tournament for striped bass, Mike Milano jumped into the lead over the weekend with a 38.08-pounder. As of Tuesday morning, Richie Michelsen’s 37.64-pound bass was in second place with Klever Oleas’s 21.22-pound catch in third. John Bruno holds onto first in the tournament’s wetsuit division with a 37.22-pound bass. Mary Ellen Kane remains at the top of the leader board in the women’s division.

    The wow of the day around Paulie’s Tackle shop in Montauk on Monday was the story of the Spanish-speaking gentleman who caught a striped bass up near the Montauk Lighthouse using a chunk of bunker as bait. The wow part was that the fish weighed 44 pounds after being gutted, which put its actual weight near 50 pounds.

    Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett reported bluefish and bass all along the ocean beaches from Napeague (a 50-pound striper was said to have been caught at White Sands on Napeague) to Wainscott (a 40-pounder was taken there). Shad could be the reason why.

    Bennett said he caught 20 shad on Sunday, early morning, west of Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett. He reported big porgies being caught off the Navy dock — that is the traditional name of the town pier at Fort Pond Bay (it replaced a dock that was indeed built by the Navy when torpedoes were tested).

    Montauk’s Viking Fleet of party boats proved that an aggressive tuna bite remains ongoing offshore. Both the Viking FiveStar and the Viking Star returned with yellowfin tuna over the weekend. Swordfish were also caught.