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Chumming on the High Seas

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 00:11
Chase Millwater, 11, landed this weakfish in Noyac Bay last week.
Pat Wallace

On the drive eastward to Montauk early Friday morning, pale pink hues of the developing sunrise could be seen over the sand dunes alongside the Napeague stretch. It was 4:45, but it was very evident that the weather would cooperate for a good morning of inshore fishing. But would the fish be on the chew? Only time would tell.

But the promise of a nice day was suddenly and rudely interrupted. Despite obeying the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit, I was passed by two vehicles who disregarded the clearly marked double yellow line. Perhaps they were both running late to catch a boat they planned to fish on, but their high-speed maneuvers, on a sharp left curve no less, were unnerving. Stupid and careless. Summer tends to bring out the very worst in drivers out here.

Arriving at what I still call Tuma’s Dock on the west side of Montauk Harbor, I took my warm cup of coffee, small tackle bag, and my fishing rod to the berth where the Sea Wife IV was tied up. At 51 feet, she is the largest charter boat in the harbor. Holding upward of 20 anglers, she is owned and operated by Capt. Tom Cusimano, whom I’ve known for at least 25 years. That said, I probably had not fished with him in almost 10 years. It was time to break that long streak.

While it was great to catch up with the veteran skipper, I was heartened that I was invited on the trip by Lee Hornick, whom I had not seen since 1987, when we worked together in the early stages of our corporate careers in Manhattan. Fishing has a tendency to bring and keep people together, even when so much time flies by.

It was ironic that I actually got Lee hooked on fishing in the first place. According to my fishing logbook, it was way back on June 16, 1986, to be precise. Booking a trip on the Montauk with Capt. Michael Albronda, a group of six of us decided to do a full-day trip for shark. It was a day of adventure and camaraderie, and the memories remain strong.

It was a trip defined by some of the thickest fog I have ever witnessed. Trying to see the bow of Albronda’s boat was not easy as we bobbed incessantly up and down in the chilly, damp, and lumpy seas far offshore for nearly 10 hours. It was, unfortunately for Lee, a long day of endless seasickness.

In the countless fishing trips I’ve been on, I have never witnessed anyone continuously chum the high seas more while straddling the gunwale. It was epic. Surprisingly, it was not enough to lure any sharks to our slick that day. Chum wasted.

Yet as soon as we reached port, Lee was his usual jovial self and desperate for dinner. A heavy Italian meal complemented by numerous garlic rolls at Il Capuccino in Sag Harbor that evening erased the memory of what he had endured that day.

More significantly, that insufferable inaugural excursion did not dissuade him from booking a yearly Montauk fishing trip, a tradition that has gone on now for more than three decades. That in itself shows true dedication and a real passion for the pastime.

Lee has already booked July 10 next year with Cusimano. We obviously can’t predict how the fishing or weather will be. However, I do know that plenty of laughs and memories will be shared during those precious hours of friendship on the water. I look forward to it.

On the local fishing scene, the typical midsummer fishing pattern has taken a firm hold.

With the still warming waters, Montauk anglers focused on striped bass continue to witness up and down fishing. The daytime action has been sporadic at best, while the night bite has been a bit better. To witness, on Saturday night, Capt. Ken Hedjucek of the My Joyce put his charter group on numerous bass up to 49 pounds. “The best part was that the guys released every bass they caught,” said the captain, complimenting the crew.

“The action on sea bass has been really good, with bigger fish showing up of late,” noticed Capt. Michael Potts of the charter boat Bluefin IV. “Plenty of porgies are mixed in with them too.”

Fluke fishing has seen its fair share of consistent action as well, but the amount caught is dependent on the drifting conditions. An 11–pounder was landed on Sunday on the Montauk Star, while a fair number of fish between five and seven pounds have found the landing net on many craft.

“Fluke fishing has been good,” confirmed Kathy Vegessi, the shoreside support arm of the Lazybones. “And lots of sea bass have been caught as well.” In the unusual category, Vegessi said that a young girl, on her first ever fishing trip, landed and released a small thresher shark. “She was thrilled,” she added. No chum was required to lure the fish.

Over at the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, the owner, Harvey Bennett, despite fighting a recent bout of Lyme disease, was beaming about the baby bluefish, also called snappers, that have shown up at various local docks and bulkheads. “The kids and adults are having a ball catching them,” he said. “And they are getting bigger by the day. Summer and snappers go hand in hand.”

The seasoned Bonacker added that fluke fishing remains strong at Napeague, while bass and bluefish have made a strong showing at Maidstone and Main Beach in East Hampton. “Porgy fishing is still excellent and kingfish have also shown up of late.”

Bennett was also enthused to relay that the children he has supported in the Dominican Republic with baseball equipment and clothing have made it to the championship round in their division. “I was heartened to hear the news on this,” he said. “I love seeing the pictures of the kids wearing and using what was donated to them.” Bennett is still accepting donations of such aforementioned wares, as well as school supplies.

“Typical summertime fishing,” summarized Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor. Morse said that porgies are around in good numbers, while weakfish are on the prowl in Noyac Bay. “And there a ton of small bluefish at Jessup’s. Diamond jigs have been the hot lure.”


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