Montauk Trifecta

NEW YORK’S MOST LEGENDARY SHORES DISH OUT STRIPERS, BLUES AND ALBIES IN DROVES.

Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Features - By Nick Honachef­sky

Fast Facts for Suc­cess: Cash on Flash: Work flashy lures and flies in an er­ratic fash­ion around the out­skirts of any bait­fish school.

Need for Speed: False al­ba­core and blue­fish are no­to­ri­ous re­ac­tion strik­ers that re­spond to fast re­trieves.

Ar­ti­fi­cial Sweet­ener: A small jig tied to the back of a pop­per acts as a teaser and ac­counts for many stripers.

Stripers, blue­fish and false al­ba­core had all con­verged off Montauk Point and were crash­ing in front of me. Just try­ing to de­cide where to cast was enough to short-cir­cuit an an­gler’s brain.

Capt. John Mc­mur­ray had his 33-foot Con­tender One More Cast in the per­fect spot, and I did my best to keep cool, mouthing the words, “Take it slow, calm down man.” Mc­mur­ray’s in­struc­tions prompted me into ac­tion. “Get that fly in front of the school,” he urged. So I flung a Surf Candy 10 yards ahead of the ap­proach­ing tur­moil and be­gan to strip. “Strip man, faster,” Mc­mur­ray barked. I did, and bang! The line sud­denly came tight, the 10-weight rod bent down, and soon back­ing zipped off the reel, giv­ing up the fish’s iden­tity: a false al­ba­core, 7 pounds of pure mus­cle, that we re­leased to fight an­other day af­ter a spir­ited 10-minute bat­tle.

TURBULENT TURF

For over 100 years, Montauk’s prom­i­nent light­house has solemnly stood in the back­ground dur­ing count­less skir­mishes be­tween an­glers and striped bass, blue­fish and false al­ba­core off the sur­round­ing hal­lowed shores. Montauk Point is a con­flu­ence where all the nec­es­sary fac­tors come to­gether: a num­ber of rips, un­der­wa­ter boul­ders, a kelp-laden coast­line and plenty of for­age. A spot com­monly known as “The Rip” is the an­gling epi­cen­ter. It’s where cur­rents push around the Point, of­ten col­lid­ing with shift­ing winds to cre­ate a froth, right in front of the light­house.

The churn­ing wa­ters cre­ate con­fu­sion for school­ing bait­fish, al­low­ing bass, blues and albies to am­bush prey in sur­prise at­tacks. On the south side of the Rip lie tow­er­ing, hard-packed sand and clay cliffs, pis­ca­to­rial land­marks sport­ing catchy names such as Warhol’s, Ditch Plains and Tur­tle Cove. On the north side of the Point, boul­der-strewn stretches known as Step­ping Stones, Shag­wong Point and False Point are striper havens. Big bass go there to feed on lob­sters and crabs that in­habit the sub­ma­rine struc­tures. Fort Pond Cove, a lit­tle far­ther west, at­tracts rov­ing schools of albies, bass and blues that trap bait in­side the cove.

With water temps fluc­tu­at­ing be­tween 60 and 70 de­grees, ideal for bass, blues and albies, June through Oc­to­ber is prime fish­ing time around Montauk. That’s also when bay an­chovies, spear­ing, sand eels and peanut bunker con­gre­gate and flit­ter in and out. Water depths run as shal­low as 8 feet off Shag­wong Point to more than 45 feet off Ditch Plains.

TAKE IT TO THE TOP

A north­east wind was whip­ping 20 to 25 knots as we breached Montauk In­let at sun­rise and raced to­ward The Rip, nav­i­gat­ing some sketchy 4- to 6-foot swells. Mc­mur­ray rounded the Point and tucked

IT’S HARD TO KEEP YOUR NERVES IN CHECK WHEN THE WATER IN FRONT OF YOU IS CHURNED TO A FROTH BY SLASHING PREDATORS AND FRANTIC BAIT­FISH GO­ING AIRBORNE. NEVER BE­FORE HAD I BEEN FACED WITH SUCH A FLURRY.

around the lee­ward south­west side, where we im­me­di­ately spied spo­radic signs of false al­ba­core popping up in 40 feet of water off Ditch Plains. “Al­bie schools push al­most to the break­ers here,” said Mc­mur­ray, keep­ing the mo­tor in gear to stay just out­side the break­ing surf. Launch­ing a Deadly Dick to­ward the back­side of the break­ers, the metal lure was in­stantly lam­basted by albies four casts in a row, per­fect to get the blood flow­ing.

Kristyn Brady and Ge­off Mullin of the Theodore Roo­sevelt Con­ser­va­tion Part­ner­ship were with us, and Brady had never hooked a blue­fish, so we ran around the rip off Shag­wong Point where schools of 5- to 12-pound blues were go­ing ballistic. We’d con­nected steel lead­ers and latched on top­wa­ter pop­pers to the spinning out­fits when Mc­mur­ray pointed Brady to cast to­ward a roil­ing area where blue­fish schools were blow­ing up bait. Her pop­per was im­me­di­ately shel­lacked by a 10-pound blue, with three oth­ers fol­low­ing the hooked fish boat-side. “You can catch them on nearly ev­ery cast with that pop­per,” Mc­mur­ray said. That was no ex­ag­ger­a­tion as both Brady and Mullin pulled one chop­per af­ter an­other. “If we don’t see them bust­ing the sur­face, metal jigs like the Ava 007 or Deadly Dicks usu­ally get hit on blind casts.”

Shortly af­ter, we wit­nessed surf-cast­ers launch­ing 3-ounce Po­laris pop­pers around sub­merged rocks sud­denly but­ton up with 15-pound-class stripers. Mc­mur­ray no­ticed their pop­pers were rigged with an­chovy-size 3/0 buck­tail teasers, which seemed to be get­ting the at­ten­tion of the bass. Surf-cast­ers of­ten use the heavy pop­pers, not nec­es­sar­ily be­cause the bass will hit them, but to get that smaller teaser out far enough to reach the feed­ing zone.

“You can blind-cast for stripers around the boul­ders off Shag­wong. They hang tight to the boul­ders to am­bush bait,” Mc­mur­ray ex­plained. “Bay an­chovies are the pre­dom­i­nant bait around here, and when they move in, striper fish­ing goes off. Those pop­pers trig­ger re­ac­tion strikes from the bass, but we fre­quently fly-cast with Surf Candies and Clousers to mimic the small stuff for bet­ter suc­cess.” Mullin proved that point when he later hooked a 26-inch linesider by strip­ping a Surf Candy in long, sweep­ing pulls.

Mc­mur­ray also says the rip re­ally turns on for stripers as it gets into Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber. Men­haden schools are plen­ti­ful by then, so you can catch tro­phies on larger stuff like Bomber plugs, and some have suc­cess drop­ping di­a­mond jigs to the bot­tom in 20 to 40 feet of water and sweep­ing them through the rips.

LIGHTNING STRIKES

The next day, Mullin and I fished with Capt. Ted

Wil­liams, who tucked back into the cove at Fort Pond to chase break­ing al­bie schools cor­ralling an­chovies in the back pocket. The wind was blow­ing 25 to 30 knots out of the north, less than de­sir­able for fly-cast­ing, so I punched a Gomoku jig through the wind and was re­warded with a zippy 6-pound lit­tle tunny. But Mullin was hell­bent on fly-fish­ing, so Wil­liams ran to the other side of the Bluffs to get out of the wind.

Be­hind the cliffs off the south side of Tur­tle Cove, glassy con­di­tions with a large groundswell al­lowed us to blind-cast Al­bie Whore flies ef­fort­lessly, and even­tu­ally an al­bie came up and gulped one. As I set­tled in to fight the fish, I turned just in time to see Mullin hook up an­other red-hot al­bie. Fast and fu­ri­ous ac­tion fol­lowed as lit­tle tunny in­vaded the area. “Put the fly 20 yards in front of the school and let it sink for a three-count be­fore you strip,” Wil­liams said. “And re­mem­ber, albies are vis­ual strik­ers; they want a fast pre­sen­ta­tion.”

Albies were breach­ing all around us, casts were go­ing ev­ery­where, and most were yield­ing hookups. But the sun was about to start set­ting, and Wil­liams blurted out, “Let’s get to the in­let. They’ve been crush­ing bait there at sun­down.” Sure enough, the in­let was noth­ing but crashes and splashes. Mullin and I played catc­hand-re­lease with albies while try­ing, al­beit un­suc­cess­fully, to avoid the 5- to 10-pound chop­per blues mixed with the lit­tle tunny, adding to the ex­cite­ment. When dark­ness fi­nally fell, the albies went ghost, but not be­fore we got our kicks, pulling on over a dozen more speedsters.

On the way back in, I could barely see Mullin’s face when he said, “Well, I landed bass, blues and albies on the fly rod. I think that’s mis­sion ac­com­plished.” Af­ter a silent tally of my own, I agreed whole­heart­edly, con­vinced that Montauk’s rep­u­ta­tion is in­deed well-de­served.

Striped bass, blue­fish and false al­ba­core Striped bass, blue­fish and false al­ba­core Montauk Point, New York June through Oc­to­ber The fol­low­ing guides are Montauk ex­perts. Capt. John Mc­mur­ray One More Cast 718-791-2094 ny­cfly­fish­ing .com Capt. Bren­dan M

SWS Plan­ner:

WHAT: WHERE: WHEN:

WHO:

SPEEDSTERS: Fast and strong false al­ba­core is a fa­vorite of Montauk an­glers. Striped bass, blue­fish and false al­ba­core RODS: 7-foot fast-ac­tion spinning, 20- to 30-pound class; 9-foot, 10-weight fly rod Shi­mano Stradic 6000C or equiv­a­lent; Sage 4200 fly r

SWS Tackle Box:

REELS: LEADER:

HEADLINER: A big striper of­ten seals the Montauk slam for light-tackle and fly an­glers.

MEAN GAME: Chop­per blues are hands down the fiercest of Montauk’s top tar­gets.

Renowned Hot Spots Montauk's sur­round­ing wa­ters con­sis­tently re­ward an­glers with fast ac­tion, and over the years, the spots shown on the map have gained no­to­ri­ety for pro­duc­ing great num­bers of fish and trophy spec­i­mens.

MAYHEM: In Montauk, albies, blues and stripers of­ten at­tack the same bait schools.

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