Saltwater Sportsman - - Top Shot -

“I had a good feel­ing about this spot,” he said as a 7-pound fluke hit the deck. “I drilled a cou­ple of door­mats here two weeks ago on the same stage of the tide.”

We started the morn­ing look­ing for big sum­mer flat­ties in 90-foot depths at the Cartwright Grounds south­east of Mon­tauk Point, which had been the door­mat hot spot for sev­eral con­sec­u­tive days. We then moved in­shore to the Fris­bees area to ice an­other keeper and sev­eral black sea bass. One more move put us tight against the beach, where 30 feet to the seafloor proved to be the magic num­ber.

Quite frankly, we could have con­tin­ued pick­ing away at keep­ers in any of those lo­ca­tions, but the beauty of Mon­tauk is that it has so many big fish hot spots, skip­pers of­ten make short ad­just­ments just to keep the lunkers hon­est.

“It is an amaz­ing place,” says Deste­fano, who con­tin­u­ally works to un­ravel the mys­ter­ies of what many con­sider to be the most pro­duc­tive port in the North­east. “For con­sis­tency, va­ri­ety and big fish, day in and day out, I don’t think there is any­where between south­ern New Jersey and Maine that can out­shine this place.”


Ex­am­ine a chart of Mon­tauk, and its dis­tinc­tive ge­ol­ogy jumps off the page. The ocean bot­tom is scoured with cuts and gouges, hills and val­leys, ledges and shoals, boul­ders and rock piles. A huge de­posit of an­cient ter­mi­nal mo­raine, it pushes out to­ward the deep, cold waters of the open At­lantic while si­mul­ta­ne­ously bot­tle­neck­ing the tides of both Long Is­land and Block Is­land sounds. Trace its edge and you’ll no­tice the rapid changes in depth and un­der­wa­ter struc­ture points that cause the for­ma­tion of strong cur­rents, sharp rips, and a vi­brant, rest­less sea that pulses be­neath your bow on even the finest of days.

The com­bi­na­tion of lo­ca­tion, rough bot­tom and var­ied depths makes Mon­tauk both a cap­tain’s chal­lenge and a fish­er­man’s nir­vana. It would be an un­der­state­ment to say this sea has char­ac­ter. This area, of­ten in­flu­enced by heavy off­shore

heaves, is not for the eas­ily dis­tracted, small of craft or faint of heart. While you can ne­go­ti­ate the in­shore scene in a 19-foot cen­ter con­sole un­der mild con­di­tions, you’ll need a sturdy ves­sel to feel com­fort­able in any­thing more than what lo­cal skip­pers re­fer to as “a lit­tle chop.”


Se­ri­ous in­shore ac­tion at Mon­tauk starts with sum­mer floun­der, since the sea­son opens in May. Th­ese early run­ners are of­ten big but skinny fish, with 5- and 6-pounders not un­com­mon, and keep­ers the rule more than the ex­cep­tion. As May rounds into June, a sec­ond in­flux of big fish sees a few door­mats top­ping the 10-pound mark and a sur­pris­ing num­ber of 6- to 8-pound brutes pulled from 40- to 50-foot depths.

Au­gust and Septem­ber are when you want to prospect for the door­mat of a life­time. In fact, last year’s late sum­mer ac­tion saw dou­ble-digit fluke hit­ting the deck nearly every day the fleet could get out. While the top fish taken last year checked in

at just un­der 15 pounds, it’s likely even larger ones are out there. The Fris­bees, af­ter all, is where the late Capt. Char­lie Nappi caught the world-record fluke back in 1977, a 22-pound, 7-ounce be­he­moth that flat­tie fans have been try­ing to top­ple for 40 years.

Think big in terms of your fluke rigs and set­ups here. Rather than tar­get­ing typ­i­cal keep­ers weigh­ing 2 to 4 pounds, roll the dice for a per­sonal best. Use a drop­per loop to se­cure a 5/0 wide-gap or straight-shank in-line Oc­to­pus-style hook on a 20- to 30-inch leader of 40-pound-test fluoro­car­bon line 6 inches above a 6- to 10-ounce bank sinker. For bait, add a strip of sea robin or blue­fish belly that looks big enough to choke a 20-inch fish. You can also try a buck­tail us­ing the light­est jig you can get away with, gen­er­ally 2 or 3 ounces, tipped with a 6-inch Berkley Gulp! curly­tail in Nu­clear Chicken. Add a teaser hook on a short drop­per loop about 12 inches above the buck­tail if you like.

“Don’t just drift around aim­lessly,” ad­vises Deste­fano. “Tar­get struc­ture, dips and ridges for the big­gest fluke. With the bot­tom so var­ied here, this really is the Val­ley of the door­mats. Be sure to make the most of that un­der­wa­ter ter­rain.”


Fol­low­ing right on the tails of the fluke, striped bass ar­rive by early May and set up quickly in such fa­mous haunts as the El­bow, Great Eastern, Pol­lack Rip, and

un­der the light. As a gen­eral rule, the early bass, mostly teen-size stripers with a few weigh­ing up to 30 pounds, re­spond best to trolled para­chute lures, tube lures and um­brella rigs. The June moon usu­ally of­fers a shot at even big­ger bass, with some fish top­ping the 40-pound mark, and maybe even a fish or two tip­ping the scales at 50 pounds or more. As with fluke, 2017 proved a ban­ner year in terms of cow bass, with one three-week stretch in late Au­gust and Septem­ber see­ing boat lim­its of fish that reg­u­larly topped 35 pounds.

As the waters warm, striper ac­tion shifts from day­time to the grave­yard shift on live eels or buck­tails tipped with pork rinds or Fat Cow Jig Strips or Ot­ter Tails fished on three-way rigs. It’s al­ways pos­si­ble to live-line or chunk a few big fish dur­ing the day on bunker or other le­gal-size striper fa­vorites if you an­chor up-tide of a prom­i­nent, mus­sel-cov­ered hump or large boul­der.


Like most fish­ing hot spots along the North­east coast, the sum­mer is great at Mon­tauk, but the fall is fan­tas­tic. With ev­ery­thing from scup to stripers slid­ing down the coast to­ward the south, Mon­tauk Point serves as a stag­ing area. Through­out October and into early Novem­ber, stripers and blue­fish — along with quick-mov­ing pods of false al­ba­core — tear into schools of mi­grat­ing bait with a fury that’s un­matched along the Eastern Seaboard. At the same time, the sea bass and scup race each other across the bot­tom for tid­bits of squid or clam in an at­tempt to fat­ten up be­fore win­ter. It makes for un­be­liev­able ac­tion, the kind you’ll want to re­live in your dreams again and again as you await the com­ing spring sea­son.

Keep in mind, Mon­tauk is big wa­ter. Al­most any rip can stand straight up and roar when southerly or east­erly winds push hard against an ebbing tide.

“Ev­ery­thing about Mon­tauk is amaz­ing,” sums up Deste­fano, “from the swells, to the struc­ture, to the pay­offs.” If you are new to th­ese waters, take a char­ter or two to look around and get a feel for the place be­fore head­ing out on your own, and never leave port un­der­gunned.

DOOR­MAT: Mon­tauk is a known pro­ducer of hefty fluke, above.

30-pound fluoro leader 8-inch drop­per loop 12 to 20 inches of 30-pound fluoro 2- to 6-ounce buck­tail jig with Gulp! Swim­ming Mul­let Lighter buck­tail jig with Gulp! Jerk Shad

Fish­ers Is­land Sha­wong Reef Cherry Har­bor Block Is­land Fris­bees North Rips Mon­tauk South Side Pol­lack Rips Great Eastern New York The El­bow Radar Tower Con­necti­cut Fish­ers Is­land Long Is­land Sound Is­land Long AT­LANTIC OCEAN Block Is­land Mon­tauk To the Cartwright Grounds

KNOTHEAD: In Mon­tauk waters, big black sea bass are also read­ily ac­ces­si­ble.

4 to 6 feet of 50-pound fluoro leader 5-foot, 50-pound fluoro drop­per

Loop knot to girth-hitch sinker 6- to 12-ounce bank sinker Live-eel Rig 6/0 hook, straight-shank Live eel Few baits tempt tro­phy striped bass like a big eel. Hook a live one (the big­ger, the bet­ter) through both jaws on a 6/0 straight-shank hook, and fish it on a 5-foot drop­per of 50-pound fluoro­car­bon, 12 inches above a 6- to 12-ounce bank sinker to po­si­tion the bait off the bot­tom. Top Heavy Met­als and Soft Plas­tics Drops fast and fools fish on the bot­tom and mid­wa­ter Spro An­drus Buck­tail Jig Var­i­ous weights and col­ors ap­peal to an ar­ray of game

Ot­ter Tail Curly Long Lively un­du­la­tion en­tices even wary fish into strik­ing

Berkley Gulp! Swim­ming Mul­let Adds ac­tion and scent to any buck­tail or lead-head

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