It's that time again to go surfcasting

People fish in the rough surf on the

People fish in the rough surf on the jetty at the Shinnecock Inlet. (Credit: Newsday, 2010 / J. Conrad Williams Jr.)

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The stretch from mid-October to mid-November is prime time for Long Island's surfcasters. But while the fishing can be explosive, it can also be frustrating for novice anglers. Tackle choices need to be tweaked, lures have to match predominant baitfish, and the fish can appear anywhere between Montauk and Breezy Points. Figuring things out requires some effort but can be aided by a little advice from surf fishing veterans.

"Montauk is the surf fishing mecca," said surf guide Bill Wetzel (surfratsball.com) of Ridge. "The waters are untamed, bait pours down the beach, and you've got sandy stretches, back bays and rocky areas to try. The fish trend large here and, with Montauk Lighthouse in the background, the experience can be surreal."

Wetzel prefers to fish in a rough surf -- he loves nor'easters -- because the stiff winds drive bigger baitfish toward the shore, luring large predators. Still, he recommends beginners pick calm days to get a good look at the water and easily cast beyond the breakers.

"Most novice surfcasters start with surface poppers and tins, but you'll do better at Montauk by carrying an assortment of white or lime-green bucktails with red trailers," advised this surf fishing sharpie. "The standard surf stick for these waters is an 11-footer. That's larger than to the west, but necessary to punch through serious winds and heavy surf. Leave your smaller rods at home."

For would-be South Shore surfcasters, Mike McGee at Saltwaters Fishing Tackle in West Islip suggested trying the sport before investing in new gear.

"Don't run out and buy a $79 surf fishing outfit to give this a try," McGee cautioned. "If you like this game, you'll quickly want to trade up. Fish with a friend or guide and borrow a rod. Try tossing both lures and bait because you may enjoy one more than the other. Get a feel for things and then stop at a tackle shop to get set up with quality gear. You'll save money in the long run and avoid the frustration that often accompanies the use of inferior tackle."

McGee recommends 23/8-ounce Super Strike poppers in yellow or blue, over white, for beginners. He noted Robert Moses Beach Field 5 and Jones Beach Field 6 as beginner-friendly hot spots.

"Think 'downsize' for surfcasting in Long Island Sound," offered Stan Hentschel at Rocky Point Fishing Shop. "On this side, we favor smaller plugs, jigs and poppers because the water is not as turbid as on the South Shore so the fish get a clearer look at your lures. The standard setup is a 9-foot surf rod with 20-pound braided line and a 20- to 30-pound test leader. For stripers, throw Rebels, Bombers or Redfins, or one-half to three-quarter-ounce bucktails tipped with soft plastic curly tails, after dark. For blues, a 1-ounce spoon jig or 11/2-ounce pencil popper works well during the day."

Hentschel believes North Shore surf fishing is best on northwest winds and suggested anglers try their luck off prominent points like Terry and Hortons. "The first two hours of either tide work well at the points," Hentschel said. "The beginning of outgoing water is best along the open beaches."

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