Tom Schlichter writes the Outdoors column for Newsday.
Tuesday had the potential to be a miserable trip for two dozen anglers aboard the open boat Miss Montauk. Leaving from Montauk Marine Basin at 7 a.m. in search of fluke, the fog was thick, and although seas were calm, few fares expected them to stay that way.
Fortunately, we got off to a good start, catching the end of the rising tide and quickly decking several quality keepers on our initial drift. A second pass brought more action as the tide slowed and the rain began to fall. That's when the collective grit to stand at the rail despite unfavorable conditions began to pay off. With little current, increasingly heavy rain and building seas, it would have been easy to sit in the cabin and sulk, but neither crew nor fares chose that course. Instead, they stood firm and jigged away until all on board had fillets enough for several dinners.
Through it all Dave Slobodkin, 59 and visiting from Chicago, put the rest of us to shame. He had his limit of four fluke to 6 pounds during our third drift -- several minutes before I had my first keeper in the cooler! No stranger to the Miss Montauk, he comes aboard when visiting locally.
"I love fishing on this boat," Slobodkin said. "It's a great family operation with a consistently nice crowd, and captain Jamie Quaresimo never quits. You know he'll put you on the fluke so all you have to do is come prepared. I call to ask what baits and lures are working best and then act on that advice. Today, the fluke liked the seven-inch pearl while 'Gulp!' belly strips I brought along."
As the wind continued to build in the early afternoon, Mike Pehrsson, 49, from Lindenhurst, had the hot hand. He favored a slightly different rig featuring a 4-ounce white bucktail on the bottom and an unadorned teaser hook positioned 6 inches up the line.
"I don't think the color made a difference today," Pehrsson said. "My guess is the heavy bucktail kicked up the bottom to attract the fish and the teaser brought them in for the kill. I put one large spearing on the bucktail and two on the bare teaser hook but the real key was to keep the rig bouncing gently throughout the day."
The fluking at Montauk has been building of late. While the South Shore of Long Island has been making waves with some very big doormats -- several in the 10- to 14-pound class have come from Fire Island, Jones and Moriches Inlets in recent weeks -- this port has been quietly sending anglers home with fat fillets on a consistent basis.
"I love fishing out here," said Ed Wagner, 70, of Bellport, "But it's all about your goals for the day. There are gentler waters with more action along the South and North Shores, and some boats sail full days while others offer shorter trips. so you've got plenty of options. Still, I like this boat because it spends the whole day on the water and that gives me a better chance of getting a limit -- and the larger fish I hope for."
In the end, on this trip most anglers get what they came for -- but they sure endured a soaking to accomplish the task.