When all the bravado and good-natured ribbing finally came to an end, one man stood alone at the stern of the Orient Point charter boat Brooklyn Girl. It was Jack Brunet, struggling to hold aloft a 42-pound striper that had stripped this very columnist of the late-night pool as time expired.
With a grin spread ear-to-ear and strength imparted from victory at sea, the 61-year-old from Huntington raised his buzzer- beating cow chest high and exhaled an exhausted laugh as his compadres closed in for back slaps and high-fives.
"I've got chirping rights for the whole year at the office!" he shouted.
We had departed Orient Point Tuesday evening aboard the 48-footer with captain Ken Holmes and mate Dan Buckley, our contingent including several co-workers who share an office building in Smithtown, plus others who had made reservations to fill remaining slots. Our destination was The Race, a bass fishing mecca between Fishers and Little Gull islands.
"The waters out here run cool and deep with submerged hills and boulders providing great holding and ambush points for stripers," explained Holmes as we prepared to make our first drift. "The tides are strong and there's plenty of bait right now so fishing should be good."
In the stern, Buckley provided instructions on working our heavy three-way bucktail rigs. "We'll be drifting up steep slopes so get your lines to the bottom and swing away every time you feel a bump. Crank up three turns anytime you lift and miss."
As the night deepened around us, Gerry Monsolino of Bentwood got off to a fast start, decking a 15-pounder for an early lead in the big fish pool. The reigning striper champion among the Smithtown group, he vowed to retain his title. Charlie Weydig of Nesconset landed a 28-pounder. Almost immediately Monsolino answered with a 32-pounder.
It was just minutes later that I wrestled aboard a 34-pound brute and Weydig was first with congratulations. "Winning the pool would have been nice," he offered, "but either way I'm going home with sore sides from laughing so much. Nothing beats being on the water with friends like this."
This was a jovial venture, but the quality of the catch was not to be overlooked. Before the boat (brooklyngirlfishing.com) limited out shy of midnight, Burnet, Weydig, Monsolino, Robert Geiger and Jason Pollock would each land the biggest stripers of their lives.
Despite these successes, my fish remained atop the heap until Holmes called "lines up!" That's when strange sounds began emanating from the port corner. Burnet's rod was doubled over and he was grunting mightily. Like Weydig and Monsolino, my shot at the pool was suddenly history. Still, I came away richer this night for having made new friends.
More hot action
Fluking has shined at Montauk with many limit catches of fish in the 4- to 6-pound class. Offshore, bluefin action has been hot north of the Coimbra wreck, where sand eels have the 40- to 200-lb. fish slamming diamond jigs. The Shark's Eye Catch & Release Tournament out of Montauk Marine Basin (516-668-5900) is slated for July 27-28.