If you like seafood in all its varieties, you'll feel right at home in Montauk. If not, you'll be a fish out of water in this oh-so-nautical Long Island community, one of the world's fishing capitals.
On a recent sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, Bill and Eileen Lewis, both 47, were waiting dockside at the Star Island Yacht Club & Marina, hoping to get a free, fresh shark steak from returning vessels in the 31st annual MBCA Charity Shark Tournament.
"My kids love to see the boats come in and watch to see the sharks - it's a family tradition," said Bill Lewis, a Wall Street equity trader who grew up in Syosset but now lives in Demarest, N.J. A 221-pound blue shark had just been weighed in, but no steaks were offered, he said.
However, in Montauk, another shark-fishing tournament is on the horizon. Star Island's 18th annual Mako/Thresher Tournament will be Aug. 6 and 7.
AT THE DOCKS
Elsewhere around the busy waterfront district, fish were being carried off boats, cleaned on docks, and served cooked or raw at bars and restaurants tucked into sparkling marinas.
"It's another day in paradise," said Tim Leverich, 51, of Bay Shore, who was relaxing at the Hideaway restaurant in Diamond Cove Marina on Montauk Harbor. Leverich said he comes out to Montauk for the fishing, the "breathtaking beaches" and the unpretentious atmosphere. "It's still low key," he says.
Weekend parking is tight but not nonexistent around Montauk Harbor. Many come for the fleet of charter and open boats. Among the vessels: Lazybones, which goes out on half-day fluke trips, and The Viking Fleet, which also heads out for summer whale-watching trips. You can sail on sunset or moonlight cruises.
Locals have noticed an influx of new visitors this season.
"There's a whole lot of new young people, different people we haven't seen before," said Laraine Creegan, executive director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce.
A TASTE OF MONTAUK
At mealtime, there's any number of places to dine by the water - most are casual, come as you are.
"There's a million places to eat out here, especially if you like seafood," said Peter Segerdahl, 31, of Bellmore, a police officer. Segerdahl was with two scuba-diving buddies outside the West Lake Clam & Chowder House, a sprawling dockside eatery.
Gosman's Dock is a local anchor with its fish market, clam bar and full-service restaurant. From the parking lot, you can see boats returning through the inlet. Gosman's hosts free outdoor concerts, including an event featuring bluesman Duke Robillard on Sunday.
The Dock, wedged between Gosman's and the local Ben & Jerry's, is known as one of the more colorful local establishments. The rustic bar and grill, decorated with hunting trophies, has reasonable prices: a Bass Ale is $6 and a half-dozen clams on the half shell, $6.50.
The nearby Fort Pond area is home to a pair of Montauk landmarks. The Montauket offers local charm and an outdoor dining area with a panorama of Fort Pond Bay.
Down the road a bit, Duryea's Lobster Deck and Seafood Market serves lobster steamed or on a roll, at picnic tables right on the water. At Duryea's, as in other Montauk establishments, it's cash only, and cell phone use is prohibited.
But you can sit in the shade with the bay over your shoulder and have a 1 1/2-pound steamed lobster with potato and coleslaw ($34.95), served by one of Montauk's best known families.