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WHEN THE SURF TURNS WINTERY

Finding action on the rocks and open beaches late into the year just requires a little initiative and some specialized equipment, but it's often well worth the effort.

By Bill Jakob
WHEN THE SURF TURNS WINTERY
At this time of the year, unless you can beat the cold, you’re not going to last long in the winter surf - but the fact remains, "if you're not fishing, you're not catching".

An icy cold had descended on much of the Northeast, along with a bitter northwesterly breeze. It appeared the Fat Lady was going to sing her unwanted song.

Constant badgering by my fishing buddy that “if you’re not fishing, you’re not catching” pushed me from my toasty warm house out to Montauk Point just "one more time." The charts showed a flooding tide until 6 p.m. - enough time to get a couple of icy hours in under the light before the tide topped out.

I headed east along empty highways except for the westbound flow of trade trucks returning from a day’s work. An hour and change, and I was at the Point ready to suit up. The lower lot was empty except for "Lilco Joe” nestled in his camper. I quickly inquired as to how he made out with the previous tide and he replied "a few box fish." I said my goodbyes and got suited up.

The rocks under the light were void of fishermen. Instinctively, the knee jerk reaction of my pessimistic mind said “ah, there's nothing here.” But that annoying voice of Craig’s "you gotta be in it" haunted me as I slid down the steep pile of wet rocks and positioned myself on the flat corner rock - the one everyone wants!

Cast after cast, with the sting of the cold, damp air on my face and an uncovered index finger I could not feel, my brain begged me to throw in the towel. Then, just as complete darkness set in, I hooked up to my largest surf caught striper - just a pound and change short of the magic fifty! And so the hunt continues late into the season every year despite the cold and however bad the fishing is. But as they say - "you gotta be in it to win it!"

Late season surf fishing definitely requires some specialized equipment. I used to fish in a 3mm wetsuit when I was young and dumb - well into mid December. I remember fishing in a 3mm wetsuit with Steve Bunai when our lines iced up and we continued to catch 20 to 30 pound stripers!

These days, I use a neoprene drysuit which keeps me toasty warm when temps dip to the 20s at night. Drysuits let in very little water and keep the exchange of cold ocean water to a minimum. Glacier gloves beat divers neoprene gloves hands down for mobility, as well as warmth. Let’s not forget a neoprene hood to keep the head warm.

Waders are a more economical option. The combo of neoprene waders and a neoprene hood and dry top jacket will get the job done. An AquaSkins top, combined with a wetsuit hood and glacier gloves, should come in around $300 to $400. If you don’t mind being a little less comfortable, you can opt for neoprene waders and the standard Grundens pullover top.

Remember though, at this time of the year, unless you can beat the cold, you’re not going to last long in the winter surf.

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