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PROFILES IN THE SURF: MARTY MCMILLAN

Marty’s hard fishing surf career took him the through some of the best years that the Striper Coast had to offer.
By Alfred Anuszewski
PROFILES IN THE SURF: MARTY MCMILLAN

On November 30, 2008, the beam of the Montauk Lighthouse dimmed with the passing of one of the nicest guys, and best fisherman the Striper Coast has ever seen. Marty McMillan, a truly “good guy” and superb outdoorsman, drowned in an anchor line accident on his boat at Southwest Ledge in Block Island Sound while blackfishing. For Long Island’s fishing brotherhood, it was a huge loss to lose a fisherman as unique as Marty. It was an even bigger loss for myself and those fortunate enough to have fished with him. Marty was my best friend and fishing partner for 30 years. We met at a surf fishing club meeting back in 1978.

When I first met Marty, there was no mistaking his overwhelming passion for fishing, especially surf fishing. His confidence and enthusiasm were second to none. Marty seemed to do everything at the speed of light. My first visit to his house 30 years ago told me everything I needed to know about Marty. When I pulled up to his house, there was the loud roar of a saw cutting something. I walked up to his beach buggy and looked inside, and there was Marty. He was cutting the roof off the panel truck, elevating the roof line to make getting into his wetsuit easier and to create more room for fishing tackle.

A TACKLE INNOVATOR
Marty took a break from his sawing and we went down to his basement. Marty had two surf rods that he had built and wrapped earlier in the day, spinning on the drying machine. Hanging from the ceiling next to his workbench were a dozen large wooden plugs that he had just completed custom paint jobs on, and fishing rods were hanging everywhere.

There were hundreds of plugs stored in yellow boxes, all labeled accordingly. I had never seen so many pairs of waders and wet suits in one place. The visit left me in awe. How can one man do so much in one day, I wondered? I also recall seeing all types of saws, drills and files mixed among all the fishing tackle. When asked, “What’s with all the tools?” Marty replied, “I love to modify all my fishing tackle, including my truck.” Knowing him as I have for the past 30 years, that turned out be a major understatement. Among the veterans on the beaches back then, Marty’s buggy was known as “Big Foot.” His creative talents resulted in trucks and fishing boats that looked very different from those of other anglers. Needless to say, they really stood out. His custom 30-foot aluminum fishing boat, which he was aboard that fateful November day, bears testimony to his design skills.

THE CAMPO YEARS
Marty McMillan was Missouri-born and had a friendly Midwest way about him. He never stopped talking about fishing and invariably, Marty’s path in life crossed with a fisherman who left him tremendously impressed. Marty kept telling me he wanted to meet this friend of his. He would say “this guy makes me look like I’m not even into fishing.” I found that difficult to believe, especially having seen Marty’s basement.

It turned out that his friend’s name was Steve Campo, and Marty was so right. Steve’s whole life was surf fishing. Steve was a very, very sharp surf fisherman. He was the architect of a lot of the surf fishing equipment being used today. Steve shared all his fishing secrets with Marty. This friendship and connection translated into Marty fully dedicating himself to surf fishing at all costs. He fished cutting-edge tackle and under Steve’s tutelage, developed the skills to catch fish anywhere and under any conditions along the Striper Coast.

BREEZY POINT
This relationship peaked during a very special period in striped bass history. Marty fished a lot of surf fishing areas at the pinnacle of their time. The Breezy Point Jetty in the 70s and through the 80s might well have been New York’s best surf spot. It was fished by a cult-like group of surf fishermen who worshipped striped bass, and big striped bass in particular. This group maintained silence about this fishing for the better part of a decade, leaking nothing to the public. They fished every night, and a young, wild Marty McMillan was welcomed into this cult.

Marty had many big nights on the Breezy Jetty, resulting in Marty becoming even more committed to hardcore surf fishing. Marty fished with a Penn Squidder spooled with Micron line, and vintage metal-lip swimmers from Don Musso and Danny Pichney. These plugs were drifted off the tip of the Breezy Jetty, producing some of New York’s best catches of big striped bass. Marty McMillan was right in the middle of this classic era of surfcasting at Breezy Point.


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