Creative Access: Doing Without A 4x4 - The Fisherman

Creative Access: Doing Without A 4×4

Beach bike
Beach bike used by Montauk Surfcasters president Bill Jacobs.

Being creative can open up new opportunities which can lead to you having a successful and possibly memorable, fall season.

I have been surf fishing for almost 50 years and for at least 44 of it, I always had a four-wheel drive truck. My first was a 1966 Jeep Wagoneer and along with it, I had every permit available at the time. Access was easy as virtually anywhere you went, you could drive on the beach.

Fast forward to 2019 and I have a new F150 truck and just a permit or two because these days, having a permit does not always translate into having access. Between beach erosion resulting from storms, town, county and state restrictions, along with the inevitable plover closures, there are times when driving the beach just is not a viable option. Although times have changed and beach vehicle access is more limited than it used to be, you can access those shorelines that are off limits to vehicles and even expand on the number of beaches you can fish without the need for a four-wheeler.

Take A Ferry

milk crate
A milk crate mounted over rear tire can hold surf bag, waders and other essentials.

Every fall, we consistently hear of good action on the beaches of Fire Island communities like Fire Island Pines, Point of Woods, Ocean Beach and Fair Harbor. Fishing these areas is mostly limited to a small number of year-round residents and contractors with special access permits who might get in some casting before work or during their lunch break. For the most part, these beaches see very limited effort and for those who prefer to shy away from the more popular and easily accessible surf spots, it is worth the extra effort get there. This stretch of the National Seashore also seems to contain good structure and deeper water tight to the beach compared to the flat, shallow stretch of Robert Moses to the west.

Now that I’ve sold you on the virtues of this shoreline, you’ll need to get there and the only realistic way is by ferry. Ferries leaving from Bay Shore, Sayville and Patchogue can put you on the barrier island, although as the fall progresses, schedules become more limited so you will have to plan your fishing around those schedules. Travel light so that you have some mobility to work up and down the beach. Packing a surf bag, a couple of bottles of water, a sandwich or two, and your waders into a beach bag should do it. A two-piece rod will eliminate any hassle with the ferry and make sure your reel is good working order. Once you’re there you are on your own, which often translates into having long stretches of beach to yourself.

Take A Boat

If you are fortunate enough to have your own boat or a fishing buddy who does, you have the option of running across Great South Bay and docking in one of the mostly vacant marinas during October and November. Years back, Fisherman senior editor Fred Golofaro and the late Marty Beer regularly ran a 16-foot tin boat across the bay and had great success fishing the stretch of beach from Watch Hill to Point O’Woods. Having your own ride across the bay can also put you into places like the west side of the Breach at FINS, the west jetty at Moriches Inlet when the outer beach at Smith Point is closes, and the Democrat Point Bar when access there is curtailed. In all of these cases, you can be fishing prime areas with virtually no competition. In the case of the Breach, what makes this so appealing is the manner in which the current flows out of the breach. The best current and bar make-up is on the west side, and boaters regularly due significantly better working this side of the cut. There are many other areas along the South and North shores where you can beach a boat and gain access not available by 4X4 or where parking is a problem.

Beach or Trail Bike

 Rod holder
Rod holder is arranged to accommodate the long handled butt of surf rods.

Several years ago I was in Montauk overlooking the bluffs at Camp Hero. Several of us were thinking about making the long walk down past Kings towards Coconuts and Church’s as some big fish were reported on the prowl. Waders, Korkers, surf bag, top, etc., made this trek feel like a drill from some Army or Navy Seal Camp. The following morning around dawn, here comes surf rat Bill Jacobs on this funky looking bike with big tires. He found some trails and made his way to the hotspots quite easily, eliminating what would have been an arduous hike. Years ago we used to ride our bikes from Field 2 at Robert Moses, the only lot available to surf fishermen for nighttime parking at the time, to the far eastern reaches of the park and beyond. We had the beach to ourselves, and the fishing was almost always worth the extra effort. 

Take A Walk

Have we all gotten that lazy over the years that walking is out of the question? There are ample parking areas open to us on both the North and South shores where we can park a car and have unlimited walking access as far as your feet will take you. While areas close to parking lots may be over-populated with the bucket brigade, a little more walking will often put you along more solitary stretches of beachfront. At Hortons Point on the North Fork, cars and buggies will often line the parking lot west of the point as casters wait for signs of a blitz before making the relatively easy hike to the Point. There have been many times when several of us not only walked the relatively short walk to Hortons, but continued further east where we had the beach to ourselves and plenty of bass and blues. All while the “lookers” waited for a blitz. Another prime area where walking will put into a prime fishing area is the Democrat Point Bar, mentioned earlier in this article. The tip of the bar is one of the most consistent surf spots on the South Shore but 4X4 access is often restricted to no further than the jetty, leaving the tip of the bass accessible only to those willing to hike the length of the bar.

Before we close out the article and get your mind really thinking about access. There is one sure-fire hot spot where a ferry, bike and walking can really come into play. It is an area that is well-known, is rich in structure and its boulder studded shoreline continues to produce solid action with stripers. This famed location is Block Island, and it is definitely worth a visit for those who don’t mind going the extra mile and enjoy the challenge of fishing new waters. A ferry ride from Pt. Judith, RI and two-wheel drive will get you to and around the Island. Your feet will do the rest. 

In closing, just because your favorite beach has limited or no access, does not mean you cannot hit the beach in search of blues, stripers, weakfish, fluke, albies or whatever your heart desires. Being creative can open up new opportunities which can lead to you having a successful and even memorable, fall season.

back bay hotspots
Walking is often the only way to access back bay hotspots. Photo by Lee Wakefield

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