It was a chilly September morning when I boarded the Super Hawk for a day of fluke fishing off of Long Island’s South Shore. I had arrived very early and got my spot mid-ship. Most people like the bow or stern but like the middle because I’ve always done well there. I was all rigged up by the time my brother Al arrived just before 6 a.m. and he took a spot beside me. Al rigged up and since we still had time before leaving the dock, we walked over to the deli and grabbed some breakfast.
As we crossed the parking lot, I remember the cold going right through me. Back on the boat we ate our egg sandwiches and chatted with other anglers. Some asked if we had fished the day before or if we knew how the fishing had been. I tell them “The two best days to go fishing are yesterday or tomorrow. If the fishing is lousy today, it’s going to be great tomorrow, or you should have been here yesterday.”
The bottom line is you have to fish as often as you can in every kind of weather. If you only fish on bluebird days, the odds are against you.
Capt. Steve arrives and anticipation builds around the boat. Those of us who fish with him on a regular basis know he has a plan. The plan today is to fish the ocean. At 7 a.m. the dock lines are cast and we are on our way. The sun is up but there is still a cold chill to the air, reinforced by the boat’s movement as we head to the fishing grounds. The captain idles down and sets up for our first drift in 90 feet of water. We drop our rigs and I scan the rail for familiar faces. Joe “The Butcher” is in the stern corner. Next to him is Gail whose skill improves every year, and next to her is “Quiet John.” Forward of my brother Al are Cliff and his buddy, and in the bow is David, one of the finest fishermen I know and a true gentleman. He goes out of his way to make sure other anglers are rigged properly and is always ready to offer helpful advice to novices.
We were halfway through the morning as my fluke ball dressed with a strip of fluke belly and a spearing worked along the bottom. Above it attached to a dropper loop was a 3/0 hook fitted with a Gulp teaser. I was about to reel up and check my bait when I felt a tug. I quickly dropped back about four feet of line to give the fish a chance to eat my bait. Sometimes bigger fluke will just grab the bait and hang on. Dropping back will usually result in a solid hookup. As my line came tight, I slowly raised my rod to feel if there was solid weight. The fish was there so I set the hook and the fight was on. Between a fast drift and 90 feet of water, the fish was putting up a good tussle. It was obvious I had a good fish on and everyone was watching me. Other anglers gathered close anticipating a big doormat coming to the surface. “Big Mike,” the mate was beside me and finally we saw color. A few more turns and finally a fish appeared. It turned out to be a foul-hooked fluke of about 14 inches. It drew a big round of laughter as everyone was fooled by the effort I had put into getting that little fish to the surface. The laughter came to an abrupt end when a few seconds later Mike slid the net under a 9-pound, 2-ounce doormat. The smaller fish had been hooked on the teaser, and the big fish had taken fluke ball below the teaser.
It had been a great day with lots of action and a memorable fish, but more important was the companionship of other anglers who will laugh at you and with you, cry with you if you lose a big fish, and joke with you when you set the hook and miss. It’s all part of the party boat scene and if you go on a regular basis, you’ll discover you have a whole new set of friends.