Surf fishing is rife with tales of big fish, long blitzes, camaraderie and more. As surfcasters we have spent countless hours in weather that at times borders on insane to bear. We have made new friends, and stayed in contact with some for many, many years. Surf fishing has provided us all with memories that will last a lifetime. Whether it is a big fish, long awaited blitz or funny tale, it keeps us coming back, year after year, tide after tide.
I remember one fall while heading to Montauk with my son-in-law Isa Muqattash and longtime friend Charlie Murray when we started talking about the old days under the “light.” I remember my largest fish like it was yesterday. I’d been fishing the new Ponquogue Bridge for nights on end, catching many fish in the 20-pound class. On one cooler May evening, the late Fred Golofaro, my mentor and good friend said, “The winds will be perfect for the bridges tonight.” Along with Charlie Murray and Tony Pagnotta, we headed to the Ponquogue. After about an hour into the outgoing and after switching to a 3-ounce white Andrus bucktail, I was into a good fish. Charlie lowered the bridge gaff, and within minutes, my 40-pounder was on the deck of the bridge.
Another memorable fish was Charlie Murray’s largest; a 48-pound cow caught in a November northeast blow under the “Light.” Fred, Tony and I were all catching when Charlie latched onto his trophy. A yellow darter did the trick, and what made it most memorable was that after Charlie caught it, we all teased him that a raccoon was going to eat his fish. Charlie put a stringer on the fish, and kept it at his side like a dog on a leash, never fishing again that night.
One morning in September many years ago, I met Fred and “Doc” Muller at Gilgo. After walking the beach from the parking lot, we found mullet with fish on them. I had a 38-pounder that morning, but what was more special was when Fred saw a huge tail slap off the beach about 100 yards. “That was a 50, and we are coming back with eels tomorrow and catching her,” Fred said. The next morning we met at 4 a.m., and just before first light, a 48-pounder inhaled a well-placed eel. Fred and I never wavered when reminiscing about that fish that it was definitely the same fish we saw the day before.
The next fish was both quality and a first for the angler. I had been guiding anglers in the surf, tutoring them on all aspects of the game, especially the proper use of a pencil popper. On one outing, Angelo Markados, a newcomer to surf fishing was the charter. It was July 2, in 2002 or 2003, and we began on the sand beaches near Gurneys. For the first half-hour, I schooled Angelo in the art of making a pencil dance. After a about a half-hour, he had it down, until a 34-pounder exploded on his pencil. After several photos, his response was, “Is it always this easy?” We did not have another fish for six hours!
Out of all the fish, blitzes and fun I have had, Mark Malenovsky’s ‘64’ will always stay with me. It was Thanksgiving Eve, 1992, a cold wicked night with only a handful of guys on the Montauk rocks. There was Mark, myself, Bill Addeo, Dennis Gaviola, Joe Gaviola, Gary “Toad” and I believe Atilla Ozturk as well, along with several other locals. After battling the weather and tide for several hours, one-by-one we all sat down. Actually all but one sat down. Mark kept throwing his 3-ounce yellow Gibbs Bottle Plug. When he hooked up, no one moved; we just watched. As each moment waned, the interest became heavier. It was only when Mark said to me that the fish just headed right that I knew it was a big fish. The tide was coming in, and pushing water to our left, so for this fish to head up current she had to be big.
Mark played the fish, keeping pressure on her, trying to move her into the rocks. I slowly made my way down closer to the edge with an 8-foot gaff. It was dark, windy, and the surf was heaving. Mark guided the fish to the rocks, and then the big head came out of the foam, startling me. I missed her on the first shot, but made sure not to miss the second time, gaffing her in the mid-section. At Johnny’s Tackle, she weighed 64 pounds. That fish will always be one I cherish, even though I did not catch her. On the night, Bill Addeo had two fish over 50 pounds, while Dennis Gaviola had one over 40.
These are just a handful of memories that really stick out, although I am sure there are tons more I have enjoyed. Memories and good times is what surfcasting is all about, and is what keeps us all coming back for more. These memories would never have been possible for me if Fred Golofaro had not taken me under his wing and schooled me through the art of surfcasting when I was a young teenager. I will forever miss Fred, and will always remember all the good times we had; and believe me, they were great!
Rest in peace buddy, I miss you.