This year’s installment of the Montauk Surf Fishing Classic hosted by Long Island State Parks and The Fisherman drew nearly 300 casters to the point that weekend. While there was no shortage of small stripers for some of the participants, finding qualifying stripers and blues between noon Friday and noon Sunday was a chore for everyone involved. The weather was a non-factor, and while boatmen harvested good numbers of bass in the 20- to 40-pound range from the point’s rips, along with some big blues, those fish never made it into the surf despite a heavy presence of baitfish. Still, there were enough qualifying fish (Bass had to be 36 inches, and bluefish 5 pounds.) to settle the top three places in each category. There were no qualifying entries in the striped bass release division for the first time since its inception.
One exceptional striper did make it to the scale. Terry Marburger beached a 39.96-pound cow Friday night at Shagwong on a Super Strike darter to take the top spot. It was followed by a 22.54-pound bass beached on the sand beach near town by George Lang. George took his fish on his favorite plug, a Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow. In third place was Nick Antonelli with a 17.28-pounder. Despite the outer rips at the point being well populated with big blues, the best contest participants could do was 7.24-pounder beached by Frank Mercurio. Second place went to Gerard Doyle for a 6.82-pound blue, while Jordon Ruberto closed out the scoring with a 6.02-pounder. Kudos to Paul and Ray at Paulie’s Tackle shop for keeping the doors open throughout the 48 hours of the tournament and serving as the tournament entry and weigh station.
South Shore Classic
More than 350 casters worked the surf between Jones and Moriches inlets from October 12 through 14 during this year’s South Shore Classic, based out of Captree. Hosted by Long Island State Parks and The Fisherman, and sponsored by Captree Bait & Tackle, qualifying fish were even more difficult to come by than the Montauk Classic. The overall quality of the five stripers weighed in was far better than the East End event, and there was one release fish checked in, but not a single qualifying bluefish (5 pounds) made it to the scale. Those targeting the bigger fish with bunker chunks found the fishing tough, while some of the other participants kept busy toying with short stripers and very small bluefish, some barely 12 inches long, on artificials. Kudos to Brenden Rutigliano and his staff at Captree Bait & Tackle who manned the scales and remained open 24 hours a day during the tournament to cater to the needs of participants.
Since its inception five years ago, striped bass release entries outnumbered the striped bass open category. That was not the case this year due to the overall lack of qualifying fish. Rubin Fournier did enter a 37-1/2-inch striper to take the top spot in that category. He received a bonus prize of a selection of Big Fischer Custom Plugs donated by Billy Fischer. Billy’s generous donation was rewarded later during the raffle when his ticket was picked for one of the rods included in the raffle.
In the open category, Ziggy Sokolowski took first with an impressive 41.04-pound fish, but that fish came with an almost unbelievable story that we will expand upon in an upcoming Tale End. The short version is that Ziggy, who does a lot of plugging, but will turn to bait when the situation warrants, was soaking a bunker chunk in the Moriches surf Saturday night. Normally he holds his rod when baitfishing but he had spiked his rod to go talk to his friend Joe who was resting in his truck. Not 30 seconds later, he looked back to check his rod and it was gone – completely gone in the water. He retreated to his truck, dug out a big snag hook and proceeded to dredge the surf a quarter mile east and west of where the rod disappeared to no avail. Returning to his original spot, he continued his effort and this time the big treble came tight to what turned out to be his line. He worked the rod back to the beach but the reel was so jammed with sand that he and Joe had to wash out the reel before he was able to gain any line. After much effort, what turned out to be the winning striper was finally secure on the beach. The second and third place fish came with a lot less fanfare. Rob Bersani managed a 32.66-pounder from the Jones Beach area while Joe Crean culled a 31.26-pounder from the backside of Robert Moses. As noted earlier, no bluefish were entered.
Everyone attending the Sunday awards ceremonies at each of the events received a goody bag containing assorted product from Tsunami, Al Gags Lures, Fat Cow and Braid Aid. They were also entered into a free raffle. First through third place prizes and raffle prizes were provided by sponsors St. Croix, Century, Okuma, West Marine, Paulie’s Tackle Shop and Captree Bait & Tackle. Winners received top of the line rods valued at up to $400 from St. Croix and Century, and Okuma long distance casting reels were included in the Montauk Classic prizes. First place bass and bluefish winners earned $750 each for their efforts. Attendees at the South Shore Classic awards ceremony benefitted from the lack of winning entries since the unclaimed prizes were included as raffle prizes. As a result, several contestants went home big winners despite not entering a fish.
A big thank you goes out to all of the above sponsors. Without their support, these events would not be possible. Remember them and support them when you are shopping for tackle. Perhaps the best part of these events, aside from the camaraderie generated among the participants, is that all proceeds, minus the prize money, go into the State Park Fishing Fund. These monies are used to improve fishing access and facilities within the Long Island State Park system.
Special thanks to Tom Dess and his Montauk staff, and Tim Byrne and his Captree/Robert Moses staff for a great job setting up and assisting with the awards ceremonies. Long Island State Park’s recreation department at regional headquarters did their usual super job of handling pre-registration and helping to coordinate both events. Thanks to AnnMarie Agostinello, Jessica Anderson, Jonathan Cruz and Kim Huhn, as well as Regional Director Wayne Horsley and Deputy Director George Gorman.