Coming up this weekend

few things since I (and the rest of SJ crew) are running on fumes after RISAA and Berkeley shows this weekend..throw in some nasty weather and I am just glad everyone got home safe. Last week was Surf Day and East Meadow, this past weekend was RISSA and Berkley and this weekend we got Ward Melville Expo and Asbury.
We ran out of hoodies at Surf Day, unplanned for sure so we tried to rush re-order for RISAA but it could not happen. You would not believe how hard is to find a Fruit of the Loom 12oz heavyweight hoodies in the winter!!! Tommy snagged some zippered ones this time and we will have them at Ward Melville and Asbury with special show pricing.

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We are reordering Moon Girl and Mean Bass so we will have that in stock this weekendL51804L51806







Tomorrow i will have a Big Rock metal lip giveaway winner and a video we shot with Release Reels new surf reel at RISAA. Today I am going to try to fill you in on weekend shows

First, Ward Melville Saltwater Expo.

First of all its fundraiser for Ward Melville High School Fishing Club.

Two, It FREE.

Three , over 75 vendors including Super Strike, North Bar, John Skinner, Big Fisher Plugs and so one.

Four, over 15 free seminars.

Five, …….really, you need more reasons to come and support this great cause and listen to John Skinnerlicious and Lou Carusovich (Lou has been hanging enough with me to be made an honorary Croatian)

Seminars begin at 9:00 AM

Capt. Mike Bady — Captain’s Table Fishing Charters —North Fork Fluke and Striped Bass
Vinny Conwell — Eleventh Step Fishing Charters— Early Spring, Back-bay Striped Bass
Bruce Froh — Blue Frog Bucktails — Fishing the Bucktail
Capt. Harry Garrecht — Offshore Harry Sport Fishing— Fishing Offshore – 20-50 fathoms
Capt. Tom Kampa — Moonlight Lady Charters —Light Tackle Blackfish
Capt. Paul Mandella — Maybe Tonight Fishing Charters—Night Time Eeling for Stripers
Capt. Tom Mikoleski — Grand Slam Charters — Fishing for Striped Bass by Boat
Capt Desmond O’Sullivan — Celtic Quest Fishing Fleet — Blackfishing Techniques
Capt. John Paduano — Premium Charters/Bucktails — Light Tackle Bucktail Techniques From the Boat & Surf
Angelo Peluso — Angelo Peluso Outdoors — Fly Fishing For Sharks
Capt. Paul Peluso — Mamma Mia Fishing —Bucktail and Top Water w Capt Pablo
Capt Bob Simon — Stony Brook Charters —North Shore Fluking
John Skinner — John Skinner Fishing —Condition-Based Strategies for Surf Stripers
Capt Ed Walsh — Jones Beach Fishing Station —Techniques for Pier Fishing
Capt. Joe Wenegenofsky — Bloodline SportFishing— Unusual Tactics and Approaches to Fishing Montauk

Lou Caruso and AL Goldberg will both be giving presentations on custom rod building at their respective tables. Continue reading

The Last Wave- By Tony Stetzko

For  those of you who don’t know, the surfcasting world lost a legend this week. Tony Stetzko was one of those rare people that didn’t let his “status” in our tiny circle of the fishing world overshadow the fun he had doing it or his amazing enthusiasm for what he loved to do. In fact, Tony seemed like he wasn’t even aware that other surfcasters held him in such high regard and he honestly wasn’t interested. If you followed him on Facebook then you know he was a regular poster and his entries were injected with a rhythm that oozed a kind of excitement that is rare in people older than 12. Beyond that, Tony was just a really good guy that treated everybody like they were a close friend. That may sound like a cliche but, with Tony, that was just plain truth. In his decades fishing the Cape Cod beaches he landed untold numbers of bass over 50 pounds, several 60s and Bertha, one of the largest surf bass ever taken, she weighed a whopping 73 pounds. Take a minute to go back and read his posts and you’ll realize that he got fired up no matter what size fish he was catching. He just loved to fish.

Tony scratched together a living off of the land, he was a “clam whisperer” using his buggy to access virgin backwaters in the hopes of raking up a day’s pay. He may have been the last “true” Cape Codder. His loss will impact our great sport in ways that we don’t even know yet. But one thing is sure, whether you knew him or not, if you love to fish the surf you lost a friend this week and our sport lost one of its brightest supporters. Rest easy Anton, to say “you’ll be missed” would be a gross understatement. But you will


The Last Wave

Into The Wayback Machine

By Tony Stetzko

I got married in 1974, but the agreement was, “if we get married, we’re moving to Cape Cod!” I knew someone who would rent us a cottage in Wellfleet, right on the Bay. So we packed up my Scout and headed for the Cape, this was February—we’re talking cold. We arrived during a good northwest blow, inside the cottage, you could see your breath and the curtains were blowing up parallel to the floor. Man was it cold!

“Tony, if you think I’m going to live here, you’re nuts!”

And so the marriage begins.

Okay, so we refocus and start looking for a better place. All I knew was from Wellfleet to P-Town! We picked up a newspaper called “The Cape Codder” and started driving around to look at the listings. Then Lorrie says, “Hey, here’s an apartment in Orleans.”

Orleans? I knew nothing about Orleans! We called and got directions to the cottage which ended up being right on the road to Rock Harbor—and at the other end, Nauset Beach. Sure, I had heard of Nauset, but I had no idea what it was really like. Well, I kept an open mind and we showed up at the house to find this cool, laid back guy, Ron Hovey Jones was his name. When we met it was as if we were long lost friends and we made an instant connection! He was working on a book of photography and when he showed me his work I was speechless. This guy was like a modern day Ansel Adams! Unreal photos!

The cottage was old. It turned out that it had been floated across the Bay from Billingsgate Island—there were not many nails holding it together, mostly wooden pegs. There was no sink in the bathroom, the kitchen floor could have been used for a skateboard ramp and the doors were apparently made for a family of little people! It was heated by kerosene—this house was just a super-old Cape Cod creation. But then it dons on me, “Ron, we have a horse!”

“No problem,” He says, “we can build a barn off the garage.”

Talk about meant to be! For $150 a month it was like a dream and I was just a few houses away from the busiest fishing port on Cape Cod Bay, perfect. We headed back to New Jersey for the rest of our stuff and we were back in April, for good.TONY

Not long after our arrival I grabbed Lorrie and we took a ride to check out Nauset Beach. We found a private road called Callahands Pass that lead out onto the sand. I aired down and we proceeded directly into PARADISE. It was the most beautiful beach I had ever seen; bars, bowls, white water and (oh my Lord) at the end was Nauset Inlet. It’s giving me goosebumps just typing this! Guys, girls, for a bass nut like me, I had just seen God’s gift to the striped bass (and me). Of course I had a pole with me, a light rod with a Penn 712 reel, this was the size below the 704, but still green of course! The inside of the inlet was just wild, a big bar dropping off steeply into the channel. So I’m bucktailing the inlet with no action—the sun is setting, it feels like the best dream you’ve ever had. Lorrie suggests that we go get some food. So, you know how sometimes you make that last cast while you’re walking away from the water? Wouldn’t you know, holy shit, the rod just about gets yanked out of my hands! I had a big fish on! Line was screaming off the small reel disappearing at an alarming rate as I followed the fish into the back channel. I finally get her in, and she’s a beautiful 20-pound striper! Forget about food, I know how they want the bucktail now! I fire another cast out there and work it fast and choppy, like a Jig-It Eel—wham! Oh boy! This one is not stopping! It was another foot race into the marsh, after a long battle I had a 35-pounder at my feet. How could I leave beautiful New Jersey? Yeah right. Long story short I had three more fish before we left and all of them were between 20 and 35 pounds—and let me remind you that this was in April! This was the start of my lifelong journey that’s still going on.

The learning process on this beach was definitely a process. The tides here were nothing like the tides in New Jersey. Later that year I found myself with a mung problem. If you don’t know what mung is, you don’t want to! It’s an onslaught of small brown “monkey hair” weed that clings to everything, your line, your guides, your knots, your lures… it’s really frustrating stuff! So I get the bright idea that if I make my way out onto the outer bar I might be able to get past the mung. But, it was still mung city! Use your brain Stetzko! I get the idea to put on an Atom Popper—and I’m not a popper guy. But my thought was to just reel it in really slowly—like a needle—and it should get through the weed, especially with a dropper above it.

The last colors of the sunset were visible in the darkening sky as I began working my popper and right around the time I started talking to myself about how nice the stars looked and what a nice night it was, I got banged. My old Lami bent just about in half! Good fish! Within a few minutes I had a giant bass on the sandbar. I cast again, bang, another good one on the beach. Then I made maybe five or seven more casts before I was on again and this fish was taking line and shaking her head like nothing I’d ever felt before! Now it was really dark, and I had nothing but the faint glow of the northern sky to light my way when it donned on me, “what about the tide!?” I looked down to the inlet and smiled, water was still spilling out. Now back to this creature on the end of my line! I’ve had this fish on for about 15 minutes, my arm was getting tired but I finally had her close and I saw the biggest swirl I had ever seen in my life. I’m could hear my heartbeat now, kind of a cool sound when it’s mixed with sound of the waves starting to build. But the waves usually start to build when the tide is coming IN. The music of the sea is always changing, but again I looked down and the water was still pushing out. The bar I was on ran parallel to the beach and was about 100 yards out. I had this fish coming now and when I had about 20 feet of line left to go I started walking backwards to beach the fish. (Never reel up closer than 20 feet when you’re trying to beach a big fish.) Then I saw it, “Holy moly, double shit!” It was a double header—two giant bass, one 38 pounds and the other 42, my first 40-pounder!

Now I had four big fish and I decided that it was time to go in. Back then I was selling my fish but me being me, I didn’t bring anything out there with me to lug them back with! So I took off my belt and strung three of them up on that and threaded the fourth onto the butt of my rod. I stepped off the bar and the water was like 5-inches from the top of my waders and my belt, I’ll remind you, was being used as a makeshift stringer! Can you hear my heart pounding now?! I was shitting my pants! Every wave that crept over the bar sent a short gush of water into my waders and I had to go 100 yards! All the while I’m wondering how the water has gotten deeper when the inlet still shows a dropping tide?! This was how I learned, the hard way as usual, about the tide lag in the inlet. As I was getting close to the halfway point I remember saying to myself, “Okay, this is the deepest part.” Nope, suddenly I had to swim and I am not a great swimmer! Luckily I was in good shape and somehow I was able to swim in waders with no belt, with a 40-pounder on my rod butt and dragging three others over 30 on my belt! Evidently God really loves me because I made it!

The funny thing is I know I found myself in the same predicament a few more times and every time I did I could hear my dad saying, “Kid, it ain’t worth killing yourself for a fish!” Love ya Pop!

Win a Big Rock Metal Lip Swimmer

Since I only exist in the internet and at the shows lately, let me give you a quick run down of what SJ crew is up to.

First, we sold out of hoodies at Surf Day. We apologize but that was supposed to last through the whole show schedule. Or so we thought. We tried to rush order but no dice, they wont be ready till Tuesday so no hoodies at RISAA or Berkley this weekend. We’ll have them Asbury and Ward Melville show next weekend and at Patchogue Flea Market if we have any left.


Patchogue Flea Market is again featuring Crazy Alberto as a speaker on March 22nd

I will be at RISAA with Mr Dave Anderson on Friday and tommy and Ray are coming on Saturday while I have to split in afternoon to get to Berkeley Flea Market. You can stop at any of the shows and pick up a free shirt with renewal or new subscription. new issue should be out in about two weeks so that is another thing to look forward too….other that RAIN of course

The winner of MEGA Needlefish giveaway is  Chad McKenna

You have 5 days to contact me at with your shipping address. Please understand that we are at shows and might be a day or two before we get back to you

DSC_4358And now for today’s giveaway , in honor of Big Rock who will be at Berkeley Flea market (for at least 20 minutes before he sells  a Big Rock Metal Lip swimmers

you cant buy in anywhere other that ebay and i will cost you a pretty penny but today you’ll get a chance to win one from my personal stash

Good luck to all of you and please stop by if you are at the shows and tell us how we are doing. Its more important to us to get feedback on SJ than for you to buy a shirt. If we don’t put a GREAT product out there, no shirt will make up for that. See you soon

asxwsxswin case you are wondering why they call him Big Rock


You cant be big enough as a cop in Trenton,NJ


Surf Day and new video

I would like to thank all of those who stopped by SJ table at JSS Surf Day on Saturday. It was awesome seeing many of our readers and thank you all for your kind words of encouragement and praise for what out team puts together for our readers. A BIG thank you to JSS crew for exceptional organizing skills. I got to tell you, that thing runs like a smooth machine!

Yes, I love to travel to CT Surf Day , then to NJ Surf Day but just like most New York surfcasters I am left wondering where is NY Surf day? lol

Seriously, I’ve seen quite a few NY guys in NJ on Saturday. Kind of amazing there is nothing for local anglers on LI other than flea markets. Its not for a lack of surfcasters, just try to find a rock in a Montauk blitz or parking in Smiths Point or Gilgo. I was always told the reason was because there are no available venues on LI suited for that kind of event, or at least not affordable options. Who knows? Does anyone have opinion on it?

SJ crew will be in RISAA (new location booth 0328) and Berkeley Flea Market this weekend. See you there

We nailed Gary Soldati from big Water Lures literally for a minute before the show opened. The audio is iffy for my taste but better than not bringing you nothing.

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Jersey Shore Surfcasters Surf Day this weekend

We are few days away from my favorite show, Jersey Shore Surfcasters Surf Day. You can find all the information about the show on their website at

I will paste below some information but its a day jammed packed with seminars and surf fishing vendors. The weather looks great and we are looking forward to seeing many of you there. Tommy and I will also be at Fisherman’s Flea Market this Sunday at Temple Emanuel in East Meadow NY

Here is some new gear for this year show season. You can pick out any short sleeve t-shirt for free with subscription or renewal and we will also have a limited number of Mean Bass gray pullover hoodies for show special $35. Not sure we will be able to have all the stuff at all the shows but we will try our best.

SJ Mean Bass pullover


SJ Moon Girl tee


SJ Mean Bass tee


NJ Surf Day February 21st NJ 8 30 to 4 30 PM

East Meadow Flea Market NY Sunday February 22nd 9 to 3 pm

RISAA Providence RI February 27 to March 1st

Berkley Fishing Flea Market NJ Sunday March 1st 9 to 2 pm

Ward Melville HS NY March 7th 8 30 to 3 PM

Asbury park Flea Market NJ Sunday March 8th 9 to 2 pm

Patchogue Flea market NY Sunday March 22nd 9 to 3pm


A Day Dedicated to the Surfcaster.”

At Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, NJ.
8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Surf Day is sponsored by the Jersey Shore Surfcasters, it is a day strictly for those with surfcasting interests. If you want to get a full dose of surfcasting to help you through the winter doldrums, here it is! Surf Day offers high quality seminars and workshops throughout the day, see our “Who Is Coming” page for profiles of the speakers. We also have great vendors; plugbuilders, factory representatives, tackle shops and much more available. There is a cafeteria available as well. Every child under 10 is free. All kids get something from the JSS. Go to “Who Is Coming” and “Seminar Schedule” pages for more info.

Tickets will be available at door.
No advanced ticket sales.


We have an amazing lineup planned for this year.

Here is the list of prizes we had last year. We are planning on going above and beyond this year:
1. ZeeBaas Reel Z25 and Fiberstar Rod
2. GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition video camera
3. Van Staal Pliers and Sheath
4. Pelican 35QT Elite Cooler
5. Tom Lynch Framed Photograph-Midnight Striper
6. A MAK DJ Muller Edition Set-Up (MAK surfbelt with two MAK 2-tube belt bags)
7. Hand-Built Century Sling Shot 1267
8. StormR Surf Top or Stryker Jacket, hat, and gloves
Door Prizes: (so far)
D-Mag swimmer
…and lots more.

The Jersey Shore Surfcasters look to bring in the best surfcasters and speakers to our show. We also strive for diversity, fresh speakers, not those that how up at any open door. We want nothing but the best for our show visitors. This year offers another great year for speakers to the JSS’s Surf Day. Enjoy!!

Crazy Alberto Knie

Writer, Fishing Manufacturer, Artist, Photographer, World Record (line class) Holder , Seminar speaker, Pro Staff for various fishing companies, and Host of the new Tactical Angler TV show.

Alberto Knie, or better known as “Crazy Alberto Knie” is an avid angler obsessed with every facet of sportfishing. From South America to North America in freshwater and salt, from the surf or boat, with bait or artificials, “Crazy Alberto” has experienced it all and his specialty is trophy Striped Bass fishing from the Surf.

John Skinner

John Skinner is the author of the books Striper Pursuit, Fishing the Bucktail, and A Season on the Edge, and a contributing writer to the book The Hunt for Big Stripers. He is the long-time Surf Fishing Columnist and former Editor-in-Chief of Nor’east Saltwater Magazine. He has written many articles for Nor’east Saltwater, On the Water, and The Surfcaster’s Journal. His videos on the John Skinner Fishing YouTube channel are known to anglers worldwide. He is the creator of the fishing log software, FishersLog. Skinner is a frequent speaker at outdoor shows and has a well-earned reputation as a consistent producer of trophy striped bass from the surf. He holds the current New York State false albacore record. When not plying the beaches, he can often be found fishing from his kayak, or Scuba diving in Long Island Sound.

DJ Muller

DJ Muller is one of NJ’s top surfcasters, and one of the most rounded and experienced surfcasters in the northeast. He is also a surf guide, outdoor writer and author of three surfcasting books. “The Surfcasters Guide to the Striper Coast,” “Striper Strategies,” and his latest “Striper Tales.”  DJ also writes a regular column for the Surfcaster’s Journal magazine.

Targeting the best waters on the east coast DJ has fished for stripers as far reaching as the beaches of Hatteras to the coast of Maine. Over the last 20 years DJ has built an extensive track record at targeting striper at places like Martha’s Vineyard, the Cape Cod Canal, Cuttyhunk, Block Island, Montauk, just to name a few.  He runs guided trips each year to various destinations, working with aspiring surfcasters looking to get an edge on the learning curve. The surfcasters he guides learn firsthand from one of the most passionate ‘Cow Chasers’ on the northeast.

DJ will be doing a seminar on the techniques and strategies for catching large stripers from the surf using bunker chunks. DJ has caught a long list of big bass from the Jersey sand including two 50 pounders and numerous 40 pound stripers using various chunking tactics he’s learned over the years. His presentation will include areas to target, proper equipment and proper bait selection and preparation.

DJ is one of the founding member and currently president of the JSS.

Bill Jakob

Fishing for Stripers for past 45 years at Montauk, orient and north and south forks of Long Island I live stuck next to one of the great inlets for bass fishing on Long Island. I have work on commercial, party boat and charter boats for last forty years Working with some of the best striper fishermen on the east coast. I’ve been on the Van Staal pro team since 2001

Jimmy Fee

Jimmy Fee grew up surf fishing throughout New Jersey, but after taking a job with On The Water Magazine in 2008, Jim moved to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Jim fishes more than 250 days a year throughout the Northeast, chasing everything from small pond pan fish to Great Lakes steelhead to offshore tuna and billfish. His favorite pursuit is that of striped bass in the surf.

Bill Wetzel

Bill Wetzel is a NYS licensed guide, and host of, with over 35 years experience, more than 15 of those guiding the suds. You may find Bill hunting stripers in the back bays of Long Island’s North shore or the sandy beaches of the south shore, but his true passion is prowling the rocks of Montauk hunting for big fish. Bill has been on the lecture circuit for many years, and has written articles for various fishing publications. He is often referred to as the “hardest working guide” in the business. Bill just doesn’t talk about surf fishing he does it for a living.

Pat Perrotto

Pat Perrotto is a Jersey Shore native with over 16 years of surfcasting experience. His pursuit of striped bass have brought him to legendary and challenging waters all over the Northeast. From the jetties of Monmouth County where he first learned to surfcast to the boulder fields of New England, Perrotto loves the hunt of the striper. One of his favorite ways to search for bass is to find them in unsuspecting, seldom fished water. When not fishing, Perrotto builds his own custom surf rods.

Jon Shein

“At the birth of modern kayak fishing Jon Shein’s KFS was a repository of information and instruction that fostered the development of fishing kayaks and accessories,” Kayak Angler Magazine, Summer/Fall 2013.

“Jon Shein has done more to foster the growth of kayak fishing on the east coast than probably any other one man,” Carl Bruger Hudson River Fisherman’s Association.

Jon started kayak fishing in the late 90s and got involved in a big way. He’s worn many of the hats one can wear in the sport. He’s logged over 1000 days on the water from Alaska to Baja to the Caribbean up to New England with the majority in NJ and NY waters and Florida. He’s done so from over 75 different kayak models and has caught over 100 species of fish from a kayak. He’s a NJ native and knows the local kayak fishing well. Besides catching most of our local fresh and saltwater species he’s also caught tarpon, bonefish, billfish, tuna, redfish, snook, dorado, halibut, salmon, bull sharks and many other exotic species using spin, conventional and fly gear. Jon has over 20,000 forum posts, has authored hundreds of articles and is author of “Kayak Fishing”, the most comprehensive book on the subject.

Jon will be speaking about kayak fishing in our local waters. He’ll discuss equipment and environments so you will understand both.

Frank Mihalic

Frank Mihalic is a well traveled and versatile fisherman.  His hard working, simple style is one that we can all easily relate to. Frank has been a frequent contributing writer to The Fisherman Magazine and others over the past twenty years. He specializes in adapting his tackle and gear to effectively fish each area under any conditions. Equally comfortable with spinning, plug or fly tackle, he fishes sod banks, rocks, or an open beach with tackle that matches conditions. His seminar “Tying and Fishing Surf Teasers” is an interactive approach, sharing the tools and tricks so that you can easily design and tie your own teasers. Learn how to make your own custom leaders that will eliminate fouling and add distance to the end of every cast.  Frank is the founding President of the South Jersey Coastal Fly Anglers.

Jason Szabo

Jason Szabo, a 25-year-old resident of Brick town New Jersey has spent the better portion of his life perusing striped bass. His main focus is on targeting striped bass in New Jersey’s back bays. From the shallow salt marshes to the inlets of New Jersey, Jason explores it all. Jason’s true passion is targeting fish on light tackle; he spends countless days/nights hunting for patterns and other variables that created the successful fishermen that he is. Having spent over ten years working in tackle shops, he has a wealth of knowledge that he uses in the field to help explain, and teach people, how to become a more successful and passionate striped bass angler.

Matt Risser

I started surfishing around 2002 in an earnest way. I have fished locations primarily on the east coast: up and down the NJ, South Carolina, Martha’s Vineyard, Montauk, Cuttyhunk, and the Cape Cod Canal to name a few, with my favorite locations in MA. I enjoy all types of surfishing from a summer day with the family on the beach for fluke, to an all-nighter in a wetsuit standing on a rock. I am a “self-taught” surfisherman and while there is no substitute for time on the water, I do enjoy reading, researching, and working on my craft in various ways. I have two boys that are now 9 and 12, and have been fishing with them for about 6 years. They are developing a love for the sport and expertise that I could only dream of at their age.

Tim Risser

Surfishing has been a part of my life since the mid-80s when my father took the family on day trips to Assateague Island and then took off in earnest in 1998 when I learned that catching fish on artificial lures and flies was possible. I have fished extensively throughout the east coast from South Carolina to Maine with focused time spent in Cape Lookout, Cape Hatteras, Susquehanna Flats, IBSP, Sandy Hook, Montauk, Cuttyhunk, and Martha’s Vineyard to name a few. I enjoy about any form of surfishing from soaking bait, to plying the back bays, to hardcore wetsuiting. In addition I also enjoy writing about my saltwater experiences. I have been published in On The Water and on Van Staal’s web page, and several other outdoor web publications. I am first a student of the sport and appreciate the time highly talented surfisherman have spent nurturing my skills. I have two girls 11 and a son 8 who have been surfishing for 5 years now.

Mega Needlefish Giveaway……and Presidents’ Day specials in our Online Store

Lets have a MEGA Needlefish lure giveaway on this Valentines day weekend…because we love our readers.

The winner gets this entire set of great looking needlefish lures

Wally’s Lures and Tackle needlefish

Lemire’s Plugworks needlefish

Guides Secret Needlefish

Yankee Lures Needlefish

One winner, chosen randomly gets the whole shebang


in other news…we are going to have some new gear for the NJ Surf Day, stay tuned for that but this Presidents’ Day weekend we got a little special sale going on for our readers.

Grim Reaper performance shirts regularly $30 ..this weekend $18 shipped


Rope Bass t shirt regularly $22 this weekend $18 shipped

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Tools of the Trade regularly $22 this weekend $19 shipped

tool-frontJust our way of saying thanks to our readers. These prices are only good trough Monday

All in our online store at

The Midnight Rambler -Instant Islamorada – 2015

The Midnight Rambler

John Papciak

Instant Islamorada – 2015


I’m sure there are plenty of readers in my position.

What do I do with the rest of my life?

Well, ok, it’s not quite that dramatic, but hear me out.

For the last 20 or so years, it’s been all about the kids and the family. And now, with my “first born” now getting acceptance letters to far away colleges, I realize I’m on borrowed time. I might have pissed and moaned that I couldn’t go to Cutty… or I couldn’t go to The Cape… unless it was during a school break… and unless it was 100% family friendly. But I’m not so sure how I will fare in the empty nest. Will I really fish my ass off, like I always said I would? Or will I slowly transform into a cranky old geezer, watching daytime TV during the winter.

I hope not, daytime TV is a very scary place (“Were you recently injured in an accident? You may be entitled to a LARGE CASH AWARD”). Please God, no.

With that premise in mind, I’m taking a good hard look at options. No, I don’t think I’m leaving Long Island, and no, I don’t think Montauk is in the rear view mirror. But I will be adding a small list of other destinations to my repertoire. Maybe I’ll do long weekends during the dead of winter, and see how that plays out before making any type of commitment. I know, it sounds like indulgence, and a bit of a dream, but any major change in lifestyle for the better starts with a dream.

Whenever my wife and I have these conversations, it only takes about 60 seconds before we talk The Keys. It seems to have most of the boxes checked – cheap flights from JFK to MIA, just warm enough in the winter, reasonable lodging and some nice places too, and oh yes, usually good fishing with plenty of variety throughout the year.

I wrote about Islamorada last year. We had every intention of trying something else to burn off this year’s unused vacation days (those were the days I held in reserve for the late season striper fishing that never happened this past fall). But when push came to shove, and the time was ticking away, the relative value of Islamorada – plus a really nice deal from the Cheeca Lodge – made the decision rather easy for us. When my wife told me her final choice was to go right back to Cheeca, I was in no position to object. Go ahead, twist my arm. And in the time it took to make an instant oatmeal, we had booked all the details for another trip to Islamorada.


Despite a nasty case of bronchitis (and a pack of meds), and the “winter storm of the decade” bearing down on New York, we were just lucky enough to get bumped to one of the few flights that actually did take off for Miami that night.

Good riddance, New York.

The Keys is a difficult place to describe, but for those who might not have been, let me give it a try, with a bit of editorial.


It stats with thousands of square miles of surface area, some of it ever so slightly above sea level, and the rest of it ever so slightly below sea level. If you ask me, I don’t know how the place has not been wiped clean by a hurricane. A 10 to 15 foot storm surge, and the whole place is toast. But the shallow water acts as a bit of a buffer. There are are no breaking waves on either side. You might find a surf shop or two, but nobody is surfing in The Keys. Surf fishing opportunities – shallow water wade fishing to be more exact – abounds. But I’ve seen very few people actually doing that.

But oh they love their bridge fishing! The Keys are a series of small islands strung together like a pearl necklace, connected by a series of bridges running from Key Largo all the way to Key West. We drove the entire length one day.  And on most of the bridges, there are places set aside for fishing…and do they ever, sometimes all day and all night, with lanterns and headlamps.

They call fishing the bay side (the Gulf side) the “Back Country.”  As some of you know, my primary interest these days is saltwater fly fishing. It’s hard for me to think of a better place to do it. I might go out a limb here to suggest Islamorada is the saltwater fly fishing capital of the world (well, if not, at least the US).


Every morning scores of guides meet clients at marinas like the Lorelei in Islamorada, for a day of fishing in flats boats. From here they will diverge into the hundreds of square miles of shallow water within striking distance.

And this is exactly what I had in mind.

Despite my late booking, I thought there would be a chance I could connect with last year’s guide Drew Moret. I shot him a text, but it was a no can do – he was already booked. But not to worry, he texted that he knew of another excellent guide who just might have an opening during the couple of days I was thinking of. And after a few more emails, I had myself a confirmation with another full time guide, Paul Tejera. (I’ll get to the “full time” part later, hold that thought.).

To be honest, with work and the holidays, yada yada, I didn’t think too much about it until I got closer to the departure date. And when I looked up this guide’s web site, I kind of got a feeling I was not booking just any run-of-the-mill yahoo.

Things like “One of only 4 guides to win all three major Tarpon Fly Tournaments…Placed in the top 3 in over 40 Fly and All-Tackle Tournaments from Miami to Key West “ suggested he might take his fishing a bit more serious than the guides I watch fishing off the Montauk Lighthouse each fall.

Paul’s style was easy going but focused. When we met that morning, it was not “maybe we will try here…or maybe we will try there.” No, he had a plan, despite the cold front that had come through recently.

“We will be going up about 30 miles to a flat that should fish well by late morning with the incoming tide we will have, especially as the sun warms the water a few more degrees…then we will work backwards, following the tide as long as we can,”


The air was 65 degrees as we left the dock, but Paul was dressed as if it was 40. When he opened the throttle, I hunkered down as well. He told me the boat could do over 50 if he opened it up further, but I was plenty fine with the 40 or so I’d say we were going. We followed an extremely shallow network of channels through the islands, and I was actually a bit surprised we didn’t feel the bottom. I guess that is a beauty of a boat that barely draws 8 inches of water.

Paul explained that we would be targeting redfish, with an occasional snook. The water was about 10 degrees too cold for tarpon on these flats. As I quizzed him on the details, it became clear that the long casts and heavier sinking lines that I was using up north had no place in this kind of fishing.

“You’ll be making casts mostly in the 40 to 50 foot range today, not much more than that,” he continued, “this is sight casting…you will see all the fish…all in very shallow water a foot or less…hopefully we can get you on some fish that will want to eat as the water warms a little…this is 100% about presentation and accuracy.”

“Great,” I thought, “100% of what I am not doing while striper fishing.”


When we got to the specific flat, Paul began poling and I took position up front, armed with 1 pc Hardy 9 weight and a Tibor reel. My fly was a brown shrimp pattern, a rarity for me. I’ve thrown plenty of worm patterns, but few crab or shrimp flies in the Northeast.

It took less than five minutes to see the place was full of life.

A two-foot shark pushed across the flat, it almost looked like it was struggling to find enough water to swim. But it continued climbing over the mud and grass, rooting for fish, crabs or shrimp.

Paul abruptly broke the silence.

“There’s a redfish…See it?…There…There…There…3 oclock…oh Christ…40 feet… See it? See it? See it?…There…There…There”

I didn’t see shit.

But I realized the window of opportunity was closing fast. I tried to load the rod and direct the line at my best guess of where the fish might be. The line landed in a pile.

“Damn,” Paul cried, “spooked him.”

After a few more blown opportunities, I realized I was going to have to calm my nerves and focus on fast but more accurate casts.

I also quickly realized that Paul took his fishing very very very seriously. This was not an “Aw Shucks” type of guide. I guess you don’t place in virtually every tournament in The Keys by taking a “win some – lose some” attitude toward fly fishing the flats. 

After yet another blown opportunity – where I finally did see the tailing redfish in 8 inches of water – Paul finally offered some words of encouragement.

“I’ve been all over the world, and The Keys is possibly the hardest saltwater fly fishing you will ever do,” Paul explained, “these fish are extremely spooky in shallow water like this…unless you’ve got the right presentation…and unless you put it right in front of their nose, they will not eat…not these fish on this flat…you’ll just watch them scoot into deeper water leaving a trail of mud.”

I did get better in the presentation department over the next hour. And I finally trained my eyes to the point where I was spotting fish almost as quickly as he was.

As Paul poled the boat along the flat, I spent down time practice casting. I’m usually much better in the casting department, but this was one of those times when I had not casted a fly rod for several months – not since mid November when I declared the East End officially dead for stripers. Had I known that I needed to be so accurate on the short cast, I might have gotten in the requisite practice on my front lawn. Next time.

I was finally able to get the fly much closer to the strike zone on the next few fish, but to no avail. I’d have to point out that the strike zone in these scenarios is probably not much larger than a manhole cover. This might be easily accomplished indoors, or on the lawn, but factor in a little wind, and then factor in the stress of trying to deliver a perfect cast when the pressure is on, well therein comes the challenge of sight fishing.

“Damn,” explained Paul, “that fish should have eaten…you put that fly right where it needed to be.”

I won’t bore you with vague references to “conditions,” and tell you “it depends” when determining success.  It’s a fuzzy combination of casting skills combined with fish must be willing to chase a meal, at least a few feet. Never more. The warmer the water it seemed, the more willing to chase.  A perfect cast might make up the difference, but clearly not always. At this point, despite seeing almost 25 redfish, and having good shots on at least 15, I was still risking a skunk.

The way I see it, you are poling toward fish on a flat so shallow that you’ll see small wakes left behind, and sometimes the fish can be seen “tailing.” If the wind is down and the surface flat, a trained eye can see a fish at beyond 100 feet.  But you’ll have to pole closer, to about 60 feet, in order to zero in on the position and exact direction. And by 50 feet you should be casting. Anything inside of 40 feet, and the fish is very likely to see or feel the boat. Wait that long and its bye-bye, game over.  This is so much different from the deeper water blind casting done by striper fishermen in the Northeast. This all suggests a hookup ratio way below the number of fish we might actually see.

I’ll fast forward to the punch line and let you know that the story does have a happy ending. After one fish came unbuttoned very quickly, I finally connected with my first sight casting redfish.


And now the trip could officially be declared a success.

What makes this brand of fishing so appealing is the visual stalking and sight casting. But the fighting aspect is equally as visual – a hooked fish has nowhere to go, hence the zig zag runs across the flat. It’s a piss.

We did find a few more fish as the afternoon sun began to fade behind some clouds, but we never did got into the proper position for reasonable casts.

Soon we were running out of tide.

We hit a half dozen other flats as the afternoon sun began to sink, but none held the life that the first spot did.

I used the opportunity to pick the brain of my guide and get his perspective on both the fishery and the industry.

Paul revealed that our trip was a bit of a pleasant surprise for him. He didn’t expect to see so many fish on that flat (he had pointed this out as we left the dock that morning).

“This time of year, its all about the weather. You have good weather, where the water can warm up, and you’ll have good fishing. If we don’t get the weather, we are left to chum shrimp in the channels… and I’d really rather stick to sight fishing with the fly rod, if at all possible.”

Paul himself had been guiding for most of the last 30 years or so. After graduating from the University of Miami with a degree in Computer Science, he quickly discovered that he liked a flats boat much more than an office building.  The story sounded very familiar to Flip Pallot (a friend of his), who left a job at a bank to become a guide.

He estimated the that number of guides in the general area numbered into the hundreds, but the number of serious “full time” guides who focused on fly fishing the back country might be thirty or so.

“Down here everyone is a guide…the plumber is a guide, the mailman is a guide…but those who are really fishing full time, as in 250 or more days a year fly fishing, that’s a much smaller number.”

In Paul’s case, late January and February represented the off-season. His “official” season was to begin in March, with solid bookings all the way through mid summer. (As in, if I wanted to come down in prime season for Tarpon, he was already booked…I’d have to settle for the plumber). In between the regular charters was a string of tournaments, each with carefully selected dates and fishermen.

Until then, I’d imagine he’d find just enough snowbirds like me, coming down to escape the winter, and who are happy enough with 70 degree days, and thrilled to wave a rod at just about anything that swims.

…And then happy enough to weave some fish stories at the bar. watching the sun set.

Yes, Islamorada, we will be back – much more to discover.


More information on Islamorada fly and light tackle fishing can be found at Paul Tejera’s web site

Jones Beach State Park, an Aerial View

Few thoughts and a new video

First, for those of you that are in constant search of a “holy grail” when it comes to plugs, reels, gear…I can’t help you. There is no such things as holy grail…maybe Indiana Jones would disagree, but it my opinion there is good chit, great chit and a lot and lot of real chit on the market. Stuff that would hold up if we were carp fishing but the saltwater eats it up and spits it out.

But if you are looking at a travel rod which you can store in the overhead compartment of the plane without incurring any charges and which in my humble opinion might be one of the best rods i ever held in my hand, I urge you to look at St Croix Legend Trek travel rods. No, they are not “surf” rods if you equate a surf rod being ten feet or longer. I believe the come in sizes up to seven and a half foot but what a rod it is. I am a big fan of St Croix and own new Avid, Mojo and Legend but theses travel rods might be the best rods they ever made. Three piece rod that in my hand felt like a one piece stick. They are pricey and they do come with 15 year transferable warranty. Its not everyones cup of tea but if you are traveling angler and are looking for a performance , you should check them out in person. Don’t take my word for it.

In two weeks, on February 21, the NJ Surf Day will take place in Lincroft,NJ. I am still waiting for the official flier but Crazy Alberto and John Skinner are featured speakers along with many, many more seminars and all surf fishing reps will be on hand from VS,ZB,Century, SS ,Tsunami, you name it. Speaking of Tsunami, i know some of our readers are just starting out or maybe you are looking for a rod that fits a specific spot in your lineup but won’t break the bank. Take a look at new Tsunami Airwave Elite rods. I remember three years ago when Tsunami Rep Nick Cicero showed me a prototype at Surf Day at Rivers End Tackle in CT. Granted, I don’t base opinion on rods by shaking it at the tackle store but after I played with it and he told me it was going to be under $200, I was floored. After I actually got to fish with one latter in the year, I was even more impressed. NJ Surf Day has grown leaps and bounds in few years and now is the premier gathering of surf anglers in the northeast. I know some of you who attend the show might not notice but to us who are displaying , it is the most organized show we ever been a part of. Once again our sincerest thanks to the whole organization for putting together a hell of a show. We will be there with full crew and yes, there will be a lot of new stuff you have never seen..stay tuned

Last but not least, for those of you who fish backside of Jones back State Parks, lately known as “the land where fishing dreams go to die” a little aerial footage from last June. Hopefully I can get my drone repaired and we can get you guys a lot of new stuff this upcoming year.  YouTube Preview Image

Mike Campanelli is once again doing a series of Surf Fishing Classes for Beginners or Intermediate surfcasters in Levittown

. He wanted me to make you aware by posing this

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posted today on Charlie’s Witek Blog One Angler Voyage



The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Striped Bass Management Board met today, and to no one’s surprise, approved “conservation equivalency” measures that are likely to frustrate the goals of the management plan and assure that the stock becomes overfished at some time this year—if it isn’t already.

Members of the Management Board recognized the flaws in conservation equivalency throughout the discussion, but approved the measures anyway.  That included smug representatives of the State of New Jersey, a so-called “gamefish” state that outlawed its commercial fishery but kept its commercial quota, and could use it to increasethe “commercial” portion of New Jersey’s striped bass harvest by over 200,000 pounds this year—when we’re supposed to cut back.

To hear the “gamefish” advocates tell it, outlawing commercial harvest and sale is a sound conservation measure, that would assure the health of the resource well into the future.

But when commercial fishermen tell the same tale, they condemn “gamefish” status as nothing more than a “fish grab,” a naked effort to reallocate all of the striped bass resource to the recreational sector,  garbed in a cloak of tattered virtue that anglers call “conservation.”

So who is right?

As an angler, I’m inclined to favor the former argument, but as someone who spends a lot of time working for effective fisheries management—and who tries to tell the truth in these columns I write—I have to admit that both sides go a little too far.

Start with just two basic truths.

ONE:  The easiest way to rebuild an overfished stock is to kill fewer fish.

TWO:  A fish doesn’t care who kills it; a striped bass (or anything else) is just as dead when killed by an angler as it is when killed by a commercial fisherman.

So shutting down commercial fisheries could lead to fewer fish being killed.  So could shutting down recreational fisheries—or letting both recreational and commercial fisheries continue, while placing greater constraints on both of their harvests.

“Gamefish” has proven effective offshore, by ending the commercial harvest of Atlantic-coast sailfish and marlin, and it’s difficult to argue that it didn’t play a big role in the recovery of the Gulf of Mexico’s red drum population.

On the other hand, when it comes to striped bass, “gamefish” has a notably checkered record.

In some states, such as Maine and New Hampshire, it works.  When those states closed their commercial striped bass fisheries, they didn’t reallocate their commercial quota to anglers, but instead allowed the fish “saved” from harvest to remain a part of the spawning stock biomass.  That truly promotes conservation.

On the other hand, in Connecticut and New Jersey, “gamefish” doesn’t look like conservation at all.

New Jersey started the ball rolling many years ago when it initiated it’s “bonus fish” program shortly after ending the state’s commercial fishery.  That program reallocated the state’s commercial quota to the recreational sector, provided that anglers participating in the program buy the requisite “bonus tag.”

The supposed logic behind the program was the sort of warped thinking that you often hear coming out of the Garden State’s fisheries managers—they had to create a mechanism that allowed local anglers to kill “New Jersey’s” striped bass—which represent the state’s commercial bass quota—from being transferred to and killed by commercial fishermen in other jurisdictions.

For those old enough to remember the Vietnam War, it was akin to the argument that “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

And the Jersey boys will tell you that it’s good conservation.

Of course, they won’t tell you that ASMFC’s striped bass management plan assigns each state a commercial quota based on its historical landings, and does not permit the transfer of quota between states.  That would ruin the narrative, and anyway, scare tactics work better…

If they stuck just to the facts, folks might believe that the real motivation behind New Jersey’s “gamefish” law wasn’t conservation at all, and that it was merely a ploy to let New Jersey anglers kill some more stripers.  And that wouldn’t look good in the papers at all…

Connecticut, on the other hand, eased into its misuse of “gamefish” far more slowly.

I think that it may have been the first “gamefish” state on the coast, adopting the measure back in the ‘50s.  I know that I grew up in that state, and never recall at time when selling striped bass was legal.

Of course, that didn’t stop the “regulars” from selling their fish.  There was a big seafood restaurant in the middle of Cos Cob where they showed up each morning, lining up at the kitchen door to sell the night’s catch before heading off to their day jobs; the place was notorious for buying poached fish, but in all of the time that I lived there, the law never once came around.

And there were plenty of country clubs, markets and such would gladly fence your illegal bass.  There was at least one marina in Stamford that, for a few dollars, would actually ship your illegal bass to the Fulton Fish Market for you.  Fulton was a “family” business back then, that paid folks in cash and didn’t keep perfect records, which pleased everyone at the time.

In those days, there was a 16-inch size limit and no bag limit at all, so an awful lot of “gamefish” were sold.  By comparison, Connecticut’s current rules, which convert the state’s commercial quota into a “voucher” program that let anglers keep a total of 3,018 bass, with a size limit of just 22 inches, probably look pretty benign.

But at least in years past, the state tried to conserve a few fish.  Today, its regulations encourage anglers to kill the entire commercial quota, making Connecticut’s “gamefish” law a sham effort at conservation.

“Gamefish” for billfish works because regulations governing anglers catch are actually far more restrictive today than they were when the sale of Atlantic-coast sailfish and marlin was outlawed.

“Gamefish” for Gulf red drum is also effective, because no one—including recreational fishermen—can kill the big spawners when they school up in the EEZ, where they spend most of their time.

But when we talk about “gamefish” being the striped bass’ salvation, we must keep Connecticut and New Jersey in mind.  There’s not much salvation to be found in their waters…

Close to a decade ago, Pat Murray, then the Vice President (and currently the President) of the Coastal Conservation Association summed it all up in an elegant and eloquent little essay that he called “The Last Fish,”where he wrote

“It has often been said that commercial fishermen want to catch the last fish.  But are we recreational fishermen trying to stop them simply because we want to catch the last fish?”

That really gets to the heart of the “gamefish” debate.

Ending the commercial harvest of striped bass would help the stock, IF—and only IF—the fish saved from commercial exploitation are “reinvested” into the stock, to reduce fishing mortality and allow more older and larger—and more fecund—striped bass to remain a part of the spawning stock biomass.

If we merely turn the bass “saved” from commercial harvest into “trophy fish,” “bonus fish,” “voucher” fish or anything else that can be legally killed, then “gamefish” status has no conservation value at all,  and becomes just a con used to justify snatching fish from the commercials and giving them to the anglers to kill.

So let’s try to be honest.

There might be economic and policy arguments that justify reallocating the kill.

But if the kill’s only reallocated, and not materially reduced, it’s not, in any way, conservation.

Living the Dream

It was good to see some of our readers at route 110 Flea Market. Next on tap is the big NJ Surf Day in about three weeks. I pray that God will take a pity on us and let up with the constant snow. I am sure many of you are sitting down with a heating pad on your backs. I know I am.

I am sure many of you are jonseing for some fishing but that seems so far away right now. You are probably going stir crazy in your garage reorganizing your plugs for the twentieth time. I kind of like our Art Director Tommy’s approach, let everything simmer in a tangled mess until the days get a little warmer. If you ever seen his plugs, first thing you’d notice is nice “patina” finish on his hooks.

For those of you that like to curl up with a book reading, you probably already read John Skinner’s new book Striper Pursuit. There is another book that I want to tell you about because you probably have not hear of it.

Charlie Soares ocasionaly  contribute Tale End stories on the end of the Surfcaster’s Journal magazine. This kind of writing is right up my alley for winter reading. Ok, for anytime reading. I just love the stories of yesteryears and how the world , fishing (and people) were. It fascinates me and besides watching Flip Pallot narrate in Walkers Cay Chronicles, no other author really touches something deep inside of me like Charlie does. Maybe I see a lot of my late grandfather in his writing, maybe I just yearn for days when life was simple, or probably, I just like the way he makes his stories come alive

I just finished reading Charles new book Living the Dream and loved it. I liked it enough to add a dozen signed copies to our online store but you can also find it on Amazon. I am not sure which retailers carry the book. Anyway, a nice read after you got a brandy in your hand, snow shovel is put away and fire in the fireplace

Living The Dream

A Lifetime of Fishing Adventures

Pursuits of a Longshore Fisherman

“While so many other modern angling scribes have been trying to write themselves into the foreground of striper history, Charley Soares has been living at its epicenter, not missing a beat. His formidable bass-catching credentials and expansive institutional memory have in no way diminished his ability to write about our foremost fish with genuine humility, humor, and conviction, as well as an unparalleled sense of storytelling. You should buy this book.”

- Zach Harvey, Fishing Editor, Soundings,

and former Editor, The Fisherman, NE Edition