Marital Blitz

Written By: Angela  Pokorny

“They’re down at Turtle’s!” hollered a gruff voice seldom used to exude excitement. Suddenly most of the rods vanished from the north side as the surfcasters reeled in their braided lines and clicked and clacked in their Korkers to their trucks. The hungry migrating fish chased the bait, balling it up at the surface, causing quite the commotion in the water and on the beach. “Should we go?” I asked my new husband, hand on my Van Staal crank, ready to move with the herd. “Na,” he said. “By the time we get down there, the blitz will be over. They’ll pop up again.” We were in Montauk. It was mid October. And the fall run of striped bass already had some of the best numbers since the ’80s. We were there on our honeymoon. We’d married in August and waited for the fall run to take off work. To me, that meant that I was a special woman. To him, it meant that he was a special man. We agreed, it was a special time. We waded out to one slippery boulder after another, taking waves to the ankles, knees and waists, trying to get the most of our casts. We descended the bluffs of Camp Hero, using our ten-foot rods as staffs. We laughed as we released fish after fish and then hooked up once again. It was refreshing to be fishing – and catching – in mid afternoon. Thanks to the daytime bite, I wasn’t three-quarters asleep, shuffling through the sand at dawn. Nor was I fiddling with my head lamp, pretending not to be terrified that my husband would be swept away in the dark or that I’d catch an alligator that would eat me. Our cue to hit the beach was usually when everyone else sought shelter: storms, nor’easters, drastic drops in barometric pressure. The fair weather fall run in Montauk was delightful. If the sun was too warm, the ocean mist cooled us down. The winds were calm. We could even converse while perched on separate boulders. Delightful indeed, but not completely carefree. Excited energy whirled the air. Frightened fish frothed the water. Fishermen called in sick to their jobs, and late at work to their families. It was difficult to play it cool. When the first splashes were spotted, people stopped thinking, bum-rushed the shore line and each other, haphazardly tossing thick, sharp, barbed hooks at the melee. Lines crossed from ugly casts, and expensive lures were lost as a result. Once the boats noticed the action, a captain steamed right through the blitz, slicing it in two, sending the fish down again. Fall run fishing was no secret and it required different kind of patience. The excitement sucked us in too. One day the fish were blitzing at Scott’s, and we were still in the parking lot. We grabbed our rods and raced to the beach. A seasoned old man yelled, “waders,” at us. We heard him, but didn’t listen. We joined the other surfcasters, shoulder to shoulder, and cast whichever lure was already tied to our lines. My first cast was a miss. I was still getting used to my bail-less reel. My husband’s was great. He hooked up right away. Within seconds we could see his fish. It was big, huge, had to be at least forty pounds. It was hooked, but the tide was low, and the exposed rocks were too slippery to walk out on without waders. The short waves curled over it. The sun back lit it, taunting us with its silhouette. He tried to gently pull at it, but there was no water to take it to shore. We heard a snap, and his line went slack. It was the biggest fish he’d ever seen on his line, and losing it stung, big time. We smartened up from that moment on. No more running. Blitzes popped up and went down from Shagwong to Ditch Plains, and we fished the ones that happened to be in front of us. One night at Jones we heard the fish slurping the bunker on the surface. While watching shooting stars, I hooked up. The fish took my lure and dug in its shoulders. I couldn’t move it. Afraid the fish was behind a rock and would snap my line, I let out just enough slack. Then the line went totally slack, and I cursed the rocks, the lure, the knot, and the sport of fishing. But the line tightened again as I furiously reeled. The fish was moving toward the beach, still hooked. The swirl it made in the dark water in front of me was big enough for my husband to see too. He got excited. “Whoa! Easy, easy, don’t force it. Let the rod do the work.” I got scared. “Did you see that?” My wrists and forearms trembled, but I got her on the beach. “We’re keeping this one. It’s definitely your biggest fish.” The fishermen around me saw the fight and ogled the size of my fish. Some congratulated me. Some cursed. I let him carry the fish to the truck, and he proudly pointed at me when someone asked about it. At the bait shop she weighed in at 37 pounds. They told me that was pretty good for a girl. My husband and I just snickered. By the week’s end, 750 miles had been added to the odometer from driving between Amagansett and Montauk Point. Our arms and backs ached. Our waders needed repair, and our rods new line. Neither of us had any idea how many fish we’d caught. He definitely had me in numbers, but I had the trophy. As we headed up island, the traffic heading east was thick with trucks adorned with rods and reels. It was back to work for us, at our jobs, our relationship and our everyday fishing grounds. The fall run that year died off after our honeymoon week, until December, when the herring came in. And honestly, life hasn’t been that easy since, on the water or off .