July 25 – Tuesday – Jones Beach –
I met Luke at his house in my home town at 8. We drove in his car. It is his day to lead given his experience on the south shore waters, plus he has the Angler Permit you need for the State Park fishing accesses.
First, a stop at the tackle shop in Freeport. I asked the young fellow behind the counter if he knew where the old US Naval Reserve Center was located. He said “No, when was it here?” “Well, I joined the Navy there in 1966” I said, and he just looked at me. Maybe his grandma would know. We picked up a few essentials: some leader material, a few bucktail jigs and Gulps of various types. We are going fluking from the beach.
Green Island is off Wantagh Parkway, just south of the toll booths which have not been operative for many years. I have never been there but have heard about it from Luke, Paul McCain and others. Actually, I knew the island was there as I have been driving over it my entire life on the way to the beach. More recently the State has built a fishing access under the bridge.
The tide is rushing and the terns are squawking, diving for some small bait we can’t even see. No fish are joining them. I am rigged, thanks to my friend, with a soft shad and Gulp teaser. I work it around the pilings and in the current before we head to the end of the pier and on to the beach. A beautiful place.
After a respectable effort, we move to West End 2, a huge parking area that was once filled with cars on July mornings. The decline in use is apparent from all the weeds growing up through the mass of concrete. It is a cloudy day but in its hay day there would have been beach goers here, even in the rain. We were the only car. No life guards on duty and the pavilion, also over grown, is closed except for the restrooms.
The beach is a long walk, as it always was. As beaches east of here erode, the tidal drift builds those to the west. I recall dragging surf boards in the sand when our arms could no longer support the weight of the 9’6” monsters, quickly wearing the fiberglass thin on the edges. Luke advises working east. My inclination is to go west, toward the jetty. He agreed, if we were looking for bass in the rocks, but we wanted fluke in the sand.
It is a revelation for me, who never fishes these beaches, although I have been coming to them my entire life. I listen to Luke’s instruction and recall the various speakers I have heard on fishing the south shore surf.
All I see is a monolith of a steel gray ocean. Then I look for the troth as the waves come and go. Imagine the fish working the bait, confused by the rushing water. I look for junctions of currents and outflows, for points and structure. The water begins to take shape.
Luke hits a small fluke proving they are there. I hook a sea robin which I think is a big fish until he shows himself in the wash.
We walk a mile or so, leap frogging each other, covering the water where we stop. There are weeds so thick the jig never has a chance to work in some spots. Others are weed free. The water is dark and riled up from yesterday’s storms. The fluke are not cooperative. Luke tells me of keepers he has caught as well as a fellow he sees down here all the time who always brings home some fish. I believe him and keep casting.
We sit, eat some lunch from his garden and chat, getting to know each other a little better, then drive over to Jones Inlet. Again you need a permit to park. It is a left turn after you head down the Coast Guard road. Great access to the back of the Inlet with paths to the beach which brings you all the way to the Jetty.
We work the outgoing tide watching the boats drifting the current zip by. Some small fluke are being caught and more sea robins. At 3:30 we pack it in. What a great day of new exploration of waters I once knew so well. Thanks Luke!
Call (631) 321 3515 for information on the State Park Anglers Permit for Green Island, Jones Inlet and more.
Talking about fluke, have you seen the beauties Mack and I caught on the cover of Letters to Mack?
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