2014 Year in Review by NY Surf Fishing Guide Bill Wetzel


Bellow you will find Year in Review from NY Surf Fishing Guide Bill Wetzel

Every time Bill goes out fishing either with a customer, on his own and even with his kids, he posts a report the next day on his website. That alone is worth price of subscription, never mind the spirited discussion on forum open only to subscribers and Bill dispensing his wisdom along the way

check it  out at www.surfratsball.com


Every year we have a cold winter I hear we are going to have a great sand eel run and the fishing is going to be awesome. Well last year we had a cold winter and very limited amount of sand eels for 2014, not to mention a below par season. As of this writing I am convinced that there is no way to predict a good year of striper fishing or abundance of bait before the season begins. It is great conversation and keeps many rats head in the game through the winter months, but conversation and reality are two different things. In the spring of 2014 due to the cold winter and spring, the general consensus was that we were “two weeks behind” schedule meaning that the stripers were migrating later due to the cold water temperatures. That seemed to be about right, but by late May early June we were right on target.

April full Moon 4/15, New Moon 4/29

    For my charters and I April did not hold much fish. I was busy skiing and enjoying what was left of the winter, and I only managed fish three out of just four trips.  Most of the information I was receiving was slow everywhere with the exception of good shots of schoolies towards the end of the month in Montauk.  I also heard from a few Connecticut casters that they were having a ball with winter hold overs at the mouth of the rivers.Killington-525_zps590fa0eb

May Full moon 5/14, New moon 5/28.

    May was another slow month with the exception of my trip to Cuttyhunk.  My charters and I were all over Long Island in May, but the fishing in general was poor. Casters across the east coast were complaining of the same poor fishing, many blaming it on the cold winter and the run being behind schedule. In my opinion it had nothing to do with the cold winter, and all the more to do with the decline of the species.  Even if you believe the fishery is in a downward spiral as a fisherman or at least myself as a fisherman am optimistic every time I wet a line.  With that in mind on 5/28/14 I found myself on a small ferry with Mike K. heading to the famed waters of Cuttyhunk. Zeno Hromin and his crew of surf bandits happen to be going at the same time we were. As we shared the ferry with the gang, Zeno told me that he just got back from the canal and it had been dead. I remember being hopeful that we had the moon on our side, and anything could bust loose during or after the moon which was on 5/28/14.  Sure enough most casters did pretty well during those three days I was there, and I managed fish to 42 lbs. and swear I had a truly special fish on that I dropped. I met some great folks in Cutty including a rat name Ray that I shared a tide with. Neither one of us could stop talking about the sport. If you have not been to Cutty you should put it on the list.P5310880_zps2d95cc61

June full moon 6/13, New moon 6/27.

    June was a really rough month. I fished it pretty hard and strictly stuck to Montauk. The first moon of June was full on the 13th. I remember being hopeful that if we were behind schedule this moon would come at a great time, as it was in the middle of the month instead of the beginning. Therefore water temps should have been warmer, hopefully sparking the migration of what I like to call local sand eels. The locals begin in the Peconics and usually reach the north side on Montauk right around the first moon of June. Unfortunately the run never happened and even my money spots were nearly void of stripers. By money spots I mean spots that have been very consistent for the past twenty plus years, and were now near void of striped bass. One might blame it on the lack of sand eels, but I blame it on the lack of fish as there was plenty of other bait around. The money spots have also been getting consistently worse every year for the past 4 or 6 years. The following was taken from one of my June logs and it kind of summed it up (go to Bill’s log” in the Surf Rats Ball forum to read entire log); “Over to the sand beaches- not a tap. Over to the light- not a tap. Over to the south side- not a tap. Over to the north side and not a tap. This is June mind you……” The good news was that I heard of some decent picks of fish on the south side of Montauk, I just never got into many.  I am not saying that June was doom and gloom (we had some fish), but what I am saying is that it was very poor and well below average for most Montauk fisherman, and from what I was hearing, most east coast fisherman as well.  I remember speaking with charter boat captains, bait and tackle owners, and even commercial fisherman that month. Want to know the funny thing? One hundred percent of them said fishing had been poor and one hundred percent of them said the fishery was fine.  I remember one bait and tackle shop refused to discuss it. I guess they feared I was going to scare customers. It made me sad. The 9th annual Surf  Rats Ball East Coast Striper Tournament ran from the beginning of June until its end and John Hanecak came away with first place with a Connecticut striper at 48lbs.O

July full moon 7/12, new moon 7/26.

    July is a great time to target resident fish and sometimes they can be very large. It can also be very sporadic, but for whatever reason it was the more consistent than any month prior for 2014. Once again I was nearly strictly at the office in Montauk.  I needed family time so personally my efforts were down this month. Although I had fish on nearly, if not all the trips I made that month, the best for numbers of fish came on 7/27 with the new moon. The thing that was most interesting was the fish were all in the day and very numerous. We had about 70 something schoolies that day in very nice looking white water. It was nice to see, and I expected good cow fishing in August as the boats had been hammering monster stripers in the rips all month.  We also had the Surf Rats Ball annual shin dig this month.  We gave the winners of our tournament thousands of dollars in prizes and then raffled off another $10,000 or so  in prizes with over $6,000 going to kids with cancer. A special thanks to all our sponsors and Jeff the Chef and Rich P. for cooking and providing the all the eats. Not to mention Stu from Sno flake Ice cream in Riverhead for cooling us off!P7110896_zpsa6a3a5ec

August full moon 8/10 New moon 8/25.

     August is my favorite month to fish bar none. It can be brutally hard work to find a bite and you really have to have lots of patience. But, if you can find the spearing and snappers you just might land a fish of a lifetime. Nearly every August I take my largest striper of the year, as the resident slobs come in to feed on night tides. For the 2014 season I had my doubts as I already had one 42 under my belt from Cuttyhunk.  August was a decent consistent bite of schoolies to teen fish, but by no means what it once was. I like to hunt for trophies this month, but up until the new moon all my charters and I had were  schoolies and teens.  My favorite charters of the year are what I refer to as trophy trips. They are trips when we exclusively target the cows in the bolder infested surf of Montauk. They are usually pretty brutal trips with long walks and sore feet. The rewards of these trips can and have been a fish of a lifetime, but can also put a hurting on your ego. Ironically it was on a non-trophy trip on August 22nd somewhere deeeeeeeep on the south side of Montauk that I whacked a 46lber on a Super Strike needle fish, with a charter that did not want to wade out to even one foot of rocky water. There was no way I should have ever got that fish in, as she took me around a rock in defiant underwater laughter. By the grace of the lord all mighty, I took my line off the roller and free spooled her out of trouble and manage to land which was my largest fish of the year. August struck again! This time kokerless, in a T-shirt, no top, and without warning. Go figure?P8210915_zpsf4861df1

September Full moon 9/9 New moon 9/24.

With only one big fish in August I was hoping for many fish for September. For many fish you have to have lots of bait. Montauk is famous for its white bait blitzes, which at times are so thick it can turn the surf a different color. Usually I see the first sign of white bait in late August. For 2014 the first sign of it was on 8/31/14, but never really developed until later in the month of September. Despite lots of northeast wind and lots of bait the bite was not all that great, or at least not as great as it should have been considering all the NE winds. We did have some very good bites this month especially towards the middle of the month, but if I had to sum of September in one word it would be “inconsistent”. Inconsistency is nothing new for September, but there were nights when we struggled to find just one fish and that has been an increasing trend for the past seven years or so. The highlight of the month was the Montauk Classic. I fished it with Mike K who had also booked me the year before for the classic. This year was a bit different, as a catch and release division was added to the tournament. If they had not done this I do not think I would have entered. I let Mike know that we would strictly be catch and release for the tournament, and we painted our rods like measuring sticks to measure our hopes and dreams for a win. I had come in second a few times, third, and even fourth, but never had won the darn thing. In 2014 we had light south winds and flat surf, which are the conditions I love for a Montauk tournament. That wind and flat water eliminates much of the luck, makes for harder fishing, and you really have to tweak your tides.  Mike and I had a banner weekend while most other casters struggled. We slammed many high teen to twenties fish, and I managed to take first place with a 32lber and Mike hit second with a 24. The 32 was also the biggest fish overall. It could not have worked out better, because the goal was to win and promote catch and release. Truly one of the highlights of the season.classic32pic2_zps5b8b7cf8

OCT 8th Full moon Oct. 23rd New moon.

    The big thing I was waiting for was the juvi weakfish run. With the September new moon on the 24th and the October full on the 8th, I had thought to myself that if the run came it would probably be on the October moon as the September moon was a just a tad early. I’ll be damned if I did not nail it. On the 7th Lee Solomon and his bud, had planned the trip with me in hopes of hitting the juvi weakfish bite, and they did just that. The baby weakfish were everywhere and we had striper after striper to ourselves on darters and bucktails.  Between 10/10 and 10/13 we  hammered the fish, and even got into a 70 plus fish day, with Jamie Howard films getting it all on camera. Hopefully his film will be out soon. Yee who say bright nights suck have probably not fished enough of them to know better. By the middle of the month we had some big water come through and the fishing just really seemed to shut down for long after that. jamiefilms_zps98452edf

November full moon 11/6, New moon 11/22.

    November started out with NE winds and lots of fish. On 11/1 we had nonstop schoolie action on bucktails and what looked to be mullet getting hammered in a gale wind. Montauk was a disappointment for most of the rest of November despite a large run of adult bunker early in the month. This is especially interesting as bunker are a rare sight in Montauk, and I have never seen adults this late in the season. I decided to hit mostly the south shore for November and had nights with some rewards with fish feasting on bunker. Big 3 oz. bottle plugs were the ticket and I have to say that was a fun run of fish. While I was in Montauk local south shore casters had that bite to themselves for over a month before I even attempted to fish there.  On a side note the sand eels never showed anywhere.

Despite a good showing of herring, December was a bust as it got pretty cold quick. In my opinion there were not enough fish in our current striper fishery for the December hold overs to make a showing.

In conclusion it was a pretty poor year for most casters along the coast.  My personal observations were another decline in fish in all areas that I fished. Despite good water temperatures and loads of bait, at times the fish seemed to be nonexistent. This decline has been noticeable to me since about 2007 with each year thereafter getting worse. I have encouraged all my charters to catch and release, and even have turned people away that wanted to meat fish. I personally only took one fish last year only because I could not revive it.  I don’t think I had a single charter take home a fish. Which leads me to believe that party boats could also encourage a catch and release boat, but it seems that most if not all are only interested in filling the boat with dead fish. I believe that we are headed for a moratorium, possibly within the next few years. If that happens bait and tackle shops, charter boats, magazines, web sites, coastal stores, and even I will just be screwed. I hope the few of you that think the fishery is fine and dandy are absolutely right, and I am completely off base. I encourage everyone to please practice catch and release for the 2015 season, and please encourage others to do the same.


6 comments on “2014 Year in Review by NY Surf Fishing Guide Bill Wetzel

  1. VIC D

    AWESOME….! Always look forward to and enjoy ANYTHING from Bill Wetzel . All the best for 2015 . PS. The ski-slope shot IS the “BEST ” !!!

  2. BOB



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