A Night to Remember Part 1

This is one story from my new book HOOKED. Hope you enjoy it. We will get to Super Strike winner on the weekend.

This is Part 1 with Part 2 to follow

A Night to Remember


Every surfcaster, at some point, has a night in the surf which he will never forget, an epic event which he previously could have only dreamed about. I appreciate listening to stories of great catches told by my friends over the years. A night with nine fish over 30 pounds that my buddy Ray had a few years ago seemed more like a dream than something that could actually have transpired. I mean seriously, nine fish over 30 pounds? In one night? If I didn’t know Ray that well, I would probably think, like some of you are thinking as you are reading this, that he is full of crap. Ninety-nine percent of surfcasters, dead or alive will never experience something like that in their lives. Yet I am certain that this is a true accounting of an epic night. I know Ray too well to question the validity of his story, not only because he is a hell of a fisherman with skills that I only hope to match in this lifetime, but also because he is a trusted friend and he fishes in one of the most productive inlets on Long Island’s South Shore. We often discuss his past exploits, or I should say he reminds me of what is possible to achieve in this sport. With the state of the fishery today, I had doubts that I would ever have a night like he did. That is, until it actually happened…


Our annual June trip to Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts in 2010 started with a whimper. On Friday afternoon I boarded the Sea Horse Water Taxi with Steve McKenna and Harvey Simon. Harvey, although a good tuna fisherman, was a greenhorn in the surf but he wanted badly to fish Cuttyhunk. We made the plans for the weekend and decided to invite Steve to join us. It was meant to be just three friends fishing together and having a good time. Ray was due to arrive on Sunday and stay the week, while Rob, Tommy and Lenny were arriving on Wednesday, when I was due to depart.


As usual, we rented Bonnie’s house instead of staying at the Cuttyhunk Fishing Club. It gave us a little more privacy and it made afternoon naps much easier, away from people walking about the hallways, going stir crazy, waiting for the night’s tide. There really wasn’t much sense in going out and fishing in the daytime, as I knew the fish would be uncooperative. The only thing we’d probably accomplish was exhaustion from walking on rocks the size of bowling balls. Besides, Harvey had a bum knee and Steve had problems with the circulation in his leg that was so severe that he had almost had his legs amputated. To say that he was happy to be fishing again would be an understatement. To fish the legendary waters of Cuttyhunk Island was a bonus. When Steve laid his eyes on the island as we entered the harbor, he had a grin that would light up a room. A year ago, he never thought he would walk again and now he was back where some of his most memorable exploits had taken place.



I knew that fishing coves with them would be out of the question. Neither one of them was physically in shape to climb down the steep cliffs and they were even less able to wade over a field of bubble weed to the rocks. This left us with an obvious choice, Southwest Point where we could fish in comfort from the shore. Unfortunately it is also the longest walk of any place on the island and by the time we huffed and puffed over a winding dirt trail, I could see that this wasn’t going to be an all-nighter.


After taking a short rest and sipping some cold water we fanned out at the point. Although all three of us were in wetsuits I knew that the two of them would not get too far into the water. With that in mind I swam to a few rocks that I knew were there and fished from them for a while, trying to gauge where the fish might be stacked up but came up empty. Meanwhile, the two of them were casting in the area known as the “pyramids.” These are three giant triangularly shaped cement blocks that lie at the water’s edge and resemble the Egyptian pyramids.


You know the saying, “It’s somebody else’s night?” This was something Ray would find out about, a few nights later. Well, this was Steve’s night. He threw a Gary2 metal lip and caught fish; he cast a needlefish and connected on the first cast and even though the fish were on the small side, when he finally tossed a rigged eel, his rod doubled over. Harvey and I watched Steve and tried to mimic what he was doing but drew blanks.


Around eleven o’clock or so, we decided to head back to the house. I wasn’t ready to pack it in just yet, so after we reached one of the coves on the south side I waved them goodbye and traversed down the cliff, while they made their way back to the house. I tried fishing a few different spots but a skunk-a-roo for me was in the cards. Not a single fish seemed interested in what I was offering.


My frustration with the lack of fish abated quickly as I reached the house and realized we had an emergency situation on our hands. It was close to 1:00 AM and Steve sat at the table with a very worried expression on his face. His lures were laid out on the table, ready for cleaning, as is his custom after each trip. One giant needlefish was missing from the batch however and its 4/0 treble was firmly imbedded in his leg. Steve gives himself injections of blood thinner every day and the thought of pulling the hook out and have him bleed uncontrollably was a scary proposition. We managed to get in contact with someone who woke up the doctor in town. He was kind enough to drive Steve to the doctor’s house on a golf cart and bring him back after the doctor removed the hook by making a small incision. Naturally, Steve was worried about bleeding and so were we. The closest hospital was at least an hour away by boat and it was the middle of the night. To say that I slept with my eyes open would be an understatement. In fact, when he did not get up until 10 am, I was wondering if I should peek into his room to see if he was still alive. Steve put on a brave face but eventually we all agreed that it would be best for him to leave on the afternoon ferry back to the mainland. At least he could take comfort in the fact that he would be close to a hospital in case he needed assistance when he landed. Harvey and I went back to Southwest Point at dusk but we paid the price for trying to fish during the day. When the heavens opened up and rain started to come down in buckets, we gave up early with only a few fish to show for our efforts. Harvey left on the morning ferry and Ray arrived a few hours later.


Ray Crimmins is one of those surfcasters that you never heard of and he prefers it that way. He probably catches more fish in one season than most us will catch in our lifetime. He eats, sleeps, talks and lives surf fishing, 24/7. His background as a former pin hooker and bayman gives him a leg up on any surfcaster trying to learn this sport from a book or the Internet boards. The man has salt in his veins as they say, and he regularly whips my butt when we fish together. I was looking forward to swimming to distant rocks in the south side coves with him, something I wasn’t too comfortable doing on my own.


We started at one of the coves on the south side of the island and had moderate success. Mike Hogan from Hogy Lures poured us some prototype giant 14 inch double wide Hogy rubber lures. They were massive in size, so large that we named them horsecocks. On the first cast with a white one I had a bump but missed the fish. I redeemed myself on the next cast when I brought a 28 pounder to my rock. We had a pick of fish and once the bite petered out we decided to head over to Southwest Point.


Ray was whipped from the drive to New Bedford from New York. Not only did he make the long drive but he also dropped a friend at 5:00 AM in the morning at JFK airport in Queens, NY before driving to Massachusetts. It had been almost 24 hours since he had slept but he trudged to Southwest Point without a complaint. We were surprised to find a surfcaster perched on the rock we were planning to fish from. When we realized that it was Al Pellini, another surfcaster extraordinaire, we were relieved. Al told us that the fish were moving in and out every half hour or so but they were mainly school size to teen size fish. Even when he tossed a rigged eel, he was only catching smaller fish. Al decided to head for the south side and fish one of the points on the drop while we got on the rocks and started casting.


Almost from the first cast we were into fish. For every ten bumps we landed one fish, an indication that the fish were probably on the small side. Although they would smack a Lordship A40 a half a dozen times during the retrieve, hooking them proved difficult. Ray and I shared the rock and we quickly found out that 10 inch doublewide Hogy’s and Super Strike yellow darters were the ticket for constant hookups. I searched throughout my bag for something smaller in size. I usually do not carry anything under 7 inches here as a matter of personal preference but on this night a Yo-Zuri mag darter had found it’s way in amongst my other Super Strike darters. The only reason I had this plug in my bag was because before we got here, we went to Canapitsit Channel. There was a pile of rocks Ray had his eyes on for the past few years and he was dying to try fishing there. Although he found fish there on the second cast and dropped a few more after that, we decided to head to Southwest Point. For those of you unfamiliar with the island, that would be considered a walk from hell, from the eastern tip of the island to the western tip. Because I knew Canapitsit Channel was considered a small fish spot, I stuck a Yo-Zuri darter in my surf bag.


So here I stood, at the edge on the rock trying to give Ray some room to cast when my Yo-Zuri darter got smacked. I set the hook hard but the fish started to run sideways. I had a feeling that I had snagged it on the head but when it started peeling the drag I started to wonder if this fish was a bit larger than what we’d been catching. After a spirited battle I lipped a fish that just barely bottomed out my 30 pound Boga Grip. We tried to take a few pictures but this proved to be difficult in tight quarters on the same rock. Yes, the camera and flash did go on, but my head was nowhere to be found in all three shots that Ray took. We stayed another hour or so and left the fish biting, to rest our sore shoulders.


We got back to the house, stripped off our wetsuits and took showers while our customary pot of coffee was percolating. Ray was exhausted and so was I, and after draining the coffee pot we hit the sack. When we woke up later in the morning, we headed over to the Fishing Club to say hello to Don from Afterhours Lures and Larry from Big Fish Lures who arrived on the morning ferry. Both of them were here for their annual weeklong stay and both were antsy to get out and make a few casts. They knew from previous experience that there was little to be gained from walking the rocky shoreline during the day, so they tried to pass the time getting their gear ready for sunset. We hung around with them for awhile and when Larry asked us stay for some fresh grilled tuna steaks, we accepted his offer without much protest. Larry grilled the steaks to perfection and I even had a beer with my dinner, something I do maybe twice a year and never while fishing.


We got back to our house around 6 PM and were lying on the couch, trying to pass the time. Ray insisted we wait till darkness fell before we headed out so that we wouldn’t get exhausted too quickly. I wasn’t going to argue with him. In the three days that I’d been here, I only saw one small fish caught in the daytime, so his preference for heading out after sunset was a valid one. We heard a rumbling noise outside our door as a quad pulled up to our porch. Two lanky young guys, dressed in full wetsuits, dismounted from the quad and walked towards our house. They were friends we met a few years ago on these shores, Mike Veraka and Mike Luccini; both are experienced and aggressive surfcasters who swim to the outer rocks, mainly tossing live eels. In fact, I don’t even know if Veraka owned a plug bag. They came on the 5 PM ferry with Captain John Paul and were planning a commando trip, fishing all night and returning on the first ferry at 5:00 AM to the mainland. They had one huge advantage over us, they borrowed John Paul’s quad to get around the island and carry their gear, while we only had our feet and desire to get us from place to place. They were extremely excited, especially Veraka who seems to live on cans of Red Bull and chewing tobacco. His catches on these shores approach legendary status and sometimes it’s hard to believe just how many big fish the man catches.PICTURE 3


They were anxious to get out on their favorite rock as Veraka felt, based on previous seasons’ experience, that fish would be feeding at dusk and not in the wee hours of the morning. We waved them goodbye as they left a trail of dust behind the quad, speeding toward the west end. We, on the other hand, retreated to our couches with little desire to head out this early. Finally around eight o’clock we couldn’t wait any longer and we donned our wetsuits and followed them to the west end. Dousing ourselves liberally with bug spray, we walked over the dirt road that wound over the cliffs that overlooked the south side coves. As we were approaching our destination, we heard a scream but did not know the direction from which it came. We ran through the weeds to the edge of the cove and looked down. The two Mike’s were on a single rock with nothing but water around them. Veraka lifted a striper out of the water that easily pushed forty pounds and screamed “Super Cows,” oblivious to the fact that we were standing on top of the cliff looking down at them. We immediately regretted not getting out earlier and we got back on the path and quickly descended into the cove.


6 comments on “A Night to Remember Part 1

  1. Mike

    Love the book Z! Still have a few chapters left. Good reading for the off season. I should probably go back through surfcasting with lures again when I’m done with Hooked.

  2. Kirk Suhoskey

    Z……I have read everyone of your books,some more than once. After reading this tease from the new book, I can not wait to get a copy. The other books for me were “text” books and gave me lure presentation,strategy,structure,etc that I needed. This new book is “reality” and I can not wait to read and savor………….thanks again. Beret.

  3. jerrryboy

    Z !!!!! THANKS FOR ALL YOU DO FOR JUST $20 A YEAR , i have read your books and feel the need to just , SAY THANKS , you have given me a weath of knowledge in such a short perod of time , i have been at this for almost two years now , and i keep getting better , but thanks to guys like you i am chaffing at the bit for this seaon to get started. keep doing what you do. i do have one suggestion for a give away for the magazine and blog , instead of giving away a lure, raffle off a night of fishing with one of you guys! thanks again for all you guys do at SJ . GERALD MOSCA


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