“Doing time” ….by Bill Wetzel

“Doing time”

By Bill Wetzel


I had been fishing many areas in Montauk fairly hard from May to December taking notes, trying to figure out bait migrations, water temperatures, optimal tides, and winds as related to specifics pieces  of water. Back then there was no Internet, no cell phones, and only a few books out there to get whatever information I could.  Most of  us called  The Fisherman magazine the Bible.  By 1991 I thought I had many spots on Montauk’s north and south sides tweaked.

There was one area in particular that had looked promising, very few people fished it and I wanted to get beyond tweaked and learn as much as possible about it.  I set out to live in my sky blue 1988 Nissan  Pathfinder loaded with rods, food and fishing gear to fish those rocks and only those rocks from September 1st until September 30th. I slept, ate, drank, and fished the area only leaving once  per day to take care of personal needs and purchase supplies. During that month I learned how, when, and where the best time for stripers were most likely to stage on a feed. I would walk out at low tide in the day and find which side of a rocks had holes, I watched how currents ran on different tides and winds, picked up rocks to see what life was under them, I even did a little snorkeling to up my chances. By the end of the month I had logged in some fishless nights, some decent nights, and at least one fantastic  night (I’ll save that story for another time).  By working that one area hard, I realized that the others areas I thought I had tweaked  was merely fantasy,  and I had so much to learn.

In the following months and years I made an effort to listen to reports, but rarely follow them. Of course back then the reports came by word of mouth, and in code over the CB radio. I hade made the decision to fish the spots I had already thought I tweaked and try to learn more by fishing them under a variety of conditions throughout the season. I also took mental and written notes on every outing. What I learned from doing all this work  was a far better understanding of patterns of bait migrations, patterns of Striper movement, staging areas, drop offs, best winds, water temps… I really can’t put it in words. The learning, by the way, has never ended.

Ya know, I mentioned all this was “work”, that is a lie. It aint work when its fun. Getting out there in nature and learning the information yourself, and not chasing the latest and greatest to me is the most rewarding aspect of our sport of surf fishing. I know that some of you have so many obligations in your life it seems very difficult to put in the time. However if you put your efforts in just a couple of areas , and have the discipline not to chase reports, you will find yourself being rewarded not only by more fish,  but an almost spiritual awaking of your area. There are ways to get around some of your obligations, like taking the family on nature walks to your  spot. They will have a great day walking around the rocks or sands  while you are secretly scouting what you are going to fish at 2am . How about a  drive with the family? Make sure you do it at low tide and go sight seeing from spot to spot. Anything near the water and  everyone will be happy while you take your mental notes. The opportunities to scout and fish go as far as your imagination , or of course actual time. In reality you can chase Internet reports, read books, talk about fishing with your buddies, but there is only one way to get better at our sport, and that is putting in your time .

4 comments on ““Doing time” ….by Bill Wetzel

  1. Joe GaNun

    That settles any questions about how someone gets to really know a spot.
    I could’nt help thinking of the ” I want to catch a 50 lb. striped bass” video where the husband tells his wife that he wants to “be one with the migration”


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