Hunting Large in the August Montauk Surf- by Bill Wetzel

Hunting Large in the August Montauk Surf

By Bill Wetzel


   I have caught more 30 and 40 plus stripers in August than any other month.   Before booking someone on an August trophy trip I ask them a few questions. Are you in good shape? Can you walk several miles over rocks? Are you able to stand on a rock in the Atlantic Oceans surf with 4’-9’ waves coming at you, and a 30 knot wind in your face, while making a good cast through the wind and maintaining contact with your plug?  If their answer is yes, then I have a good indicator that they have experience and are ready for an August trophy trip in Montauk. Granted, we probably will not get those conditions, but if we do, we have to fish them. 


     Mark had booked me five times in August 2007 hoping to get that one elusive cow. Three out of five trips he had a giant on and on one trip he finally landed one of the elusive ladies.  The following is directly from my log. Before moving on I want you to know that I have made all efforts to release every fish my charters and I have caught for the past several years. I highly encourage and support catch and release in today’s fishery.august07 004

Report Date: MECCA 8/21

Fishing Report:
Mark D. took me up on my suggestion that the fishing was going to be good. I think he was glad he did! 5:45-9pm, NE winds about 30 knots, rainy, with waves 5-7’ on the south side. When we get conditions like this I get a little loony tunes, the cheese begins to fall off the cracker, and who knows what my charters are in for—who cares as long as its fish!! We hit the town beaches first to find no fish, then we got deeeeeeeeeeeep on the south side at a very productive big water spot. The first area we hit was all munged up, the second area was a little mungy but fishable. We were into fish almost immediately on 1.5 oz white and lime bucktails with red rind. With waves battering are torso and knocking us from our perches we battled fish after fish. Hell, we lost count! Most of them legal or above, with a few shorts mixed in. At one point I was bringing in a low teen striper, as a wave broke through my body, picking me off my rock and dumping my beaten corpse into the teeth of the white water. As I was dealing regaining my senses and the fish, I saw Mark nearly get yanked off his perch from the strike of a tremendous striper. Mark yelled over the roar that he had a “very nice fish on”. I finally managed to get my fish off the bucktail, and hop back onto my perch. At that point Marks rod was bent in half and his drag was screaming. I know how tight Marks drag was, as whenever I am fishing single hooks in MECCA the drag is extremely tight. There is no doubt in my mind that this was a mid 40+ fish. As Marks eyes were bugging out of his head he saw her tremendous tail. Soon after that she must have turned her head a little and caught the power pro on a rock. This was a fish that I will personally never forget, as I do not forget any of the true cows that have been lost. I remember Mark asking if there was anything he did wrong. “ There is nothing you could have done” I responded. If nothing else we as fishermen should be happy to have a true monster like that on, and lost her knowing that it was not the angler or the anglers equipment that was at fault. During our dark walk back to the buggy, I tripped over a rock and fell on several others, banging the hell out of my elbow and hands. From this I got the feeling of nausea and weakness as if something had been broken. Thank God nothing was broken, just banged up pretty good. I mention this because somehow it made me feel a little older. Ya always learn something in the suds, if not about fish, about yourself.


Fishing Report:
North winds 10 knots, partly cloudy, south side sets3-4’, clean water. I took out Mark D for his last August trip from 1030pm-430am. Mark has booked me five times (this time being the fifth) for the month of August in the hunt for a trophy. Two of those times he has dropped absolute cows. Before the trip, Mark let me know that he prayed that if he got another chance at a slob that he would not drop her. To help insure this he beefed up his Power Pro from 50 pound test to 65. We initially made our way to the North side where I thought there might be some resident class fish holding. By 12:30 am Marks eel had not been touched, and I only had a few fish dropped on 7” bombers. I remember telling Mark that we could go places on the North side that we would have all the small migraters that we wanted, but I doubted if the bigger fish would be competing with them. This trip was not for schoolies so of we went to fish the white clean water on the south side. While walking to our south side destination Mark asked “ Do you still have confidence in the possibility of a cow”? “Clean water, with white rollers, a great night for eeling—Oh yeah”, was my response. We waded out though the rocky surf, and I impaled a snake with a mustad 8/0 tuna hook, then directed Mark to a perch that would put him into a great water column. Being the guide, I put myself in a crap water column-at least compared to the one Mark was about to fish. During the fist 45 minutes or so I got a few bumps, but no takers. Then it happened. I hear Mark scream” This is a nice fish”, as his body reared back, drag slowly peeled, and his rod curled with the strain of what was no doubt a slob. Mark sounded like a great one liner repeating on a broken record, “Bill, this is a big fish”, over and over again. I screamed, “ don’t loose this one. Last chance”, as I coached Mark to get the slob away from the uprooted rocks. Mark played the fish beautifully. When she got close to Marks rocky perch I hoped down of my perch with rod in hand and waited for Mark to bring the slob in for a landing. When I finally saw her head I knew she was over 30. When I grabbed her gill, I knew she was over 35. Mark set the 8/0 tuna hook perfectly in the lower lip. After removing the hook I dragged her to shore. It wasn’t until then that I got a good feel for her and weight and look at her girth. “ My God, I thought-50??” 47 lbs on the boga, later weighed in at Tight Lines B&T. We began taking pictures, but in my cowed up haze I suddenly realized that we were wasting precious time, and needed to get back out on our perches. About 20 minutes later Mark slammed another 25 lb striper. Awhile later I had on another very nice cow. I would say low –mid 30’s, but I will never know because she wrapped me around a rock and snapped my power pro. I then banged a 22lb fish, and a couple low to mid teen fish. All on eels. Was August worth the work? You bet ya! Congratulations Mark!! You deserve it.”august07 012

My Observations

    Hopefully those trips will give you a little insight as to what it takes to target stripers in the August Montauk surf. You may be asking yourself, why August? I’ll give you my theory on targeting these fish. It is pretty much exclusively my thinking, and to me it is not theory it is fact. It’s purely based on subject/objective logs, and overall experience from the last 35 years of fishing the Montauk suds. In early July you will find hordes of juvenile spearing hugging the shorelines of the back bays of Long Island. You will also noticed an influx of large stripers entering the rips of Montauk chasing the plethora of bait the rips hold this time of year. These fish will usually hold in the Montauk area until the first major nor’easter or the first moon of September, whichever comes first. Around the first moon of August sometimes on the moon, the now adult spearing will come out of the bays and enter the Montauk surf. On their heels will hopefully be snappers. The snappers now become the primary bait that the resident large stripers will hopefully come into the Montauk surf to munch on. I use the word “hopefully” because there are several factors that can keep them away from the surf, such as too much bait in the outside rips, a consistent big heave, a big nor’easter, the list goes on and on. I am going to fish anyway, but I know my chances are lessoned if any of these situations take place.

Finding your way

    To target these fish I recommend doing your homework. There was a time that I would walk the entire south side in the day with a snapper rig, just to find out where the snappers were. Then I would do the same via beach buggy on the north side. By night I would then hunt the area that I had found snappers.  I just do not have the time for this type of dedications any longer. The next best thing is to shine you light in the water as you enter the surf. Look for spearing. If you find loads of spearing chances are you will find the snappers. “Oh the horror, shine your light”? Trust me if you are in the area you need to fish, the only one that will see your lights are the aliens. Also you aint spooking fish when you have to walk another 75 yards out in the surf from where you shinned your light. So now you found the bait, but what tide should you fish? There is really no answer to this. Each spot in Montauk has its own unique tweaks, and a spot may only be ten feet wide. There are literally hundreds of best tides to fish. I will tell you this, do not look for the same tides of the fall to produce in August for the spot you select. August is a complete game changer, which is why I may stick to one spot for many many hours.


    I primarily throw live eels in August. However plugs that have a snapper profile can be fantastic and at times will out fish live eels. Perhaps my personal best came on a 7” black with gold tint Long A Bomber. I never weighed her, and she was released so I will never really know, but damn that was a big fish. I like to scout out an area with a Super Strike needle fish, as it is a faster moving plug, skinny profile, and I can cover a lot of water with it. If I am getting hits or fish on it I know that there is fish and bait in the area. I then will probably switch a larger profile plug like a darter or metal lip, depending on conditions. If you plan on slinging eels get a local shop that will let you select your own. Don’t go there with shoe strings. I like them about 16-20” and thick. If you can get your hands on local eels they will always be better and hardier.

When to move

    When to move is a tough decision. Like I said I do not like to move around much. If I find the bait I will stick it out. During early to mid-August if I find small schoolies I will stay with them, as I have found that large resident fish will mix with these resident schoolies. Not positive as to why, but my guess is they both are on the same August baits and not as aggressive as the migrating schoolies. By the end of the month migrating schoolies will enter the surf. You will know that you are into a school of migrating schoolies, because they will hit harder, be more aggressive, more numerous, sometimes will be lighter in color, and have sea lice. They will come at the first sign of white bait aka bay anchovies. If I get into these migrators, and I am targeting big fish, I will move immediately.

    The bottom line is you will need to work your butt off, hunt a night, and be prepared for many skunks to hopefully take one or two very large fish. Sometimes more! 

editor’s note

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

PS…Bill’s log book post is from 2007


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