The Midnight Rambler…Tumbleweed Tuesday (Is It Fall yet?)

The Midnight Rambler
John Papciak

Tumbleweed Tuesday
(Is It Fall yet?)

At this time of year, just as tempers reach their breaking point, tourist season at various beach communities ends abruptly with Tumbleweed Tuesday.

The Long Island “citiots” return to Manhattan. The Jersey Shore “Shoobies” go back to Philadelphia.

For most surfcasters, Tumbleweed Tuesday can’t come fast enough.

I’ll no longer feel as anxious about going into downtown Montauk, stressing about the long limes, the long waits for even breakfast, or fearing that my jeep might attract a ticket if I do not hurry back once the tires get marked by seasonal enforcement. Ok, I’ll still worry, but clearly not as much.

But I also know that, even though the weather is basically the same, and the fish might still be in “summer mode” for quite some time, I’ll actually find much more company on the beaches at night now, especially as we move further into September.

I also know that fall is more popular on the east end than Tumbleweed Tuesday would otherwise suggest, and the weekends will still be crowded – as long as the weather holds.

And in the case of surfcasters, if a Nor’easter materializes, we might get even more fishing traffic than if it were a nice beach day.

I’ll be checking the National Hurricane Center website almost daily now, as what happens off Cape Verde West Africa has a way of influencing how the fall fishing might play out. This was most certainly true over the last two years.

August 2011 found me enjoying some surprisingly good fly fishing for medium sized bluefish and some small bass within the LI South Shore back bay system. I found an unusual amount of bait, from spearing to mullet to snappers, and I had high hopes for the coming weeks as things cooled down. Some even larger gamefish were bound find the bait too, and I was sharpening hooks and tying flies like a man possessed.

It was not to be, Irene hit on August 28, and from my viewpoint, all that bait was gone and the local back bay fishing never fully recovered the remainder of the fall.

We all know how 2012 turned out with Sandy

While it is unusual to see two major storms making landfall in NY/NJ on back to back years, it is more likely that these kinds of storms will be steered away from land, as they make their way north. With any luck, the only evidence might be large swells and rough surf.

This is almost predictable, one reason why a world championship for pro surfers was held in Long Beach a few years ago.

We are now entering that time of year (early to mid September), when the potential for clashes between surfers and surfcasters will be at their peak. More specifically, a large swell coupled with a south or southwest wind, will create a unique wrap-around on the North Side of Montauk Point, with clean (less choppy) waves on the north side only, but with poor surfing conditions elsewhere. Should this happen, with nowhere else to go, some surfers will no doubt test the “no surfing” rules, much in the same way that some surfcasters would test “no parking or “no trespassing” signs if the fishing was good enough. The phone lines to the state parks will light up and you know the rest.

The fly boats will likely also be there in the surf zone. The Bay Anchovy phenomenon has been repeating with some regularity, and the sight of fish rolling on bait in the daytime, and within spitting distance of the shore, has a way of tempting captains to come in rather close at times. (Come to think of it, the sight of blitzing fish in so close has a way of turning even some level-headed surfcasters into drooling idiots as well. Not always, thankfully, but sometimes.)

Like surfing, the fly boat contingent is no longer a modest presence. We can expect many of the established fly/light tackle guides from New Jersey and New York to relocate to Montauk for September, and a good part of October. Yours truly has been reaching out to a few guides to book a trip or two (in lieu of hauling my own boat further east for the fall). I can tell you that most of these guides are 110% booked for the prime weeks out there, and have been for quite some time. I can wave $700 – the going rate for a full day – at them all I want. I will have to settle for a late cancellation or an off date, if I really want to take a break and let a guide do all the work for a few tides.

To be sure, I personally think many of the guides have gotten much better in the courtesy department, at least from my vantage point.

There was also spell there when a couple of guides ventured too close, especially during a swell, so these customers were treated to a thrilling fishing/surfing combo trip – the trip ended with the boats literally up on the rocks. Here too it seems captains are operating with better awareness of the conditions. Let’s hope I am right.


And beyond the fishing, we can expect each weekend in Montauk to be jam packed with other non-fishing activities.

For starters, September 21-22 (the same weekend as the Surf Classic Tournament) kicks off with the Montauk Seafood Festival. There will be a two-day Triathlon Festival of Races on September 28th-29th, with hundreds of bike racers expected on the roads each morning, particularly West Lake Drive, East Lake Drive and all along 27 to the lighthouse and back. Another Fall Festival and Chowder Contest will take place over Columbus Day weekend.

This means more motels are requiring minimum stays, and more “Off-Season” rates have been rebranded as “Early-Fall” rates.

Nevertheless the overall mood will be more laid back, the way most want Montauk to be. And your blood pressure will most certainly drop a few points the farther you travel along 27 going east.

But I am not so sure I’d call it Tumbleweed Tuesday.

For those of you with firm plans to visit Montauk this fall, I wish you all the best of luck. I hope you are able to enjoy the fishing and can avoid some of the crowds. Contrary to popular belief, it is still possible to find a secluded beach, and it is even possible to have a blitz all to yourself. But you will need to walk a bit further.

But if you do find your line being crossed, try to have a sense of humor about. Some of my best “fishing in a crowd” experiences involved catching a few but then sitting back on a rock to enjoy the entertainment of this mass hysteria… maybe help repair someone’s tackle, get a hook out of a hand, or even help pull an overanxious newbie out of the drink.

3 comments on “The Midnight Rambler…Tumbleweed Tuesday (Is It Fall yet?)

  1. Bill Kacinski

    Each year Its becoming more and more like “trickle weed Tuesdays”, and local businesses want to capitalize on the late season tricklers…unfortunately its more about the $ than the local routine “off season” ambience we are so used to looking forward to….every Friday afternoon and Sunday eve, the helicopter traffic proves the “citiot” draw back east every weekend….soon it’ll be a year round habit and the once tumbleweed Tuesday phenomenon will be a distant memory…


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