It is catches like you see above which lead many fishing captains in this region to believe that all they have to have do, is obtain a few sets of numbers and a vessel, and they can easily load up the fishermen and customers on their boat with codfish.
But are these seductive pictures of codfish laying across the deck a true indication on how easy it is to catch codfish off of Block Island in the winter?
Many who have been around and fishing out of Montauk or Rhode Island will tell you, gone are the days, when party and charter boats ran to areas like South West Ledge, 20 minutes East, Cartwright or the Block Island wrecks and rockpiles during the sixties and early seventies, and just beat on the codfish.
What captain of that period from Paul Forsberg, Buddy Dorman, Dick Vigilant, Richie Rade, Tred Abrams, Jay Porter, Les Behan among the more noted names, stayed up nights worrying about the phase of the moon, time of the tide changes or making sure their boat was off the dock at 1 am, to ensure that they had a good catch of cod for their customers because the best bite is at night?
Wasn't it all about having a few sets of good numbers off Block, or the south side of the Point, and and then dropping the hook when they have readings like this on one of the hundreds of rockpiles in that area:
The above is just an example of what many captain believe is going on when winter codfishing in Montauk, and again it seductively lures fishing boats from ports as far away as southern Massachusetts to New Jersey to travel sometimes over 100 plus miles to catch codfish.
I hope I am letting a little light into how difficult it can be winter codfishing in Montauk, when numerous vessels, both party, charter and recreational have now descended on this area at this time of the year:
Gone are the days when few outside of the fleet out of Montauk knew these fishing grounds without even giving it a second thought, or worried about another boat beating them out to the best spots to catch a boat load of fish.
Many take for granted how easy it is these days to get the numbers to many of the wrecks and rockpiles in this area, but there was a time when a party boat captain went so far to cut both of his anchors while fishing on the Suffolk wreck, to ensure that another party boat would not get the numbers to a spot.
How far have we come from that time when you can now get the numbers of one of the best codfish wrecks in that area right off a Carmark fishing chart!
To give one funny example, a local captain who fishes out of Montauk was telling me about another friend on how easy it is on catching cod during the winter out of Montauk, and said 'just run out to where the FAIRWAY buoy is east of Block Island, drift around and your in'. He said the other captain who was not familiar with the Montauk area, said "fairway, like in a golf'? Kid you not.....
These days the local codfish fleet out of Montauk and Rhode Island has to deal with the numbers to many of the once secret fishing grounds, now be pasted on many sites all over the internet. I can give you another example here, by just typing in a certain word search, and this came up which happened to be posted on a Montauk based site:
I know I am going to get a few nice PMs, emails and calls from some of the captains out east for the chart above, but would you believe that I have seen this list POSTED ON A NUMBER of fishing sites and fishing forums......I am not saying that the numbers shown here are correct, and with any fishing information posted on the internet, this should be added:
Not responsible for any loss or damages resulting from the direct or indirect use of this information.
But getting back to the main point of this article, fishing off of Montauk in the winter months should be left to the vessels and captains that do this on a regular, daily basis, or have fished out of that port for years.
In another 'classic' story, I know of one fishing boat that made the trip to the Fairway area, slowed down and proceeded to get onto a spot that they had been given a set of numbers too. The captain who had great experiencing in fishing another area for years, tried to set two anchors on the spot, and he couldn't.
Unlike fishing in his own backyard, he immediately saw that the currents off of Montauk, specifically off of the south east side of Block Island, are extremely strong, and he had trouble having the boat respond in rough seas to come around to set the second anchor. So he picked up the first anchor and reset on the drop with one anchor.
With the honking wind running against the flow of the screaming current, the big vessel acted like a sail and proceeded to do 180 degree arching swings over the spot.
Now this might work well if your fishing for summer flounder, but for winter Block Island codfishing, you are not only wasting valuable fishing time, but frustrating the heck out of your customers who are now constantly reeling in, then letting out to keep their sinkers on the bottom, and the mates scrambling with ice numbed fingers to pull apart the massive tangles that this captain created!
I should add, 'blue bird' days off of Montauk do occur, but how many captains and fishermen who regularly fish out of that port will tell you about going out in slick calm conditions to Coxs Ledge, then beating their way home in conditions that are colorfully stated as 'azz pounding', 'heads handed to us' and other vivid descriptions of unrelenting quick rolling frothy seas that tend to average 6-8 feet and more when the wind starts blowing over 20 mph, especially when it runs against the current?
Sure every bottom fishermen in the mid-Atlantic and New England region loves to catch the 'winter king'. As we have stated a number of times, catching blackfish is nice, but there is nothing like catching 30 lb and larger codfish, especially in water depths under 30 fathoms whether on bait or jigs.
I know many of us want to walk off the various party and charter boats with a catch like this, and this is the reason why we started this thread here....your highest probability of having a catch such as this is to stick with fishing on the party and charter boats that fish daily out of Montauk and Rhode Island.
Sure, you can run out to Montauk on a boat that wants to make a trip or two there to catch a handful of codfish off of Montauk. But remember, the boats that regularly fish this area make it look easy since they understand these important facts....the night bite.....where the fish have been setting up....what spots have been productive, and which ones are barren rock piles and sand....what to do when you have to start hunting them after sun up.
How many cranky captains look at their watches and see its 10, 11 or 12 in the morning with little to show in the fish box or customers pails as they stare at Block Island and try to come up with a game plan.
Do you make the run east to Coxs and then worry about a 35 mile or more ride back to the Point? Do I stop short along the way, possibly wasting valuable fishing time? Do you run to Cartwright and CIA, and hope there are enough fish there to put a catch together? Will I get there and see the best spots are now taken by boats that have fished them for who knows, how many hours? Will one of the Block Island wrecks bail me out with a few fish so that my customers come back for a future trip or are so barren of fish because they have been picked over already?
The pressure is on as customers start giving you dirty looks as you try to concentrate up in the wheelhouse, and the shouts of 'captain move the boat' get louder and louder. Will a VHF report from one of the captains save the day, or will the report chasing only compound an already bad fishing day?
So many questions when it comes down to crunch time, and this again highlights the reason for going with a party and charter boat that does this on a regular basis and knows 'the lay of the land', so to speak.
A few set of numbers are always very helpful and get you into the ballpark, but it reminds me of the old line, 'who would you want to perform brain surgery on you...a doctor just out of med school, or a doctor with 20 years of experience'?
Take it from EC....It is more then the numbers when it comes to winter codfishing off of Montauk and Rhode Island. Your best bet for success is fishing with those captains and boats who are fishing in their own backyard, and have done so on a daily, weekly, or year around basis.