On the Water: Frozen Eels in My Sock

Paul Lester and crew, with the help of their good luck statue, foreground, had a good day of fishing at Wiborg’s Beach on Monday. Russell Drumm

    “However ridiculous it may sound to have a queen, the pound is worth more than our dollar,” was Harvey Bennett’s way of announcing that the British were not only coming, they are here.
    Since about 1999, a group of British anglers have flown over for our fall run of fish, and, according to Sue Jappell of Paulie’s Tackle shop in Montauk, “now they’re coming in the spring. We call it the British invasion.”
    They, and most other surfcasters, were frustrated on Saturday by the rain and high winds, but Jappel said a hearty few fought the elements for a spell under the Montauk Lighthouse. No big striped bass were weighed in, she said, but casters did enjoy some “fast and furious” fishing until they were driven from the beach. The turbulence caused the ocean’s normal, crystal-clear fall condition to cloud, making for difficult fishing on Sunday.
    There were no changes in the Montauk SurfMasters tournament as of Monday, but the hard-fought competition did elicit one of the more humorous fish tales we’ve heard so far this season.
    Fred Kalkstein fishes in the wetsuit division of the contest as readers of this column may recall. Last Thursday night, he swam offshore and climbed aboard his favorite rock in one of the Montauk moorland coves. Kalkstein fishes with eels. He keeps a store of them frozen next to the ice cream in the freezer. When he suits up to go fishing, he takes a few and slides them into a sock, then ties the sock to his belt.
    “I was out for an hour. Fishing, fishing, not a bump. Then, all of a sudden I feel a bump at my knee. I can’t see a thing. Then another bump, this time on the back of my leg. Then, a bump to the left. I put on my light.”
    Like many nocturnal surfcasters, Kalkstein wears a kind of miner’s lamp on his head.
    “Its head was the size of the top of a baseball bat. Just the head was six to eight inches long. I take the butt of my rod and try to hit it, but the line was out and I missed. It’s going around my legs.”
    Kalkstein said he thought the “beigey green” creature had to be a conger eel. “He must have smelled the eels in my sock,” he said, a statement that could well haunt the surfcaster for years to come.
    Fishermen working the sand beaches west of Montauk have been having success throwing “metal,” diamond jigs, Kastmasters, and the like during the day, surface lures like needlefish at night. Bucktails remain the preferred lure farther east, and for those who make their own, the ever-growing deer herd, and corresponding tally of road kills, would seem to be a boon.
    As most surfcasters know, the white hair harvested from white-tailed deer when fastened to a leadhead whose hook is festooned with a strip of pork rind appears to a striped bass like a fleeing squid. It would be interesting to know who discovered that — a Montaukett Indian, perhaps.
    Speaking of Montauk, the news that Kathy Kronuch has died circulated quickly around the hamlet. She passed away on Monday. Kronuch ran Johnny’s Tackle Shop with her husband for many years. She was free with advice and loved to fish herself. She could always be found fishing for squid in the spring at night from her favorite dock on Fort Pond Bay.