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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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November 09, 2015

Montauk County Park

by Bob Banfelder

Suffolk County's Montauk County Park in Montauk offers outer beach access and camping (with permit), canoeing, kayaking as well as both freshwater and saltwater fishing, especially for serious surfcasters who fish from rock retaining walls at the base of a cliff in front of the oldest lighthouse in New York State. The one-hundred-foot tower has been part of the seascape for the past 220 years.

Tom O'Keefe was about to try his luck surf fishing as Donna and I arrived. In truth, it has been a strange season out east in that baitfish have been abundant. Menhaden are everywhere—peanuts to thirteen-inch adults. Birds, too, are prolific, hovering above the gulls and gannets. So where are the bass? Back west, but of course. Elias Vaisberg, a fellow Team Eposeidon angler, is killing them from his kayak back in Jamaica Bay, Queens. Out east we're hearing the same story from many surfcasters. "Birds, bait, but no bass except for a short every now and then." Boaters, of course, are faring a bit better, but not knocking them dead for this time of year. Yeah, I know: "That's why they call it fishing." The all-around outdoorsmen are singing virtually the same song: "Can't wait till deer hunting season opens." Tom was to call us if he caught anything worth mentioning. No call. I'm hoping that by the time you read this that the surf fishing has turned around for the better.

Tom O'Keefe setting out for some surf fishing

In-season activities abound at Montauk County Park. They include outer beach camping (with permit), picnicking, canoeing, hiking trails, bridal paths, seasonal hunting, freshwater fishing at Big Reed Pond—located in the northwestern corner of Theodore Roosevelt County Park (New York State fishing license required) — and the list goes on. As Theodore Roosevelt County Park is part and parcel to Montauk County Park, your Green Key card will give you access to the pond. Freshwater fanatics will delight in fishing the 45-acre pond for largemouth bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, and white perch.

In addition to your Green Key card, an outer beach camping permit for Suffolk County residents is $75 annually plus $12 per night. For nonresidents, the fee runs $200 plus $20 per night. Only self-contained 4-wheel drive campers are allowed. A self-contained vehicle for outer beach access is defined as a unit that contains a built-in flushable toilet with a built-in holding tank for a minimum five-gallon black water capacity; a built-in sink with a minimum five gallon potable (fresh water) tank; and a minimum five-gallon gray water holding tank. A maximum of seven consecutive day stays is permitted. No tenting is allowed. For further information, go online at

Entrance to the RV parking area

Directions to Montauk County Park:

Take Sunrise Highway (Route 27) to Montauk Highway east to East Lake Drive on the left. Access to the outer beach is at the end of East Lake Drive. For Green Key card holders, there is a parking area just past East Lake Marina on the right. Additionally, there is a parking lot at the end of East Lake Drive; however, you must have an East Hampton Resident parking permit to park there. Not to worry. It is only a 0.2 mile walk from the ‘Green Key' area parking lot to the end of the second lot for a more direct, unencumbered approach as beach access from the first (legal) parking area was awash from heavy rains. It was doable but downright vexatious. From this second lot, you can easily walk down to the jetty as pictured below.

Tom O'Keefe on the jetty at the end of East Lake Drive

The Dock Bar & Grill

While in Montauk (humorously dubbed as a "Quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem"), a visit to The Dock Bar & Grill at Montauk Harbor is a must. It's Montauk's local haunt. In his early years, George Watson, the owner, was a professional boxer and certainly has a sense of humor as you will note by various quips that are sign-posted both inside and outside the establishment. Donna always wonders why I take so long in the men's room—returning to the table with a big smile. "Take a peek," I tease. On a more serious note, ask George for a look at the book referencing his boxing career; informative and quite interesting.

Donna and I recently stepped in for a light lunch. I ordered a bowl of the Montauk Clam Chowder $7; Donna ordered a cup $6. We shared orders of Baked Clams and Clams Casino; $9 each. A glass of draft Budweiser is $2.50; pint $4. We've been there many times, so trust me when I tell you that the fare is fine—actually, fantastic.

Directions to The Dock Bar & Grill:

Take Sunrise Highway (Route 27) East to Montauk. Continue through the town village, heading east to the Montauk Lighthouse. Take a left onto West Lake Drive. Turn right at the Montauk Harbor intersections, which is at Flamingo Road and West Lake Drive. Make the last right just before the main entrance to Gosman's Dock.

Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Thriller/Mystery Author & Outdoors Writer
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
Co-host, Cablevision TV, Special Interests with Bob & Donna

November 08, 2015

Meschutt Beach County Park & the Shinnecock Canal

by Bob Banfelder

Suffolk County's Meschutt Beach County Park in Hampton Bays offers swimming, picnicking, snorkeling, windsurfing, and sailing. During the off-season (post Labor Day), saltwater fishing is permitted. Along its 1,000-foot stretch of very rocky shoreline on Great Peconic Bay, just east of the Shinnecock Canal, good striped bass and blue fishing can be had. If the bite is off, beautiful sunsets will serve as the area's redeeming quality to close out the day. Ostensibly, this seven-acre tract is somewhat limited when compared to other Suffolk County Parks with beach access, yet this seemingly confined shoreline is certainly doable. And things get better, for beyond the County Park's boundary to the east, one may continue walking and fishing the shoreline until reaching a distant inlet in Southampton, near the Lobster Inn Grill. That's certainly a good stretch; about a mile of beautiful beachfront to keep you busy for a spell. Additionally, there is a far shorter distance for anglers to explore just to the west of Meschutt Beach County Park, as you will soon note.

Meschutt Beach County Park shoreline, walking toward Shinnecock Canal jetty

First off, Donna and I drove to the easterly end of the parking lot, placed our Green Key card atop the dashboard then worked the beach, fronting the bay in both directions. First, easterly for approximately 350 yards, turning around and heading west toward the Shinnecock jetty, which is 642 yards from where we parked. There is your approximate 1,000 foot of rocky shoreline along the county park's Great Peconic Bay. I mark these distances with a range finder no differently than I would if I were on a boat charting a course with navigational aids. As a matter of fact, my Bushnell Legend 1200 range finder, purchased primarily for bow and gun hunting, is a great tool for marking distances and combing our beaches. Are we not hunting for fish on foot in lieu of boat?

Fishing the Shinnecock Canal jetty

From the Beach Hut Restaurant, just to the west of where we parked, I recorded precisely how many yards away I spotted tailing bunker activity. Although we had no luck after throwing out Shimano Waxwing lures, I inadvertently snagged a 16-inch bunker and decided to set up live-lining the menhaden while Donna persistently stayed, played, and plied the waters with her shallow subsurface Waxwing. I silently prayed for a keeper bass. As the tailing action continued for a good fifteen minutes, I told God that I'd even settle for a nice big blue. Oh, well. No takers to report. I released the bunker, which appeared to be no worse for wear, and switched to a silver Kastmaster with eyes that I epoxy to the silvery tin. It is usually my go-to lure; one in which I have a lot of confidence.

Donna tries her luck using a Shimano Waxwing lure at the canal's barrier wall

From the Beach Hut Restaurant, it was a leisurely walk, casting and retrieving and making our way toward the jetty. In the past, Donna and I have taken a few weakfish right along the barrier wall paralleling the Shinnecock Canal. A good many anglers fish the wall and the jetty and forego that stretch of beach along Great Peconic Bay for one of two reasons: 1) it is not open to the public for fishing during the regular season; 2) anglers generally forget that it is, indeed, open to the public after Labor Day. It's a 10-minute streeeetch to the end of the long jetty. Be careful as those boulders can get slippery wet.

Directions to Two of the County Park's Parking Areas:

Meschutt Beach and the Shinnecock Canal

Meschutt Beach ~ Take Montauk Highway east, crossing over the Shinnecock Canal. Make a left onto North Road. Go straight then turn right onto Old North Highway. Take the first left onto Canal Road.

Shinnecock Canal ~ Driving from Meshcutt Beach, it is 0.2 miles from the far end of the parking lot to the second lot at the Shinnecock Canal. Head down Canal Road and make a right onto Old North Highway. The lot is located just before the left turn onto North Road. As the sign below indicates, the lot is part and parcel to the Suffolk County Parklands, so, yes, you may park there. Again, leave your Green Key card in plain view atop the dash.

A Nearby Treat Awaits You
The Canal Café

As the Beach Hut eatery is closed after Labor Day, discover a small but fabulous nearby waterfront café that will positively delight you. It is open until Christmas then reopens in early March. It is truly a find; a gem of special note. Donna and I were looking for a light lunch. I could not believe my appetizer portion: thirteen steamed littleneck clams (actually, many were of topneck size; better yet) steeped in a savory saffron, wine, clam broth — loaded with leeks, tomatoes, and chorizo (sausage), served with delicious crusty hot bread to sop up that flavorful liquid; $16 — a meal in itself. Two beers [designated driver sitting across from me] along with that hearty appetizer, and I was replete. Donna thoroughly enjoyed her generous portion of Prince Edward Island mussels steamed with white wine, garlic, and butter — also with delightful crusty hot bread. That was our light lunch. We couldn't even handle dinner at home that evening. Donna and I can't wait to return to try their entrées. So be warned. Come to Canal Café with a serious appetite. Additionally, there is seasonal outdoor dining. And please say hello to our amiable and most affable server, Tatiana, as well as the café's most attentive staff. Open from noon till 9 pm; closed on Tuesdays.

Directions to the Canal Café:

The Canal Café at 44 Newtown Road is 1.2 miles from Meschutt Beach. Make a right onto Montauk Highway, heading west to Newtown Road. The Café is located within the Hampton Watercraft Marina. Don't stop or you may wind up buying a boat. Proceed through their parking lot, making a sharp right into the café's own parking area.

Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Thriller/Mystery Author & Outdoors Writer
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
Co-host, Cablevision TV, Special Interests with Bob & Donna

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