Bait To Plate
“Montauk is a fishing town,” says Mr Lee Meirowitz, a 32-year-old teacher who moved here eight years ago after meeting his wife. “I think it’ll forever be known as a fishing town.” It doesn’t feel like it right now. As busload after busload of well-heeled New Yorkers debark from the Jitney and the twenty-something tribes descend on The Surf Lodge, the epicentre of Montauk’s summer party scene, this once sleepy fishing village on the easternmost tip of Long Island could almost pass for a younger version of the Hamptons, whose designer boutiques and manicured privet hedgerows are only a stone’s throw away. Come Labor Day, though, the summer throng will disperse and be replaced by a radically different kind of visitor.
“The end of summer and the start of fall is when the striped bass season is at its peak,” says Mr Lee Meirowitz. “They migrate south around this time, and it draws a lot of recreational fishermen out here. The fish come in close to the shore in feeding frenzies – they’re called ‘blitzes’. In an area the size of a tennis court, there can be thousands.”
“The fish come in close to the shore in feeding frenzies – in an area the size of a tennis court, there can be thousands”
Mr Meirowitz, who grew up on the north shore, owes his expertise to endless afternoons spent fishing on Long Island Sound, casting out into the surf for fish to cook and eat that evening. And when he wasn’t doing that, he was heading down to Montauk in search of big waves. He still remembers one trip that he took with his father in 1996, to catch the swell of Hurricane Bertha: “To this day, I still haven’t seen surf that good. When my dad told me it was too big, I was furious! I sat on the cliff for two hours and watched him and his lifeguard buddies have the session of their lives.” Despite his disappointment, it was only a matter of time before he was to follow in his father’s footsteps, graduating to big waves and eventually becoming a lifeguard himself. Years after he first learnt to fish, it was his own lifeguard buddies that encouraged him to trade his rod for a speargun and start hunting for his grub below the surface.
As a permanent, year-round resident of Montauk, Mr Meirowitz has been able to watch it change over the past few years from the fishing community he knew as a boy into one of the most popular summer resorts on the eastern seaboard. “This has made everyday things such as getting groceries and going out to dinner a little more difficult to do,” he admits. But the “real” Montauk is still out there, he says, if you know where to find it. Just don’t ask him to tell you where it is.
Fish skewers with chimichurri and white rice
For the fish skewers:
- 1 striped bass
- 1 red onion
- 1 red bell peppers
- Olive oil
For the chimichurri sauce:
- 1 Cup olive oil
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1 handful of flat parsley, minced
- 1 handful of oregano, minced
- 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 red chilli pepper, diced
- 3 pinches of salt
- Cracked black pepper
- Handful of yellow cherry tomatoes, cut into wedges
- White rice
Start your fire an hour in advance, allowing time for the embers to reach a good cooking temperature.
Using a very sharp knife, gut and fillet your fish then cut into two-inch cubes, leaving the skin on.
Build your skewers, alternating between pieces of fish, red onion and pepper. Rub with olive oil and salt.
Grill over the fire for approximately four to five minutes per side. Meanwhile, make the chimichurri sauce by mixing all the ingredients together.
Drizzle the sauce over the fish skewers and serve with boiled white rice.
Film by Mr Jakob Daschek