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JohnP

Origins of Montauk Wesuiting

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A buddy of mine made me a copy of a very interesting article from Newsday. It told of a "pioneering" guy fishing in a wetsuit at Montauk. It had a tale of a boater finding this guy floating way off the beach, but the guy was none the least concerned.

 

Sounds familiar? Do you know this person? Chances are, no.

 

The date of the article was May 16, 1976, and the guy's name was Jack Frech. Yes, some of you may have heard of him, the creator of the darter, etc.

 

The story started by telling how he used to fish in swimming trunks, and how with one kidney, had concern about prolonged exposure to cold. The wetsuit idea was not to get to rocks, but to keep him warm. But the article says he found the wetsuit made him capable of swimmng to rocks, and thus a new era was born. He started fishing Montauk in 1954, and there were crowds, even back then. One interesting thing was that folks were using very heavy tackle a 14 foot glass rod was the montauk stick and a Luxor was the reel. Favorite lures were Blue Atom 40, redfin, his darter and big popping plugs. Colors he fished were Yellow, White and Black.

 

In this article there are pictures of him wetsuiting, he was 62 at the time, so it just goes to show you age is only a number. While wetsuiting, he reportedly broke his wrist, cracked ribs, and fractured his leg.

 

He fished only artificial, even back in '76 , and fished barbless at that.

 

He reported that he removed the clicker on his reel and refrained from using a light to keep hist catching a secret.

 

So it sounds like as much as we think we are pushing the envelope or being innovative, things really haven't changed all that much.

 

 

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Nice story John P...iv'e read about jack in the past,his plug series definatly changed the N/E surf crowds success!

I remember reading about him tying himself off with a length of rope and swimming the rocks out at orient point or it could have been the gut/race area?? Gotta go dig that one up! Thats some serious current ripping through there!

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As a kid in the 60's,I remember there were guys in wetsuits back then, who would fish the coves, coconuts, ditch etc. There were also alot of spearfishing contests in the area. Lots of blackfish, stripers, but the fish that got the most attention at the contests were the blue sharks some of the divers would bring in. Nasty teeth on those suckers. I think the winner of the contest had to have the highest weight of speared fish. There was alot of conflict back then as well. the wader crowd didn't like the wetsuiters or the spearfisherman or the surfers and vice versa. The more things change the more things stay the same.

Those were also the days when you could tent camp at Ditch Plains and take an old Chevy Station Wagon all the to the North Bar on the back service road. There was also a dirt road through private property to Coconuts that the property owner let surfcasters use. Can you imagine a property owner doing that today.

Tanks for the memories.

Shag

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Shag, A fishing buddy of mine showed me a picture of guys camping out over by Caswells. He says there used to be a rope that they used to get up and down the bluff.

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JohnP - If you ever get your hands on a book: The Joys Of Fishing, Emmett Gowen, 1961, it has an interesting chapter on surf fishing circa late 40's early 50's. biggrin.gif

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I'm old enough to say I knew and fished with Jack. He was a very personable guy that was "hard core", fishing in storms and taking chances most fishermen wouldn't take. He took the Gibbs darter and improved it and created some of his own plugs that were featured in the Long Island Fisherman. There are places named by the wetsuiters that still used as references today. I met up with him just before his death in Nanutcket. He said it liked fishing there because he could just fish in his shoes. Jack was known as the Professor because he was a high school admin. He fished Hemstead Harbor near his home. He developed a special cast for wetsuiters because the water was up to their arm pits. Rods were long the we used Crack reels that were modified with holes drilled out the back of he spool housing because the water pressure wouldn't allow for reeling underwater. I still have several Crack reels that were modified just for that type of fishing. Surf fishermen of that time were give name according to their work or the ethnic backround. Spanish Joe, Polish Al, Jack the Welder and Richie No Motor (don't ask). We werent PC but we were men that realized it was just a name and not a slur. This is just a little bit of the past hope you enjoyed reading about it.

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Strangly he died in a boating accident I think back on Long Island. I still have a collection of his plug designs that were printed by the Long Island Fisherman. Jack's plugs were very heavy by most standards, darters were his big favorite at Montauk.

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