Mike Waltman

I grew up on Long Island, New York, and for as long as I remember, have been fishing in the island’s bays and the Atlantic Ocean.

My Dad got me started at an early age. We'd fluke fish the back bays and surf cast for striped bass off the beach. A few times a year, we'd also head upstate to the Adirondack Mountains to fish for large/smallmouth bass in the lakes and rivers.

After graduating high school, I moved out to a small village on the eastern end of the island famous for commercial and recreational fishing. The desolate, rocky coastline of Montauk has been home now for over a decade. 

I live in a truck camper and work seasonally as a lifeguard. My choice to be a professional beach bum gets me a beachside campsite where I can park my rig. It also provides the flexibility to fish, surf, and explore the world during the off-season.

Mike's Fishing Favourites

Montauk’s rocky coves, known for the fall striped bass run, have no shortage of spots to explore along the southern and northern shores. I’ll trek along every nook and cranny of the shoreline looking for stripers. I'll wade chest-deep in the water, stand on rocks for hours, and throw every lure I’ve got in my bag until I find one. 

A few of the lifeguards I work with have gotten me into kayak fishing over the last few years. I launch from the beach and bottom fish with a weighted bait rig or bucktail for fluke, porgie, and sea bass. The productivity of this method has shifted my perspective on fishing from recreation to self-reliance. It’s nice to feel reasonably confident in the ability to paddle out and come back with dinner.

As a surfer and general waterman, I’ve gravitated towards spearfishing in recent years. I enjoy the challenge of freediving and respect the ability to be more selective of species and sizes. With the help of some of my more eccentric friends, it's a skill I look forward to developing.

Mike’s Favourite Gear

I’m a gear junkie. Don't get me wrong, there’s no substitute for local water knowledge. That said, you can tip the scales of fortune in your favor and save money in the long run by buying the right equipment.

When it comes to rods, I trust the strength and sensitivity of Ugly Stiks. Whether I’m bottom fishing off the kayak or surf casting from shore, I have confidence in my Ugly Stiks to feel the fish at first touch and handle the fight.

For reels, I always use Penns. They’re smooth, reliable, and durable, which is all I can ask for from a reel. I have nothing but respect for their focus on high-quality components that last in a demanding saltwater environment. Even on their low-mid end budget options, they make a dependable reel. They’re a company I’ve grown with as my needs and budget have changed over the years.

Go to set ups

For kayak fishing, I use a 6-foot Ugly Stik Tiger Casting Rod with a Penn Squall II Levelwind conventional reel. That said, sometimes I use my basic plastic wheel hand line because it’s unbreakable and fun to use.

I use weighted bait rigs, bucktail/bait rigs, or a diamond jig with both of those setups. Usually, I’ll add a baited teaser hook for good measure. My Viking fishing kayak with a foot pedal rudder system gets me out there and gives me solid space to work from.

For surf fishing, I have a 10-foot Ugly Stick Bigwater with a Penn Spinfisher 4500 spinning reel. Sometimes I’ll set that up with a weighted bait rig for lazy days fishing off the beach. Its true purpose, though, is to toss the variety of poppers, plugs, and bucktails I have in my arsenal into the surf.

Finding the right lure for the day’s conditions is a process of trial and error. That’s why I like using a Shimano shoulder sling bag for on-the-water lure changes. The one lure I always have close at hand is the Super Strike Zig Zag Darter in parrot color. That thing gets a hit in just about any condition.

Mike’s Perfect Day’s Fishing

A serene summer day comes to mind. I paddled my kayak out from the beach, with the sun shining and the Atlantic ocean flat as a lake. Humpback whales were feeding on a large school of bunker, and my go-to spot was on fire with porgie and sea bass. That was a session of catching--much different than fishing.

Paddling back in, I felt my favorite blissful mix of salty, sunburnt exhaustion. I lounged with the lifeguard crew the rest of the day, listening to good music and barbequing the day's catch.

By contrast, the cold autumn night I swam out to a large rock in rough surf with my buddy also comes to mind. We froze our butts off while set waves crashed over the rock, occasionally knocking us into the icy water. We threw every lure in our bags for hours and left with nothing.

I have an equal appreciation for fruitless persistence and the full bounty. I crave the awe-inspiring bliss and the challenging environments. I'm grateful for both solitude and good times spent with friends.

I respect the ocean for the food it holds and the adventure required to earn it. Any day on the water is a perfect day in my book.

I feel fortunate to combine my love of writing with my passion for fishing. I genuinely hope my articles will help you put more food on the table and connect with the incredible gifts fishing can offer.

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