Picture a young surfer dude wandering around a dock lined with charter boats. A grizzled old captain yells out, “Hey, kid, you want a job ?” That was exactly how Captain Mike Vegessi got his start in Montauk fishing in 1977. He had never been fishing before and was drawn to Montauk for the surfing, not the surf casting. The grizzled old captain was Doug McCabe of the “FRANCES ANNE”, nearing the end of his career as one of Montauk’s offshore pioneers, and Mike would be his mate for the next three years. In addition to learning the fishing business, Doug, who also owned a diesel parts business catering to the fishing boats in Montauk, taught Mike all he needed to know about the maintenance of diesel powered boats.
Doug retired in 1979, and the next year Mike went to work as a mate for another Montauk legend, Captain George McTurck, owner of the “SPORTFISHER”. While with George, Mike passed his captains test, and eventually took over the operation of the boat on all offshore trips. George would continue to run the boat for the inshore trips, and it was from George that Mike would learn about Montauk’s tides.
Other than well experienced fishermen, few people realize the complexities of the tidal system here in Montauk. You can be anchored on one spot with the outgoing tide, while a mile away others are anchored with the flood tide, and will be for another half hour or so. The single most important factor in inshore fishing is the tide, and Captain McTurck was and still is the acknowledged master. However, his protege, Mike Vegessi is an extremely close second.
During the winters Mike would work on one of the many commercial boats fishing out of the harbor, a tough racket. The weather is rough, but the winter is when most of the money is made in commercial fishing. Offshore there are plenty of fish, and the prices are high. One year he would fish a dragger, for porgies, whiting or fluke. The next he’d be on a longliner after tilefish or cod fish.
However, nobody wants to stay a mate forever, and when Captain Bill Butler put the “CAPTAIN WILLIE” up for sale in 1985, Mike jumped on it. The boat, 50′ long and wooden was operated as a party or open boat and already had a client base. When Mike took over, he changed the rules. Half day only – flounders in the spring, followed by fluke in the summer and bass and blues in the fall. The targeted audience was families, fishing in calm protected waters. He renamed the boat “LAZYBONES”, and did away with leaving the dock at daybreak.
In 1997, Mike retired the old LAZYBONES and purchased a new one, a 55′ Bruno & Stillman, a fiberglass boat. and a big improvement over the aging original boat. Bigger, roomier, and most of all, not needing the amount of maintenance requird of a wooden boat, the new LAZYBONES has proved to be a welcome addition to Montauk’s open boat fleet.
It is now one of the most popular boats in town, and is truly a family affair. Mike runs it, while his wife Kathy is in charge of the money. She sells the tickets and makes sure that the motels are stocked up on their brochures. It’s a good system, one that keeps the boat sailing full while larger fancier boats are lucky to sail with twenty percent of their capacity.
(from MONTAUK SPORTFISHING – 1996)
Not too many teenage girls get up five days a week at five in the morning to go fishing. But Serena and Rebecca (Becky) Vegessi don’t have much choice. Dad owns the boat; he’s the captain, they’re the mates. And that’s that. Actually, the girls don’t mind; they do make a lot of money, which comes in handy to pay for Serena’s tuition at Virginia Wesleyan, where she’s entering her junior year. Becky’s beginning her senior year at East Hampton High School and she’s saving for a trip to Hawaii, a car and a surfboard – in that order, she said.
The LAZYBONES is an open party boat in Montauk that takes two trips a day, from 8:00 am to noon and from 1 to 5:00 pm. Their duties as mates include cutting squid, baiting hooks, netting fish, untangling lines, and cleaning up the mess at the end of each trip. The best part of their job ? “spending time together”, said Serena, ” And meeting interesting people”, added Becky. “I like the people too. It’s the hours I don’ t really like. I’m too tired for a social life” she said.
The girls do work long hours, but there’s always time to joke around. When someone’s not looking, they might jiggle the end of a rod, leading people to think they’ve hooked a big one.
And if you’re really lucky, Becky will squid you! That is, decorate the back of your shirt with little pieces of cut squid. If favorite customers fall asleep, they might wake up with their faces painted with colorful sunscreen.
Kidding aside, the girls agree they love working on the water. They were born and raised in Montauk and, according to Serena, “water is our lives”.
(from the EAST HAMPTON STAR – 7/8/99)
Many Long Islanders see Montauk as a weekend getaway whereas others view it as a way of life. Still others plainly see it as a real estate gold mine. However, last Sunday I saw the heart and sole – the true lure – of Montauk that makes it one of the most revisited towns on the east end -fishing.
Nearly a month into flounder season, with bleak reports across the island, my high hopes drove with me to Montauk Harbor. there I was greeted with a smile and a handshake from Captain Mike Vigessi, owner and captain of LAZYBONES, the first party boat in the water this April. Most boats in Montauk wait until the May tourist crowd is ready to get their lines wet, but the eager crew of this productive family-style boat boasts a rather long fishing season. From flounder in the cool days of April to the search for stripers in the cold waters of mid December, Mike and his crew cater to every kind of angler. Whether you’ve never touched a fishing rod in your unfortunate, deprived life or you fish daily and can’t afford gas prices at the dock, the LAZYBONES promises fun, affordable half-day trips for anyone.
Before we embarked on our four hour trip I had a chance to speak with Mike about the LAZYBONES success this spring in Montauk Lake. The lake’s muddy and partially sandy bottom is a springtime home to migratory flounder which come inshore from deeper waters to spawn and feed. A frequent fisherman of Shinnecock Canal, Moriches Bay and Shinnecock Bay, I wasn’t surprised to hear a similar forecast for the lake. The term “slow action” is in no way synonymous with fishing in Montauk. It does, however, describe the result of relatively warm waters throughout the winter, causing these migratory flatties to spawn and leave the area earlier.
With the sun shining and relatively little wind moving across the lake, we boarded the LAZYBONES for a ten minute taxi to our destination: a Vegessi hot spot marked with a tiny float. As we chugged past the Coast Guard Station and a refurbished shrimp boat, now a personal luxury yacht called RADAR LOVE, our mates, Liam Schulze and Brigham Enck, baited our rigs with a smorgasbord of clams, mussels and blood worms. With a light breeze out of the southwest, the captain cut the engines as we began our drift from the deeper channel onto the more shallow flats toward shore.
Within the firs minute, a long time loyal customer named Mike hooked up wit the first fish. The fat thirteen inch flounder would prove to be the start of a great day. It wasn’t long after that when Briggs’ wife Cathy Enck reeled in her first fish. Between the scattered flatties and scoops from the chum bucket, my photographer, Josh and I heard a variety of LAZYBONES stories and fish tails. Like the time a not-so-experienced fisherman hooked into a small thresher shark with a fluke rig. Or the out-of-place, electricity-producing species of fish that shocked its gaffer with a few volts. The trophy of the day, for both size and count, went to Kathy Vigessi, the captains wife. She took five fish, all over twelve inches, but wouldn’t give up her secret technique.. Even when Briggs’ daughter Megan jockeyed for the lucky position, Kathy kept on catching.
As our day near its end and the wind picked up, Captain Mike started the big inboard engines of the LAZYBONES and began heading back to the harbor. I sat up in the wheelhouse with the captain as he pointed out landmarks and told their stories. he came to Montauk in 1970 in search of good surf and soon discovered the excitement and fun of working on a charter boat. He recalled walking along the docks one morning and hearing an old fisherman yell to him, “Hey kid, get over here, you’re goin’ fishin’!” Mike hopped aboard and has been doing it ever since. Over the seventeen years LAZYBONES has been in business he’s developed a motto, “Bring your lunch, catch your dinner,” which seems to apply to anyone who fishes from his boat. I highly recommend a trip down to the harbor to get aboard the LAZYBONES for a fishing trip you won’t forget.
by Tom Haskell April 12, 2002
CAPT MIKE VEGESSI & THE LAZYBONES
What the Long Island Fisherman has to say.
Immediately after a single blast of the horn, six ounce diamond jigs are simultaneously slung outwards in a variety of different directions just prior to entering the turbulent rip. Within about thirty seconds, the sound of “Fish On” is cried and a 29″ striped bass is gently netted by Butch Maher, the first mate. A minute later on the port side , another mate grabs the leader above the jig and helps haul over a nice sized bluefish of eight pounds for a smiling young angler. Another blue, this one slightly smaller, is lifted out of the water and released to fight another day only moments later. For the regulars on board, it’s another typical start of a fall morning trip on the . LAZYBONES. – Montauk’s popular half day open boat. For newcomers, it’s the start of a great day in an atmosphere that has attracted a strong reputation among experts and beginners alike.
“I don’t really think there is anything else I’d rather do for a living”, confessed Captain Mike Vigessi of the LAZYBONES. “Whether it’s fishing for flounders or striped bass, nothing can beat working on the water for a living. It’s a very rewarding feeling at the end of a day”.
AN EARLY START
Captain Mike knew he would ultimately make a living from the water, even after finishing college in 1974. Growing up on the south shore of Long Island in Seaford gave Mike the opportunity to fish the local areas of Great South Bay with his father, in addition to a good amount of freshwater fishing. After finishing school, Mike moved out to the serene and quiet village of Montauk and held various jobs on boats and offshore draggers, in addition to spending as much time riding a surf board at Ditch Plains.
While Mike worked on draggers during the winter, he spent the warmer months working on some of the inshore charter boats. Mike. s first inshore boat he worked on was the charter boat FRANCES ANNE as a mate. In 1981, Mike then joined Capt George McTurck on the SPORTFISHER – one of Montauk’s most knowledgeable local skippers – before purchasing the open boat CAPTAIN WILLIE in 1985.
“The years of experience I learned as a mate and from George McTurck was invaluable to me,” he said. “George was a real expert on the tides around Montauk and that experience and knowledge was extremely useful. I think a lot of people do not understand or undervalue just how important judging and fishing the right tides around Montauk is in order to put a decent catch on board”.
FLOUNDER FIRST, THEN…
Starting in mid April, Mike starts his split day trips chasing flounder in and around Lake Montauk and Block Island Sound. By the end of May, fluke is the species of choice, of which doormats up to eighteen pounds have been landed over the years. Shortly after Labor Day, Mike makes the annual switch to diamond jigging for striped bass and bluefish until around December 1. By that time Mike and his family look forward to some hard earned rest for the next couple of months.
“From the beginning, we have emphasized that this is a fun, courteous, family fishing boat, and a great way for beginners to get their feet wet with fishing”, explained Mike. “However, we have a core group of people, both local and outside of Montauk, who are truly great fishermen and enjoy the camaraderie ant atmosphere. Many have become almost like family”. For many years now, Mike has emphasized the informal and relaxed slogan; “Bring your lunch; catch your dinner”. The non-competitive atmosphere even extends to the pool, which is just $1 to enter.
“We want them to have a fun time. While we hope people come off the boat with some fillets, they have come to expect that they will be treated well in a professional and courteous manner. Service is very important,” he emphasized. “Butch has been my first mate since our second season in business and everyone knows what to expect – he especially takes the time and patience to work with all types of beginners.”
Comfort is also important too. In early spring this year Mike decided to purchase a considerably newer, larger, and more comfortable 55. Bruno party boat that was based in Gloucester Massachusetts. While still solid, the original LAZYBONES – built in 1955 by the same Chesapeake Bay boat builder that constructed Captain Frank Mundus. famed CRICKET – had served it. s time and place for over forty years.
“It was tough to give up the old boat and it wasn’t an easy decision,” explained Mike. “However, the new boat can just about go out in any type of sea, especially when the winds of October and November used to cancel out many of our trips. Not only is she a bit larger, but it has much more cabin space and is much faster than the old boat – plus it has character like the old boat had too. But I will never forget the old LAZYBONES – it was a fixture in Montauk for many years”.
A key to the family atmosphere the boat exudes comes from Mike’s family, which includes Kathy, his wife for over twenty years, and daughters Serena and Becky. Kathy can always be found taking reservations at the picnic table behind the stern of the boat at mid-day and at the end of the afternoon trip. Serena and Becky also put in long hours during the summer as mates.
“Kathy has meant so much to the success of the business”, said Mike, “between taking the reservations and handling the phones – it’s a full time job . It’s also been nice to have Serena and Becky work on board. It gives me a chance to be with my daughters when I would only see them late in the evening or during winter”.
“There are days when we easily get forty phone calls”, said Kathy. “Needless to say, at the end of November, we’re both pretty tired and look forward to some time away from the boat. But, what I especially enjoy about the business is the friends we have made with our customers. Many are very close to us and have been part of our lives for many years. To me, that’s been one of the best parts of the business – the people we have met and stay close with”.
PUT’EM INTO FISH!
While creating an enjoyable and pleasant environment in which to fish from is very important to Mike, so is locating and putting fish into the pail. Mike has seen not only some significant changes in Montauk, but with the people as well. Mike notes that expectations have changed with fishermen as to the size of today’s catch versus a similar effort put forth twenty years ago.
“Flounder catches have been tough but I think there is some hope”, he said. “We’ll get a good pick in Lake Montauk in April and May. However, locations like Washington Shoals and Tobaccolot Bay have just not produced like they once did. Hopefully, some of the great catches we heard about towards the western end of Long Island will make it out here”.
As for fluke, Mike sees nothing but good signs. This past summer witnessed the most impressive local fluke run that anyone can remember. He attributes the success to conservation size and bag limits, and especially strict limits on spring fluke fishing by the commercial inshore dragger fleet.
“Without a doubt, 1997 was the best year I have ever seen with the fluke”, said Mike. “It’s gotten better each year for the past five years or so. Not only have we seen more fish, we’ve also seen many more larger fish caught too. As long as limitations are continued to be placed, we’re bound to see fishing that will rival what we saw this year”.
“What’s also nice is that we were picking up fluke in spots that haven’t held fish in many years – real old time locations”, he added. “The fish are not just only in the usual rips. Fishermen have a much larger choice and an area to fish, and there are many fine spots where you can fish all by yourselves and catch”.
In terms of species, chasing and locating doormat fluke is Mike’s favorite type of fishing. “I love looking for the big ones,” he said. “For me, it’s a great challenge and it’s a great sight seeing a 10 pound fluke being netted.”
DIAMONDS TO SCORE
Fishing for striped bass has been a real true success story. From nearly being wiped out in the early 1980’s, the striper has staged a remarkable turnaround in all parts of the eastern seaboard, including Montauk. Mike. s favorite way of pursuing striped bass and bluefish is with diamond jigs, and he has gained a strong local following for finding fish.
:”I love diamond jigging,” explained Mike. “Nobody can argue that bait fishing is very effective, but fishing with jigs is truly exciting, challenging, and very effective in the fall in Montauk. The only time we fish bait is when the herring arrive in mid to late November and we live line them on a three way rig. At that time, it can be tough to get a fish to chase a diamond jig, but it can be easy to catch a limit on live herring.”
While the striped bass population is keeping anglers happy, Mike has noticed a decrease in the amount of bluefish being seen and caught, a trend others have noticed too. While we have been spoiled for the past 25 years with consistently solid bluefish catches, history has shown that bluefish have literally disappeared for many years, before coming back in droves. In fact, for decade long periods in the 1860’s and 1920’s, nary a bluefish could be found anywhere.
“There seems to be a good population of blues, but I’ve seen a decline in the numbers over the past five years.” added Mike. “However, we still see many blitzes each season where you think the blues are everywhere. On board, we practice returning fish that cannot be used for the dinner table, whether it’s bass or blues. As the fall season develops, I expect we’ll probably catch more bass than blues. Certainly, by mid November, it’s all striped bass by that time”.
As the winds of December and winter advance, so does the fishing season for the LAZYBONES. After a season that usually sees about 400 fishing trips, the time is had for rest and gearing up for the next season.
“By the end of the fishing season in November, you realize the amount of time you’ve put into the business and it’s time to take a bit of rest, but I really don’t look forward to it,” said Mike. “After a while I start to get cabin fever and look forward to the start of flounder season. To kill the time, I’ll do some work on the boat and service and repair gear and tackle. Plus I’ll go out fishing for codfish if they are running. Actually, the four months between seasons goes pretty fast.”
Currently, Captain Mike and LAZYBONES are in the thick of bass and blues. While the boat operates on an open boat basis, sailing at 8 am (7 a.m. in July/August) and again at 1 pm, it’s wise to call Kathy ahead of time to reserve a spot, especially on weekends and holidays. The number is 631 668 5671. And as the slogan says; “Bring your lunch and catch your dinner”.