The Striper Surf Club, Inc., established in June of 1951, is one of the oldest active organized surf fishing clubs in New York State. The Striper Surf Club was formed when several members of the Coney Island Rod & Gun Club of Brooklyn, NY broke away to specialize in surf fishing for Striped Bass. On December 20, 1965 the Striper Surf Club incorporated as a domestic not-for-profit organization. It is now known as Striper Surf Club, Inc.
2022 Striper Surf Club Officers
President: Rick Zappala
Vice President: John Schnauffer
Corresponding Secretary: Nicole Gaines
Recording Secretary, John Pfeifer
Treasurer, John Citarella
Sergeant at Arms, Joe Sapienza
The Striper Surf Club’s first President was Albert Freed (photo left). The club’s original meetings were held in the finished basement of Al Freed’s home in Seagate Coney Island for several years. The club’s Annual Dinner and Awards Night were held at the Carolina Restaurant in Coney Island, NY for many years. The club had spent much of their time fishing together at Breezy Point, Fort Tilden, Seagate Coney Island, Long Beach and Cape Cod Massachusetts. It was NOT uncommon back in those days to catch HUGE Striped Bass of 20, 30, 40, 50+ pounds! Unlike today, many of the fish back then were legally sold to the local fish markets and helped offset the expenses of the surf fisherman. We are fortunate to have several great photographs taken back then by Striper Surf Club Charter Member Paul Sussman. However, the guys spent most of their time fishing/catching a nap and fishing again rather than taking a lot of photos of their prized catches.
The “Carolina Restaurant” closed in the 1980’s
According to Striper Surf Club Charter Member, Al Bentsen (photo left) “After a while of catching many big fish it just didn’t warrant taking pictures over sleep. So we haven’t got that many pictures”.
Today it seems that everyone has a 4×4 SUV/ Beach Buggy, but during the 1950’s four wheel drive vehicles were difficult to come by, unless it was an Army Jeep. Dick Samms (photo right) drove on the beach in a 1920’s Model “A” Ford. According to Striper Surf Club Charter Member Frank Speyer, “We used 820-15 tires in those days, aired down to 12 lbs. and went chugging along, also aired up our tires by taking out a spark plug and screwing in a spark plug air compressor with a hose to our tires. Worked great, met Frank Daignault, lotta big fish in those days”. Frankie “Slaughterhouse” Frezza sold his jeep to Dick Samms for $100.00 before he was drafted. During a telephone conversation that took place on April 27, 2007 with club member Jim Coucoulas, 83 year-old Frank Frezza stated that he originally purchased the Model “A” for a mere $15.00. Mr. Frezza was born in 1922. He retired to the state of Colorado. Mr. Frezza passed away February 2020 at the age of 97.
Striper Surf Club Charter Member Chuck Leigh (photo left) remembers: “Dick Samms bought his Model “A” Ford from Striper Surf Club Charter Member Frankie “Slaughterhouse” Frezza, another old-time club member. There were a couple of Model A’s in the club then. They had 820/15 tires mounted on Chrysler rims, and the tires were deflated to about 8 lbs. pressure. You had to carry a shovel, because you often got stuck a few times a night. War surplus Jeeps with 4 wheel drive were hard to come by, and most guys couldn’t afford one anyway. Al Bentsen and I owned a surplus 1944 Jeep for a while in the late 50’s”.
Artie Handlin (photo right) was a throwback, even then said Charter Member Chuck Leigh. He fished with 9 thread (27 lb. test) linen line well into the 1950’s, long after everybody else was using braided nylon and other synthetic lines. Linen was a pain in the ass to use, it had to be washed and dried after every use in salt water. All the old timers had line driers, which the tackle shops sold or were home made.”
“It’s unfortunate that it’s impossible to convey the way it felt to fish in the old days, when you could fish all night and never see another fisherman. Many of the NY jetties hadn’t filled in the way they are today, it was safe to park anywhere, and the Cape beaches were totally open and unrestricted. In 1950, if you were going to walk the length of Breezy Point Jetty to fish the rip, you practically had to pack a lunch. Fishing the west end of Jones Beach at the inlet before Short Beach Jetty was built was possibly the most dangerous place on L.I. to fish. And during the early years of the Cold War, guys were getting busted by the M.P.’s in Fort Tilden…..some of those stories are hilarious.”
The Striper Surf Club members bought most of their tackle from “Moishe” of Moishe’s Tackle Shop (photos left) on the North side of Surf Avenue and W28th street in Coney Island. Moishe’s was a favorite hangout of the early Striper Surf Club guys. According to SSC Charter Member Chuck Leigh: “He was a great rod builder, and a terrific craftsman. We would give him specs and materials for items such as creepers, and he would produce a first class product. I still have things he made over 50 years ago. When I was a kid I bought Calcutta blanks from him because I couldn’t afford split bamboo. That was before fiberglass rods were used. In the mid 50’s, Moishe moved his shop to the south side of Surf Avenue, near West 23rd Street. He remained at that location until he passed away in the early 60’s”.
Frank Speyer’s Tuna Story (photo left) – “That 60lb tuna was history. Every morning at daybreak, as far as you can see the tuna would be splashing, chasing bait. Beautiful sight, well, I caught mine about 1000 yds. from the beach. We shoved this 10 ft. aluminum boat from the beach, trolled thru the school of splashing tuna with my 10 foot rod and squidder, WHAM!!, never saw line disappear so fast, my drag washers were burning up, had to race after the fish to gain line back, after 20 min. had it in the boat. I thought it was going to knock the boat to pieces. Now it was my buddies turn, raced thru the school again, WHAM!!, he had a larger fish on, dragged us way the hell out, couldn’t see the shore, wind and waves were picking up, sky turning black. Started to shit, all of a sudden the fish turned and headed toward the shore, well, since we weren’t that far from the beach, we decided to beach the boat, my buddy jumps out and is now playing the fish from the beach. Well, you can guess what happened. The fish changed direction and that was it. Incidentally, I got 10 cents a pound at the Provincetown Seafood packers. My wife to this day asks me why did I get married”. Frank Speyer
Check out our Photo Gallery “Back in the Day” for vintage photographs of our earlier years!
Our club and its members have won many awards over the years and were frequent competitors in the R.J. Schaefer Brewing Company Saltwater Fishing Contests. (Photo right)
Today our formal meetings take place at the Bellmore Engine Company 2 Firehouse, 2670 Bellmore Ave, Bellmore, NY 11710, approximately two times per month during the off season and once a month during the fishing season. We hold an annual awards dinner each spring and a collation in December. In 2002 the Striper Surf Club coordinated a beach clean up at Green Island, our first public service project. Again in 2003 we cleaned up the Green Island area and in 2004, thru 2012 we cleaned up the West End II Construction Dock site at Jones Beach.
Then there’s fishing! We hold club fish nights, and conduct an annual fishing contest in which we compete against each other for plaques, pins and certificates, as well as bragging rights! We also compete as a group, against other clubs, in the New York State Surf fishing Contest sponsored by The Fisherman