"In the summer, we share all the nice things we have to offer,'' Rick said, piloting his 23-foot Mako toward Great Egg Harbor Inlet, where we would fish for striped bass. "Now it's like we have it back for our own. It's our island now.''

Small wonder. A damp wind pricked at my face, gnawing right through my Michelin Man layers of clothing. Rick didn't appear to feel the cold, but he did appreciate the absurdity of our situation.

"Pretty strange,'' he said. "We're dressed for snow, and we're going fishing.''

No doubt this would eliminate all the dilettantes, leaving us to fish alone.

"You'd be surprised,'' said Rick. "Look behind us.''

A conga line of boats followed us, eight altogether. The inlet looked like a briny version of the Oklahoma gold rush.

"Fishing can be really good in winter," said Rick.

We did find some solitude, too. One afternoon we went kayaking in a stiff wind that blew the tops of the waves back in rainbow plumes. Another evening we yanked on neoprene boots, gloves, hoods, and wet suits, hopped on our surfboards, and rode the empty waves.

It was cold, and it was joy. We shot across the unfurling waves, hooting and shouting. Overhead a string of geese beat their way south beneath an orange flare of sky. Briefly, before grabbing another wave, I wondered why.

summer fun, winter-style
fishing: to cast a line on a fishing charter, try north star party boat (609-399-7588) in ocean city, new jersey.

surfing and kayaking: winter bestows the east coast's largest waves, but 40-degree water demands some experience. in ocean city, new jersey, you can find shops that will rent you a board (surfers supplies, 609-399-8399) or a kayak (bay cats, 609-391-7960), though you may have to supply your own dry or wet suit (5 millimeter, bare minimum).