Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blue Heron gobbles down a gopher

In Pursuit of Bluefish on Venerable Party Boat -

In Pursuit of Bluefish on Venerable Party Boat -

by Peter Kaminsky

After a few days of compulsively checking the often reliable website, I found that the fish stories had reached enough critical mass to carry a ring of truth. (First unbreakable rule of fishing: Never believe just one report.)
I booked a spot on the Flamingo III, one of the most venerable of the open-to-all-comers party boats that remain from the dozens of vessels that once sailed from nearby Sheepshead Bay to the inshore fishing grounds.
“Do I need my rubber boots?” I asked the skipper, Bob Wiegand. Captain Bob regarded my Top-Siders the way an artillery officer might size up a BB gun. “It can get pretty bloody,” he said. “I’d wear them.” Most of my fellow anglers wore boots and rubberized overalls, a sensible outfit for a visit to an abattoir and equally suitable to the landing and filleting of big bluefish.
Bob is the third generation of his family to ply our local waters. His son and first mate, Rob, sails with him. I learned in a subsequent phone call with the paterfamilias, Walter, that their family business had grown out of necessity.
“I was 10 or 11 — height of the Depression,” he recalled in the working-class accent of old-time Yorkville (think Whitey Ford and Jimmy Cagney, who hailed from that neighborhood). “Times were tough. My dad would hang out in the bars chatting up the patrons. He’d offer to drive then down to Brielle, N.J., in a secondhand funeral limo he had picked up cheaply. For a few bucks, a charter captain would take the passengers fishing, along with my dad, who got a cut of the fare and also fished for free. He’d sell his catch to restaurants.”
As he told his story, it occurred to me that if I were sitting in a bar at 2 a.m., and a stranger offered to drive me to the Jersey Shore in a funeral vehicle, I might have begged off.
The fisherfolk that morning were the typical party boat potpourri, including a retired corrections officer, two machinists, a Verizon executive, two firefighters, a fine arts photographer, and a smattering of sons and daughters, some of them eager to fish and others quite obviously coerced into quality bonding time with Dad. We made our way across Jamaica Bay to Breezy Point, where, on a moving tide, predators often lie in wait for struggling baitfish. But Breezy was becalmed, so we motored farther east, just off the surfing beaches of the newly hip Rockaways.

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