Dateline: May 10, 2013 – New York, New York
It’s the city that never sleeps. I’m the fisherman who never sleeps. It was a perfect match, and as it turns out, it was also the perfect place to rebuild my species-hunting confidence.
Central Park on a hot summer day. A great place, mostly because there is a pond.
The Empire State Building. Still one of the coolest buildings anywhere, and it seems just as tall as it did when I was seven.
I had been on a bit of a fishing tough streak, with only eight new species in April despite travel to four exotic destinations. Even the last time I was in New York, in November of 2012, I braved rotten seas and got nothing new.
On my November 2012 trip to NYC, I fished in crap like this all day, with nary a new species to show for it. The deckhand barfed.
I did catch a nice clearnose skate, which might have been a record, except idiot me forgot my certified scale.
Still, New York is a favorite destination of mine. The museums, the restaurants, and especially the theater. Yes, I, Steve Wozniak, the hockey player and apprehender of large sharks, enjoy Broadway. As a matter of fact, I have even appeared on a Broadway stage – picked out of the crowd during a Spamalot performance in 2006. I was up there for an entire song, and I got to take a bow, to a smattering of applause and rolled eyes from Marta. As I am a huge Monty Python fan, this remains one of the great moments of my life.
Taking a bow on a Broadway stage – there’s a bucket list item for you. No, your eyesight isn’t going – this is a scan of a Polaroid.
And to think Marta nearly took that seat and would have been the one to go on stage. I’m not sure I could have lived with that.
Marta and I also enjoy the food, although she tends to pick different (i.e. nicer) restaurants than I might.
Marta in front of her very favorite NY restaurant. Highly recommended. The restaurant I mean. The menu features endless gourmet choices.
This is my favorite restaurant in NYC; some of the best Polish soul food anywhere. You have two choices – boiled or fried.
This time, I was in New York on business – a rather nasty meeting with a customer who won’t be sending me a Christmas card. We finished up (or were tossed out, depending on how you look at it) around noon. My team went to one of Manhattan’s best delis for reubens that must have weighed two pounds, and then I was on my own until an early flight home. If you don’t know how I spent the next few hours, you must be a new reader. Welcome!
Manhattan has a lot of shoreline, but I wasn’t sure where fishing was legal (a concern) or where it would be good (a major concern.) This is where the kindness of strangers comes in to play. Manhattan has one bait and tackle store of note – Capitol Fishing Tackle – http://www.capitolfishing.com/ or call 212-929-6132. These guys are AWESOME. Once I had explained my bizarre needs to them, they huddled up and decided that the 72nd Street pier, on the upper west side, would be the best spot. They weren’t sure what I would catch. They were taken aback that I didn’t want striped bass, but they were sure I would get something small and weird.
So I stopped in to Capitol after lunch, got a tub of clams, and set out for the pier. It’s a short cab ride away from Times Square, and then a short walk through a park down to the water. It was a warm early summer day, and a lot of the locals were out in the sunshine. The pier has a restaurant and bar right at the base – Red Bull and a bathroom close by! (It’s advisable that you never have one without the other.)
The 72nd street pier. Highly recommended, wonderful views of the west side and New Jersey.
I set up about halfway down the pier, casting with the fairly strong current. Before I even got bait in the water, I was fascinated by the items that came floating by – cans, bottles, diapers (no baby attached,) a bunch of bananas, and proof that all that advertising about safe sex is working. I understand that the Hudson is a lot less polluted than it used to be, but it still has room for improvement.
Getting clams onto a hook is a nasty process, and there is no hope to keep yourself from smelling like an old bait cooler, even with a towel from the Marriott and a pint of hand sanitizer. But I embraced this. I had been accosted by some vile-smelling panhandlers in New York throughout the years, and this would be an excellent defense. People might even give me money.
I set up a rig with a hook right on the bottom and one a few feet up, and it didn’t take long for me to get a few hesitant taps. Moments later, I hooked and landed some small white perch, a creature I had captured previously but still great fun.
I then had a hard hit followed by the sickening feeling of a breakoff. I knew it had to be an eel, which pleased me, because I had never caught an American eel. I tied up a much heavier leader and prepared to put a hurting on whatever had just humiliated me. To misquote Bill Murray – “Let’s show this prehistoric fish how we do things downtown.” (It’s from Ghostbusters. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhmJmuxKLIA at :28)
Then came the magic minute. As soon as I dropped the new rig into the water, I got a small hit and a hookup immediately – I swung what I thought was another white perch onto the pier, and was thrilled to see it was something I didn’t recognize. A new species!! I quickly took photos and returned it to the water.
The spotted hake, species #1195.
I then cast again, a touch father, and in seconds, got a much bigger strike. I took me a moment to fight this one to the top, but when I saw it, I whooped for joy. It was an American eel. I swung it up over the rail, and in less than 60 seconds, I had added two new species to my list, for the cost of a cab ride and a tub of clams.
An American eel. I have tried to catch one of these for years.
I was back. Species could be added without spending the equivalent of Canada’s GDP! 2000 seemed possible again.
I gloated briefly, but then set back to fishing in case a third species was willing to visit. It was a pleasant afternoon in a city where I have had nothing but good memories, except for when the Stage Deli ran out of the good hot mustard and I had to put that plain yellow stuff on my reuben.
Despite what you see on television about New York, tourists are NOT routinely killed and eaten in broad daylight. As a matter of fact, the people walking on the pier were friendly and many stopped to chat, especially when I started catching fish. While there were no more new species, I spent the rest of the afternoon catching perch, small striped bass, and more eels, and discussing the early baseball season. Most folks I spoke to still had hope for the Yankees – I of course believe the Tigers will win the World Series each year.
The hallowed ground of Yankee Stadium. I am a rabid Tigers fan, but I still have to respect the Yankees. Except for Alex Rodriguez.
In order to make my theater time, I packed up around 5:30. Walking back to Times Square, I experienced New York on a pleasant day – a myriad of different cultures and something memorable seemingly on every corner. The clam smell may have made people think I was homeless, or, if I had a home, that the shower was broken, but the three dollars I collected could almost pay for a soda. I was back in the game.
PS – I’m throwing in this New York picture just because I can.
Marta acts shamefully, Times Square, September 2005. And no, that’s not me – I can’t play guitar. For those of you who don’t know about the “Naked Cowboy,” Google it.