There are fast ferries and the Chelsea Screamer and tugs moving barges and the fish are busting through it all focused and unfazed like everyone walking the grid in Midtown, and then you fool one and hold up your conquest on the Boga to alarmed tourists on the Circle Line. This is called fishing the city.
Some people catch their first striped bass by the Montauk Light or along the New England coast. I caught mine in the East River on the outgoing on October 3, 1998 on a sassy shad, and held it up for a photo opportunity against the backdrop of the World Trade Center.
We had a boat at 23rd Street and jumped in cabs dressed in Grundens and for about four years my world of saltwater fishing existed between the Verrazano and the Throgs Neck. The morning after the Yankees took the first game of the 2000 Series from the Mets in 12 innings, my brother and I fell into a drift pattern and I pulled up a bass over three feet long and life was good. I found out later the other boats in the drift were filled with disciples of the Reverend Sung Yung Moon.
On the slack tide there is no better way to see New York City than by boat. Up the East River past the hospitals and Gracie Mansion and into the Harlem River past the fishing pier and under the draw bridges and up to catch a glance of baseball’s Cathedral in the Bronx. Then running back down and hooking under the Triboro and through Hell’s Gate past the DEP boats and between the Two Brothers to watch the planes land at Laguardia or wave to the prisoners shooting hoops on the Rikers overflow barge.
Or head South past the haunted ruins of the Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island and the United Nations and under the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges and past the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and around Governor’s Island and into the shipyards and Gowanus Bay. Then over and across for a look at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and maybe there’s something to the birds working behind that Staten Island Ferry.
I loved to run flat out across from the marina and wander into the entrance of Newtown Creek, for the overwhelming but pleasing aroma of baked goods and that sensation confirmed by the signage, “Fink Means Good Bread.” That quickly dissipated, giving way to the smell of oxidation from the scrap metal yard with the large magnet moving remnants of cars into piles. The Pulaski Bridge served as the gateway into the bizarre industrial landscape of terminals and refineries but one time in there I swear I saw busting fish.
The New York Baking Company shut its doors in 2002 not long after I moved from the City and the Fink bread smell disappeared with it. Running into the East River dwindled to two or three trips a season or as a passage down to the south shore and better fishing opportunities. No time for Newtown Creek.
When the news comes that it’s now a Superfund Site you wonder how much of it splashed onto your skin and who the hell could have made those executive decisions to do that to water.