May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Fishing: You either like it or you hate it! Messing with worms or any kind of bait can be yucky for some people but can also be a great way to bond with a son, or even a daughter. I look at it from the food aspect, but then I learned to enjoy the sport of it. After the school day was over I would ride my bike to Sheepshead Bay, which is an inlet about a mile long with many piers for large fishing boats. The ships would leave in the early morning with passengers, and go out into the Atlantic for deep-sea fishing. Tuna, fluke, bluefish and other kinds of fish were caught there. When the ships returned in the late afternoon, the passengers would leave with their catch and the ship’s captain would sell his catch to passersby. They would clean the fish and scrape the scales for an extra fee. Crowds of people would gather to buy the fish because the prices were cheaper than in the stores and you knew it was all freshly caught.

When the ships were out at sea and the docks were empty, people would come to the bay and fish off of those piers. That’s where it all started for me. I would ride my bike to the end of a pier and stay and watch the people fishing. I saw how they cut the bait and baited the hooks and cast their lines way out into the bay. That was one way of fishing, but there was another way. You didn’t have to cast that far, maybe just 10 feet off of the pier, and you didn’t need a rod and reel because your line with a baited hook could be enough to fish with. I learned this by watching the people there. Sometimes I would ask questions if I thought the person was friendly.

One day I went into the tackle store at the bay to buy a hook and some line, and I was amazed at the array of paraphernalia in that store, just for fishing. I realized then that fishing was a complex sport that takes years of experience to master. I told the man, who I remember was really nice to me, that I wanted to catch a fish off the pier. He took time to tell me about the various hooks for each species of fish and explained what kind of bait to use for each species. He then handed me a couple of small hooks and some line, and a length of clear line. I think everything cost about 15 cents… Kindness such as that and taking time to teach a young kid about something he is interested in is always remembered with a warm, nostalgic feeling,

The line he gave me I rolled onto a stick and attached the clear line (called catgut) to the hook. I then went to buy some bait at the fish market, 25 cents worth, which was a lot of money for bait in those days! Now I had everything I needed. I rode my bike back across the street and found a nice quiet spot at the side of the pier. I cut the bait with my pocket knife and baited the hook, and let out some line and waited. I wanted to surprise my mother; I was hoping to catch some fish that had scales that I could bring home for Shabbat dinner. It didn’t take long when I felt a tug, so I pulled the line back and saw that the bait was gone and the hook was left for me to fill with bait again. This kept happening over and over, as if these fish were really smart! I was down to my last bit of bait, so this time I gently moved the line up and down creating movement to hopefully entice the fish, and it worked; I felt the line almost pull out of my hand. With much anticipation I slowly lifted the fish out of the water… A blowfish was on the end of my line. These fish have an unmistakable appearance and are not edible, or kosher, and when you tickle them on the belly, they blow up like a balloon. I knew exactly what it was because I had seen a man catch one and do just that.

I explained what I knew about the blowfish to a kid about my age who was watching me tickle it, but instead of giving this fish story a “magic tale” twist I just spoke the truth with great authority; it had the same effect. I could tell by the expression on the kid’s face.

 By David S. Weinstein

 

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