Columns

Richard’s Almanac: Fish story

I think that the waning of the coronavirus threat coupled with some spectacular weather is creating a sense of good feelings that have not been present for the past couple of months.

I’ve been continuing with projects, but have also been out and about more — with a mask, of course. I covered a story for the Reporter about all the people at Bootleggers Alley and learned that they were all fishing for porgies, which are running now.

I have not eaten a porgy in many years, but remember them as very bony fish that tasted O.K. I caught my first one when I was about 10. I’d gone fishing off one of the piers at Sheepshead Bay with my friend George. It was the end of June, as I recall, because school had just finished.

We rode our bicycles there and first went to one of the many bait shops on the street across from the bay. The man at the shop said that blood worms work best, so we paid a quarter for a dozen worms. They were really ugly and full of blood. But the fish were supposed to love the taste. The worms could also bite so we had to be careful handling them.

We had fishing poles with wind-up reels. I never got the knack of using a spinning reel. It took a while to bait the hook properly with the blood worm so it wouldn’t escape. Then I threw it out a bit with the aid of a 2-ounce sinker and waited while it sank to the muddy and debris-filled bottom.

I remember thinking I had something that turned out to be an oil can. Another catch was a muddy old sneaker.

The bait was gone each time. Then it happened. A hit and a fight. I landed a porgy and then George got one. Those blood worms were paying off.

We took a break and went across to one of the food stores and bought hot dogs and Cokes. I remember the hot dogs being a dime apiece and the Cokes a nickel. Lunch cost as much as the bait.

The fishing after our snacks yielded two more porgies and an eel. I had never seen an eel before so I threw it back. I found out later that they are edible and quite tasty.

When we returned to my house, my mother took a photo of George and me with the porgies. When I asked about eating them, she made it very clear that nothing caught in Sheepshead Bay was going to be cooked in her kitchen.

So the cat had a feast. And the remaining bloodworms were wrapped in foil and placed in the fridge to keep safe until my next outing looking for flounder. I was successful catching flounder, too.

I should also mention that an added benefit of fishing at Sheepshead Bay was being there around 4 p.m. when the fishing boats came in. They were always loaded with the catch of the day. If I didn’t catch anything, a sympathetic captain might throw one or two my way.

I was reminded of that porgy day of 65 years ago when I was going through old photographs that my mother had stored away.

And there it was — George and me proudly holding the porgies.