2003-09-05 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

By Elisa Hinken
On The Bayfront By Elisa Hinken

The "fall run" is about to start. For those who aren’t familiar with the fishing term, all hell breaks loose about this time of year. Fishing enthusiasts find all excuses not to go to work, yet they will leave their beds at 4 or 5 a.m. anyway to hit the shores and waters in search of those monster bluefish and giant stripers that are termed "cows". I personally set aside three weeks at the end of September/early October to jump in on the action. Most experts in the sport of fishing feel this will be one of the most productive seasons we’ve had in a while. We were lucky enough to have an outstanding spring migration. Then the fish went out to open waters. Now, slowly, they make their way back to the inlets and bays.

A few weeks ago, I took time to visit some of my fishing haunts. There is never a shortage of a group of fishermen hanging around, "chewing the fat". Among of topics we discuss are the summer sightings of tropical fish in the area. These fish follow the warm Gulf Stream waters from the southern part of the United States and the Caribbean, then seek warm, sheltered waters near the shores of our inlets and bays. My friend Larry, a SCUBA diver, likes to collect these tropical fish and bring them home to his tank. He has quite an assortment. Among my favorites are the Seahorses. They grow to an impressive size in his tank. He also captures Angelfish and Butterfly Fish. There are many varieties of Butterfly Fish. The four-eyed butterfly probably being the most common from New England to the Caribbean. Others include the spotfin, the banded and the reef butterfly. Many of these fish have a dark band running vertically through each eye. This is an aid for the fish being able to camouflage themselves on the coral reefs where they live. Most butterfly fish have pointed snouts, very useful for plucking out the small coral animals and getting into small crevices for tiny invertebrates which they feed on.

Another topic we touched upon is the increasing lack of fishing access. As every year passes, less and less access is available to the fishing enthusiast. Serious anglers have a hard time fishing on the shores of Rockaway. There are no public boat launching facilities on a peninsula of over seven miles of waterfront. The one facility that most people used on a regular basis is dilapidated and in danger of collapse. Although this launch ramp is located on public school property of Beach Channel High School, the public was allowed to utilize this spot. Now it is closed because it is dangerous. The school is home to the highly prized Oceanography Institute. Students who are accepted into the Institute are invited to attend a six week summer session the summer before entering the school. This affords the student an excellent opportunity to become accustomed to the school. Several days are spent out on the marshes using the school’s fleet of boats. I’d like to know how the school accesses the waterways now that the ramp is closed?

Perhaps some of the private mooring marinas located on Rockaway’s waters will take advantage of this opportunity by selling "permits". In Nassau County and most State parks, a permit can be purchased, allowing a vehicle with an attached trailer unload, upload and park while the boat is in use. I can’t see why this isn’t possible on a private basis as well. The marinas should take the time to advertise this type of service to the community. The resources used at marinas are minimal and transient at best.

My fishing friend Frank informed me there is no longer fishing access available at Riis Landing. For those who don’t know where Riis Landing is, it is the site of the former U.S. Coast Guard Station (building still standing). This site gives fishermen (I use the word ("fishermen" generically) the opportunity to access the southern part of Jamaica Bay, just west of the Marine Parkway Bridge. These waters are very clear. The Rockaway Inlet brings in a fresh supply of ocean water on a continuous basis, not to mention the fish that follow, who congregate in the sheltered waters and feed voraciously. There is a sharp drop off because of dredging, which creates "shelves". These shelves provide some of the best fluke habitat in the area. Water depths range from two feet to forty five feet toward the middle of the inlet.

Hearing this news troubled me quite a bit. It is one of my favorite spots for the fall run. We (we’re a fishing family) catch little snappers there, and then rig a live one to the pole that we use for bottom fishing, hoping to catch a doormat size fluke. That’s if a bluefish doesn’t feed on it on the way down. Also a great spot for cocktail sized bluefish, which are larger than the snapper size bluefish, but hasn’t reached the state where the meat is dark and "too fishy" to the taste. Their weight varies from two to four pounds. Lots of fun to catch. Most times we practice "catch and release" anyway. I mean, how much fish can a person eat and give away?

I decided to make it my mission to find out why access is being denied. Not only did I find out about Riis Landing being closed for fishing, but Shore Road in Fort Tilden is not accessible either! Policies are changing and I want to know why!

NEXT WEEK: My mission continues with an interview with the GNRA Manager for the Breezy Point Unit.


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