2008-03-21 / Sports

Rockaway Outdoors/Tales From The Wheelhouse

By Captain Vinnie Calabro

Bo the dog waits to head out to sea. Bo the dog waits to head out to sea. Anyone following the fishing scene knows Montauk is having some kind of codfish run. On the upside of last week's full moon, they caught ridiculous numbers of cod, quite a few jumbos at that. My friend Glen was out and had a great day - his biggest, twenty-six pounds. Block Island and points thereabout have been especially good.

So it seems like all the moaning from the past has been silenced for the time being. Cod fishermen are like Mets fans - they've been waiting a long time. It really is good to see the fishery recovering.

Some other little tidbits I'll pass along. Bunker schools were off Cape May, New Jersey last week, or so I've been told. Michael, another one of my friends, clued me in. I took a spin around our bay Friday, on the skiff. That's the twenty-six-foot back bay boat we use when fishing in skinny water.

With a 200 horse Honda she gets up and goes, covering ground real fast. It works great while up along the marsh banks when fly rodding or light tackle casting.

I was surprised the bay was pretty clean of flotsam, considering the time of year. Even though the surface water temperature was 44 degrees, it began to take on the color, although not quite fully, of spring, a cobalt blueish grey more on the grey side, but that'll change. For those interested across the pond in New Jersey, 47 degrees was relayed to me by Art, another friend. Forty-four degrees isn't all that bad for early March.

A little more than a month and the striped bass season opens. Still, it felt good to scoot up Woodhull Creek and check out the local scenery.

From the boat one could see some scattered stirrings in the boatyards, an occasional tarp coming off, dockbuilders getting some work in and an inquisitive stare from their dogs, not much barking just stares. Boatyard dogs, a spinoff of junkyard dogs, perhaps more elite in their waterfront residence, are a funny lot.

Anyone having been in marinas for any length of time has surely had encounters with them. They appear from nowhere, often after ingratiating themselves with yard workers or owners and casually set up residence.

Usually it takes a leftover sandwich as a peace offering which then escalates to a head scratch and if you're one of the lucky few, a belly rub. As these pooches establish tenure they even become part of the work force. Night watchmen become especially fond of them and at some of the boatyards in Rockaway, I've seen fairly comfortable "digs" built for them.

Throughout the season dogs are ever present on boats. Big dogs, little dogs, lap dogs - a veritable kennel club of hounds. Similar to their perches in cars, head out the window, most dogs will assume a position at the helm with ears flapping in the wind. The old expression, dogs reflect their owners, couldn't be truer, let me explain.

Let's start with social status. For example, Sea Ray an upscale plush boat, generally has the smaller lap dogs yorkies, occasional toy poodle, little white things dressed up in plaid jackets and so on. While on the other hand clam boats and hard core fisherman tend to have labs, labs of all types, black, yellow, chocolate occasionally a curly coat at the wheel.

These are macho seafaring dogs who often, without warning, disembark from their boats for no apparent reason. They jump off docks, off boats doesn't matter time of year they just go. The action is generally followed up with the dog shaking and wetting all close by.

Nemo was one such dog. Nemo, for those not familiar with him although I find that hard to believe, came out of Rockaway. He was part of Ronnie's crew and fished every day they did. He had celebrity status and was revered by most, fishermen and dogs alike. His swimming skills rivaled those of Johnny Weismeller. Nemo was a man's man. Beer bottle after bottle, he would retrieve with endless stamina; a helluva dog.

And with Ronnie's crew beer bottles were never ending. I have a Golden, the golden from hell his name is Bo.

The dog loves working the deck greeting the customers, directing us to the grounds; whatever task a good deck hand is required to do he's there. His only drawback is the fact that he is a degenerate thief. After stowing the customers' bags away, Bo will disappear.

Sometime in the future, give or take ten minutes, Bo reappears. It usually coincides with the customers conversing about lunch and what gastronomic feast they have in store for themselves. The jovial chatter ends abruptly as Bo and the customers stare at one another. Bo has a stick of pepperoni or the remains of some crusty bread in his mouth. Without food the customers are now forced to eat my lunch. Ha that's a good one.

My meal is wet pretzels, a bag remaining from yesterday's trip or half a protein bar. Depending on the season it may be infused with a maggot or two. Fusion type foods are big on my boat and why not. The larceny happens every time, to the point where Bo is now limited to crew trips.

His one good point is the fact that he is a good luck charm of sorts.

On more than one occasion he has been aboard for some stellar catches. Being the superstitious type and equating Bo's presence with good luck, we decided to invest in some, well, good luck gear. Scanning the local novelty stores we purchase a stuffed kid's toy resembling Bo. Sort of like a Bo in abstencia.

It actually worked enabling us to continue our good catch streak. There he sat, tie strapped to the wheelhouse roof. Weathering storms and to become, well, a salty dog. But one morning our luck seemed to have run out, or did it? Well one of our sibling rivals seemed to be doing us lovely. Gloatingly he hooked fish after fish. Adding to his delight was the fact that he was in eyesight of me.

Finally he paused, bent down without warning and flaunted the stuffed Bo in front of me. Cackling with a sinister glare he taunted me and my crew. He threw his boat in gear and sped down Woodhull Creek. My legs buckled, Mojo or should I say Bojoless. I was devastated. Honestly I don't think I've recovered from the day. Is nothing sacred anymore? Well now that you have had your pre-season dog primer, you're almost ready to catch a few.

Until the next tide.............

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