2008-12-05 / Sports

Rockaway Outdoors/Tales From The Wheelhouse

By Captain Vinnie Calabro

Sometimes it seems like Mother Nature is helping the fish get a little break from the fishermen. The past week saw some wet, breezy, and often times unfishable conditions once again.

I didn't wet a line a couple of days which inadvertently leads to some philosophical conversations with Tony a.k.a. "The Hawk."

Somewhat nostalgic, he already began reminiscing about past falls when we had consistent big fish migrating close to shore or at least within the range of the surf casters and the small boat fleet.

From a bassin' perspective, the last few falls have been disappointing. To his anxiety, "The Hawk" even fast forwards to the spring. He can't wait for its arrival which brings with it the fishing we so enjoy. Still, at least we have the opportunity to fish and take in the day. Those thoughts crossed my mind as the salt air and breeze hit me Thanksgiving morning.

Once again as was so often the case this fall, birds dotted the sky which is a sign above what was to be below.

Around my deck, friends cast jigs, swimming plugs and a conglomeration of lures at the indiscriminating bass. Rods bent and the drag from reels spurted out as line left spools. Pristine bass and blues their colors ignited by the cold waters, were released to continue their migratory trek. I pulled the plug early this day understandably as turkey and football awaited us.

Often the ride home provides some relief from the mayhem of anglers catching fish. Around the cockpit, scrub brushes and wash down hoses erase the blood and gurry of the morning. Flip tops release exploding foam from an early "cold one" as the celebrations begin.

I'll be at the wheel and see the homes along Breezy, then Roxbury, up into the Rockaways and so on. I'll see the facades but can't really see into them. The cold ashen horizon masks the life inside. Just outlines of stucco and brick and occasionally a weathered black pine sprout up.

I can only imagine the tables being set, glasses usually left for special occasions being wiped with a dishtowel, plates with their festive markings, napkins being neatly folded, silverware set into place. None of this was revealed. Nor can I see the chairs, places around the table assigned by tradition, and to loved ones now filled with memories.

The aromas are too distant to fully appreciate; although now and then on this still morning, one escapes the kitchen and lingers with the tide. It stays hanging in the air, waiting to be inhaled and savored. That's what it lives for.

My nostrils recognize the smell and I smile. In a moment I am both happy and sad. I feel as if I am selfish enjoying this day as I think about those unfortunate people who for whatever reason aren't as privileged as me. Many sacrifice this day abroad by standing guard and vigilant so we can be whatever we want today. Across the wheelhouse Tony sits absorbing the moment.

And then I realize that the fall run wasn't so bad after all...

Blackfishing was pretty good over the past weekend. I stayed close to home fished the Rockaway Reef and picked away at some nice fish. Along the channels and down off Jersey, most of the fleet also had their fair share of "white chins."

Up front bassin' were okay. Schoolies and bluefish and the usual stars were doing their thing. Most of the boats out of the bay have made the transition to blackfish.

As the season evolves, hopefully some cod will also be landed. That fishery seems to be rebounding locally a bit, and with any luck, ling and whiting may be added. Ambrose Ridge and Scotland may be a good place to look.

Who knows? We may even get a shot at the mackerel.

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