|Big Apple Angling|
Would you believe you can practice catch and release right in the middle of Manhattan?
By Capt. Ken Kreisler
Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to spend time aboard some pretty impressive multimillion-dollar battlewagons in search of big game. Yet some of my most treasured angling moments are the times I get to do some fishing in my own “backyard.”
What might surprise you is that my backyard happens to be the island of Manhattan, the place I’ve called home for most of my adult life. And while you may scoff at the idea of fishing its waters, we who live in The City take it quite seriously. Whether it’s along the East River that divides the city from Brooklyn, the Harlem River that’s Manhattan’s northern boundary, the Hudson River on the city’s west side, or at the Battery on the city’s southern tip, most any day you can see city folk with rods in the water waiting for tide-riding bluefish or striped bass.
Actually, the waters surrounding Manhattan once teemed with many species of fish. A hundred years ago Hudson River sturgeon were so thick that “one could walk across to New Jersey on their backs,” according to the history books. And there were oysters, too. In fact, Pearl Street, in lower Manhattan, got its name from the pearl merchants who use to lay their wares out in the street for jewelry buyers and the uptown wealthy to peruse. Those pearls came not from the Orient or the South Pacific but from the East River just off of South Street, where the South Street Seaport Museum stands today.
But with the city’s growth came industrialization and with that, pollution. However, the environmental movement of the 1970’s and 1980’s resulted in a cleaner Hudson River and Long Island Sound, which empties into the East River. And the fish returned. Today there’s a great striper and bluefish hole nearly in front of the Statue of Liberty, lobster have been found at the entrance to New York Harbor, right under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and private and charter boats regularly fish the waters of the upper Hudson, all the way up to Albany.
All these spots are special to me, but when I crave a true New York angling experience, I head for the city’s real fishing oasis, right in the heart of Manhattan: Central Park. There’s no place like it in the world, but fishing the park requires a little different take on things.
You could say the park was designed from the beginning for fishing—or at least for watersports. It was conceived, designed, and built by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux after winning the commission to do so in 1857. They transformed what were then swamps, bluffs, and rocky outcroppings into the magnificent 843-acre haven it is today. Besides featuring equestrian paths, two ice-skating rinks, and a model-sailboat racing pond, there are also three sizable lakes. Rowboat, at 22 acres, is the largest; Turtle Pond is the smallest; and in between, up at the northern reaches of the park, around 110th Street and Fifth Avenue, is the Harlem Meer. (Meer is the Dutch word for lake; Manhattan was originally a Dutch colony.)
Next page > Part 2: During the spring, summer, and early fall, the prime fishing action is at the Meer. > Page 1, 2, 3
This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.