Hooking up

Manhattan is an island, remember? Here are snapshots from five of the city's best fishing holes. Catch 'em if you can.

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Battery Park City, Pier A

Battery Park City

During the day, Pier A is overrun with street vendors and tourists snapping pictures of the park’s mini Statute of Liberty. By dusk, the gawkers have cleared out and the fishermen move in.

Eddie Morales drives to BPC from the Bronx with his buddies so often that he has a delivery deal worked out with nearby Water Street Gourmet. It’s one of the best fishing spots, he says, because both rivers converge into a salty, fertile hot spot. Morales and pals regularly pull all-nighters, watching for cops (it’s illegal to hang here after 1am).

The evening we visit, they’ve brown-bagged sandwiches. Morales has also brought along his 11-year-old son, Matthew, who is already skilled in casting and gutting. “I don’t want him out in clubs, drinking,” says the cautious father. ”Besides, there’s girls here fishing too.”

He’s teaching his son patience, but also enjoys goofing around—especially after a week of working nights as a steel grinder in New Jersey. “We just talk, joke around, lower people’s self-esteem,” he says. “We enjoy the view, the weather—it’s like therapy.”

Pier I, Riverside Park
South at 70th Street

Pier I

There’s a carnival on the pier today, and a crowd on the strip of cement jutting into the Hudson. Then there’s Len Zimmerman, marketing consultant by weekday, angler extraordinaire by weekend. He’s casting off the end of the pier—which has attracted folks since at least the 1800s, with its plentiful bass. He’s been fishing here for the past six years and is busy fielding onlookers’ questions: about the tides (he carries a chart in his pocket), how many fish he’s caught today (three snappers, one ling) or how the bloodworms taste (“Sorry, kid, never tried one”).

As the crowd grows and the cameras come out, Zimmerman reels in the line and recasts. “I want to get you a fish!” he chants. There’s the familiar jiggle of the line and he pulls out a wriggler from the river. “Make that four snappers, kid.”

Riverbank State Park at 155th Street

Riverbank State Park

A mildewed two-by-four stretched across a wastebasket serves as a cutting board for the shrimp and bunker bait. Another board wedged between two rocks doubles as a bench. Three rods stand at skewed angles, while the three men they belong to stand nearby and talk in Spanish.

Fausto Cabrero, Frank Bautista and Jose Rodriguez are all from the Dominican Republic and live in Washington Heights, but met at this spot. Despite the fact that the park’s built on a sewage treatment facility, it attracts fluke, blackfish and blue crab, depending on the tide.

Rodriguez works as a tailor down on 133rd Street and rode his fold-up bicycle to this secluded spot (which also features kids playing b-ball) after work. Cabrero is unemployed for now, and is trying to make use of his newly found free time: “I don’t want to stay home and just do nothing but watch TV.”

Stuyvesant Cove

Stuyvesant Cove

None of his fellow soldiers believed he could catch anything at Governors Island, back when they were stationed there following the September 11 attacks, but Sgt. Efrain Diaz proved them wrong. And it’s that determination that keeps him fishing Stuyvesant almost daily. The bases of old piers, since torn down, attract fish, along with crabs and clams. The morning we meet, it’s pouring and Diaz is casting his line while wearing rain gear.“There’s not nothing in this world—not even a war—gonna take me away from fishing,” says the retired soldier, who now lives on Avenue C and works in antiques promotion (after 23 years in the infantry). Today, Diaz is catching fluke and snapper along this brick-lined cove, although he can tell that bluefish are nearby. How? There are seagulls diving for scraps of bunker fish that the blues have torn apart.

107th Street Pier

107th Street Pier

Rods line the side of the cement pier, and old Spanish men sit on the edge of the pavilion, tapping along to salsa on a portable radio and passing around a tequila bottle wrapped in a paper bag. But down on the end stands Francisco Rodriguez, a family man, fishing alone. Normally he’d be talking with his wife, Maggie, while waiting for the bells tied to his rod to jingle, but she’s occupied on the pavilion with their daughter-in-law.

He’s after blue crabs, which he will take home and eat. He eats his catch about three times a week.

“She cooks rice and beans, I cook the fish,” he says, motioning toward his wife.

The day’s catch can be anything from striped bass to bluefish and snappers, sometimes even eels and snapping turtles. Maggie’s favorite, next to blues and stripers, however, doesn’t come from the pier. She prefers the sharks she catches off charter boats in Sheepshead Bay.

“This one time, my whole bathtub was filled with sharks,” she says.Lucky for her, Francisco does the cleaning, too.

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