Thursday, August 14, 2008

Expect the Expected And Nothing More

Fortunately, I have rarely been skunked fishing out of Prospect Park. For those who may not be familiar with this type of terminology, "skunked" means to go fishing and catch no fish. Even when I first started out, this was not a problem. Now, it may have taken me two hours to catch a very tiny bass or fish of some sort, but I always walked away with a good time. I learned to expect what is expected. Early this morning around six o'clock I get this phone call from my cousin who lives about ten minutes away. He decided that he wanted to take his girlfriend for her first fishing experience and wanted to know if he could borrow some extra gear for the excursion. Being the fishing enthusiast that I am, I wiped the sleep from my eyes and jumped out of my warm bed to shuffle through my things. He told me that he wanted to target bass in Prospect Park, and really that he just wanted to walk and talk with her in the morning and had no expectations for catching.

As I found my extra poles and pulled out an extra pack of worms, this stuck with me. What should NYC fisherman expect from a day on the lake? I can tell you that I've come to expect at least one fish, but is that to be expected knowing how finecky fish could be at times? I thought again while I found a new pack of hooks and I paused. Without a doubt I know that I can always find beautiful scenery and a chance to think as I fish. And if I'm with a friend, I can find a good time to talk and share. It seems my cousin and his girlfriend were in for a treat today. Even if they don't catch any bass, I know that they will be content because they will have met their expectations of shared time on a beautiful lake.

Tight Lines
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Quiet Approach

I remember the lisp of Elmer Fudd contorting "SHHH" right before the "I'm hunting rabbits" part and that's about all I know of hunting. My recent experience fishing in the Prospect Park has taught me, though, an even more important truth about hunting: whether you are in search of deer or fish, these animals have developed a keen sense for their predators which are not lions or beers in big cities, but us. Therefore, I have developed six rules for how to catch Large Mouths in highly pressured areas.
Rule #1 If there are people fishing around you, go to another fishing spot. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you will never be able to control the actions of those fishing around you. You can only control you. Other people will ruin all of the rest of the rules for you.
Rule #2 Fish may not have ears like me or you, but they can hear. I have been on my cell phone talking away and marched right up to the lakeside only to see 3 and 4 pounders swimming away. On the other hand, I have quietly casted my line 20 feet or farther from the shore behind a tree and hooked bass right where I usually walk. In fact, I even watched a frog hop after my worm as I was retrieving it, and swallow my bait.
Rule #3 Do not wear really bright colors. If you can see them, chances are that they can see you.
Rule #4 Tread lightly. I was quietly fishing the other day and was casting a swirl I saw underneath a low hanging tree branch when three fellow anglers stomped their way up to me. I actually saw the fish that I was hunting turn towards my bigfooted friends and swim away.
Rule #5 Soft Casts. Sometimes you should make a splash to attract fish, but most times a smooth splashless entry of your bait into the water is more agreeable.
And finally, Rule #6 Have Patience. This type of shore fishing is slow and tedious, but should provide results. I watched a loud mouthed man curse everything including himself one day at the lake. As soon as he left, I saw two big bass swim to the shore line where he was standing. Both the fish and I were glad that he was gone.
Tight Lines
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

There is nothing more fun for a first time fisherman than actually catching fish. Sure, the actually experience of holding a rod and dangling a hook is new, and thus, exciting, but how long does this captivation last. Well I’ll tell you; your child, girlfriend or wife will smile just about as long as it takes for that first bead of sweat to trickle down their face. They won’t last long. The best way to combat this problem is to target a species of fish that is easy to catch and a lot of fun to land.

In Prospect Park, Brooklyn NY, this fish is a sunny or any of his cousins. They are located along just about any shore line. Prospect Park, for better or worse, boasts a million of them, and pound for pound, they are one of the strongest fighters you’ll encounter. So what do you need to catch them? Any starter rod and reel combo tackle will suffice. If you have more than one type of set-up, always err on the side of less as these fish rarely reach the 1 pound mark in Prospect Park’s waters. Here are a few websites that provide great information on fishing for sunnies at lakes in general:


I will provide a few tips that have worked for me at Prospect Park. First, try to use a #10 hook. This is a very small hook that can fit in the mouth of any sized sunfish and will provide a lot of opportunities to catch. These hooks, more than likely, will come already tied to a piece of monofilament seeing how the eye is small and hard to tie onto. Simply, attach you line from your set up with a basic fishing knot to the rigged hook. (See fishing knots on 7/23 post) For bait, there are plenty of options. Most people use bread or small pieces of dough. They both work just fine, but you can opt for a live worm or grub as well. The live worm will wiggle in the water and disperse a more natural scent, but it has been my experience that these fish bite bits of anything just as good. Don’t forget to attach a small bobber about 6-12 inches up from your hook. The placement of the bobber will also depend on how shallow the water is. You would want your hook and bait to rest about two inches above the lake floor.

When I first started fishing, I came to the park and had my same set-up, a starter rod and reel combo that I had used for bass primarily. I went to the tackle store and asked for sunfish hooks and bait and the gentleman gave me $30 dollars worth of equipment. I didn’t need it. I walked the shore line for an optimal place to fish for these shallow water critters and came across an older gentleman with a very simple rod. He had no reel. It was an old fashioned cane pole with no eyes along it except for at the very top. Attached to that singular eye was a piece of light fishing line about double the length of his 7 foot pole. He also did not have a popper, just an old white Styrofoam cup. I watched him pull his line to his free hand, tear a piece of Styrofoam from the cup and place the small white dot on the tip of his hook, and that was it. He pulled up fish after fish. I caught, but not like he did. He looked at me and laughed a hoarse nasal “who sold you that crap.” I kept quiet and smiled. He must have mistaken my silence for irritation because he offered to me the secret of his technique. He said “My friend. I was jus joshin wit ya. Listen to me. It’s all about the free fall. Nothing else matters.” And you know he was right.

What makes Prospect Park Lake different from any other lake in the world is that it is located in NYC and it is used by many people. There may not be many fishermen, but there are tons of visitors. And what do these visitors love to do? They love to feed the ducks, swans and pigeons. And they feed them tons of bread nonetheless. Whatever pieces of bread the birds do not eat, the fish find. It seems that these sunfish around the park have been trained to react to the falling of white objects from above. It is an easy meal for them, and as a result, it is an easy catch for us.
Next, I noticed that this older man fished areas that people feed birds at. And now so do I. This is not to suggest that you can’t catch sunnies anywhere else. Just look for small disc shaped craters in the lake floor. Sunnies spawn in these craters all summer so you will always find fish around and in them. Have fun and remember that it’s all about the free fall.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Why Fish NYC?

It certainly is not for the recognition. Most spectators think I’m daft. As I walk around the lake with a rod and reel in hand, I constantly draw the same questions from park goers: “What are you going to do with that stuff?” as if my rod and reel are just as out of place near a city lake as walking around with a pair of skis in hand. I’m going fishing, and not just me. Everyday men and woman alike, from all walks of life, flock to the shorelines of this city’s finest parks in search of what I believe Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, had in mind when they successfully built both Central and Prospect Park.

Escape. Yes, fishing may be a form of escapism. Walk the archways of Olmsted and Vaux, and immediately you are in another world. It is possible in Prospect Park, Brooklyn NY, to enter the Grand Army Plaza entrance, walk for five minutes and find yourself in a setting that has few reminders of the bustling civilization on the outside. Walk to one of Central Park’s lakes and realize that other beings inhabit the space of the city as well, and they swim where they are not supposed to be. Through fishing we can experience the unexpected, we can discover our own treasure and we can return to it, for free, again and again.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

With the Right Tools, Fear Is Not a Factor

I have a confession to make. The touch of a wiggling fish against my thumb or any digit of my hand used to creep me out. Don’t get me wrong; I landed them, but in the past you would have caught me on any given day holding a taunt line staring down at an acrobatic fish doing better somersaults than any circus de soleil performer I had ever seen. It just took me a bit more time to remove the hook. However, when I watched Roland Martin or Bill Dance, who have to be 50+, boldly “lip” a Large Mouth bass just as easily as my grandmother would pinch my cheeks, something within me would awaken. After watching these seasoned veterans of the sport gracefully handle fish, I would hear a voice from inside say “You can do it!” Fast forward a couple years to the present, and I realize that I can. It just takes the right tool. A main tool of my fishing gear is a “fish lipper”. It is a great way to not only avoid touching a game fish directly (if you have issues like me), but this lipper also protects the fish as well.

As I recently discovered, bass and other fish have a protective slimy coat that protects them in the water from bacteria and other potentially harmful organisms. If handled incorrectly, this coat could be removed, which could bring danger to the fish. Now, this would be no problem if you were keeping the fish, but if you plan on fishing any of the NYC public lakes, be advised that the lakes enforce a strict catch and release policy. A lipper comes in very handy.

Another tool that no fisherman should go without is a reliable pair of pliers. These serve as line cutters, hook removers and bait augmenters on every occasion. Fishing without this tool can be very irritating. If you thought I had a problem lipping a Large Mouth, imagine me trying to remove a hook from that fish’s mouth while lipping it. It’s not a pretty site.

There are many tools on the market for aspiring fisherman. Some are necessary while others are not. If you plan on fishing NYC lakes, I recommend a good lipper and pliers; they will save you time and discomfort.

Tight Lines!

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Casting the Shade: Fishing Techniques for Enticing Bass in Cover

If casting is an art form, I am the equivalent of a giggling five year old stabbing my fingers into paint. I suck. And I play at it. It was not until I walked the shore of Prospect Park Lake that I realized the beauty in the arc of fishing line being swung at its limit or appreciated the silent whipping sound of fishing line cutting through air on the way to its target. Standing there, spell bound, I watched these great fishermen constantly recreate these works of art, and I realized that great casting is not simply how far you can throw, but it is something much more personal. Okay. I have my lure of choice, which is in this case a Senko plastic worm. It is rigged Texas style (see 7/20 post), and I have found a perfect target for this sunny and hot day, the shade. All I have left to do is cast to the spot, right? Wrong, there are many different ways to cast your lure. There is the overhead cast, the side cast, the underhand cast and the skip cast just to name a few, and the World Wide Web is filled with many well written tutorials to help you learn them.

However, as an avid surfer of fishing techniques on the web, I would like to suggest to you that knowing how to execute these casts is way different then mastering them, and no other target area, in my opinion, demonstrates this than shade and cover.

Cover may be any type of organic or inorganic structure that provides shade and security slightly above or in the water, and the best lakes have plenty and different types when it comes to bass fishing. Take the two pictures in the article. They are but two different types of the many different structure areas found in Prospect Park Lake in Brooklyn, NY.

Now let’s analyze the picture on the right. I uncovered this nice shady area around 3:30 pm on a very sunny and sultry day. I approached the shore quietly, checked my worm to see if the hook was hidden and I executed a side cast to the very tip of the shade, and I was happy. Or at least I was happy until the 25th time when I once again did not feel the nibble of a bass. I moved on.

An hour later I came back to the same shore line, and I encountered another gentleman there. He was older and more quiet then his young counterparts in the park who are eager to question “have you caught any?” a million times. He simply smiled and with one motion retrieved his snaking fishing line and lure to his hand out of the water and skip cast his bait with just enough angle and bounce that it dug deep beneath a hanging fan of weeds to the real shade. And I would have been more surprised, but I was still trying to figure out how he was able to muster such a swing, and whip of his line without taking a chunk of my face with it. I was that close. He sighed, waited and repeated the procedure again. I just enjoyed it; he seemed to enjoy the cast himself. He must have cast a million times to perfect that swing and control. Somewhere around the third cast his line zigged and then zagged, and he brought in a nice two pounder, and we both continued to smile.

First, I’ve since read up on techniques about skip casting and realized that there are variations to anything taught, and secondly, I’ve learned to become a more patient and observant caster, taking pride in the procedure and process and not just the fighting of a fish as a reward.

Tight Lines

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Looking for the Bite: A Common Sense Approach to Locating Large Mouths

This past weekend the local fishing lake hosted an annual fishing contest for children to the age of sixteen. It’s called the Macy’s Annual Fishing Contest and it takes place every year mid July. I and every fisherman I know try to avoid Prospect Park lake during this time every year. Our common sense tells us to avoid the crowd. Where there are more fishing poles there will be less of a chance to hook into that dream fish. Well as I accidentally learned this past Saturday, fish take this commonsense approach to seeking comfort as well.
Stressed by the monotonous chores a Saturday morning could bring to any house hold, I decided to seek refuge on the shores of Prospect Park with my trusty fishing pole. I must have been really irritated and frustrated at home because when I arrived at the lake it was 10:00 am, the sun was beating almost every piece of shore line in view and the Macy’s Annual Fishing Contest attendees and their children were running around with bamboo poles. I came on, potentially, the worse day of the year, so without even dropping my line I decided to walk around the park. I saw the crowd by the boat house on the lake and went the other way. There was too much noise. I walked a little farther in the park and saw several spots to fish along the shore line that were empty, some with shade and others with out. Which of these areas do you think I chose? The sun was mighty that day and even with my hat and shades on I was still beading sweat. I chose the shade and not just any. I sought the darkest shade nearest the shore that was closest to the park’s exit point just in case those noisy kids decided to leave their party.

I walked under a very low hanging tree that I had to bow down to squeeze into and even bumped my head loudly upon a branch. The branch shook, and some small branches and tree trash fell into the lake. I didn’t think anything of it, but when I looked directly in front of me in the water I saw a very big bass swimming away. I was amazed, and I realized two very important lessons about shore fishing for bass. Firstly, quietly approach the area you plan on fishing, and lastly and most important, seek the common sense approach to locating large mouths. If the sun is very bright, and beaming thereby creating a hell like situation, what would you do? I would seek shade to cool off, and so do large mouth bass. If you are seeking relaxation, a place to cool off, would you seek noise and excitement? Neither would I. I would try to find the quietest place I could that had a great exit route. I bumped into that tree next to a piece of shore that had shallow water that quickly ran into deeper waters in a wider part of the lake. The bass had an exit point.

Of course as the weather and setting changes for the fisherman, the same situations change for the bass, so we would have to change our common sense approach to locating the fish for the changing scenario. However, on that day before I left I targeted really shady areas, under hanging trees, underneath lily pads, and even inside of bushes that half grew in the water, and as a result I picked up several bass by using this common sense approach to fishing. I also picked up my gear and left at 12:30 pm because my common sense told me that it was getting way too hot for my comfort level even in the shade, but I had a great time, and I’m sure the fish were still there in the cover cooling off when I left.
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Set Up For Prospect Park Largemouths!

Maybe you already have your fishing equipment or maybe you just hopped off the train with a large pole and an even larger smile. Whatever the case may be. The proper set-up of your new equipment will translate to catching fish at Prospect Park, Central Park or any other NYC lake because the fish are definitely in there waiting. In the following post we will review a basic rod and reel, fishing line and rigging set-up that will have you wrestling with a NYC large mouth in no time.

A great way to begin this easy process is to know the basic parts of your new rod and reel. The image on the right is labeled to show the basic parts of your equipment.
1. The fishing rod may be one piece or two pieces and carries the weight of the fish and tackle during fishing.

2. The fishing reel (the right image shows a spinning reel) houses the fishing line and allows the angler (fisherman) to reel the fish in to the shore or to cast the line out.

3. The rod eyes are located along the fishing rod and serve as line holders and guides which in turn distribute the weight of the rod equally.

4. The reel bale looks like a "metal u" and surrounds the fishing spool. When pulled vertically open, the fishing line is allowed to freely come off the fishing spool. We cast (the action by which an angler throws, skips or places a bait or lure) with the reel bale always open. The bale is closed and will not allow line to freely come the spool when the "metal u" is horizontal.

5. The fishing spool holds the line on the reel.

Set Up Procedure:

a. If you rod has two pieces connect them while making sure that all the rod eyes are aligned.

b. If your reel is not already attached to your rod, place your reel into the appropriate area found at the bottom of your rod. This place is called the reel harness. You may have to loosen the screws to make the reel fit snugly. You must tighten the screws once the reel is in place to secure the reel to your rod. You never know what you may pull up from the lake and the last thing you need is for your reel to slide out of place.
c. Now, we must place the fishing line on the spool. (If your fishing line is already on the spool, you are set for now, but still pay attention as you will eventually have to replace and restring your spool one day.) For this procedure you will need a small bucket or empty boll of water and of course your string and reel and rod.

1. Your fishing line will more than likely come on a circle of some sort. Find the loose end of your line, open your reel bale and attach the line to your spool. I use a basic double knot; other people may use clinch not as demonstrated at
No matter what you use, make sure that your line is knotted tightly to the inside of the spool. This will allow for the line to not spin while you are winding it on.

2. Once you have a tight not, drop the rest of the line into a bucket of water. Close the bale. Place the bottom of the rod between your knees or thighs. Allow one hand to loosely guide the string that's coming out of the bucket while the other hand reels (winds the cranks). Fill the spool to about a little more than half the capacity of the spool. Overfilling leads to alot of tangles when you are first learning.

3. Cut the line from the water when you feel that you have enough on your spool. Open your bale. Take the new loose end and thread it through the eyes of your rod. Once you through the last eye on the tip of your rod, pull and additional foot and a half of string through. We will use this extra line to tie the hook on.

4. Now there are many ways to tie your fishing line to your hook, and there are many websites that provide tutorials on how to tie this knot. I especially am fond of Grog's animated Fishing Knots because you can slowdown or speed up the learning process. Try the uni knot. It works well with all types of lines and lure. If you are having problems loading the animated page try these other fine sites:

5. Okay, take a breather. We are almost set to hop on the bike or bus to Central park. There is just one more thing. We must rig the hook to the bait. Our hook should be a wide gap worm hook and we will be fishing with fake worms. You should know that there are many different ways to rig a plastic worm. This post will focus of one that is a little more difficult to learn but will save you headaches in the long run. We will be rigging our plastic worm to be weedless. In many NYC lakes that hold trash or other objects on the bottom of the lake, a weedless worm will not get snagged or caught much in the water because the hook will be buried in the worm itself. The following websites can explain this way better than I could, and I suggest that you check them out. Remember though, you do not need any additional equipment than what you have right now. Some sites will call for a "bullet weight" or a specialized screw hook. For now you don't need them. I caught the above bass using just a Texas rigged worm, and you can do the same. Here are the websites:

6. And now we are done. You are set up for not only Prospect Park fishing in NYC but anywhere else, and remember as you fish from the shore that the fish are there waiting.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Large Mouth Bass @Prospect Park Using Starter Equipment

It's really easier than you think to get started. My first experience freshwater fishing came five years ago at Prospect Park in Brooklyn NY. It is one of the many public parks within the city that allows fishing. Now, I've fished extensively in saltwater, that is, ocean fishing from the beach, docks or boats with my father since I was born, but I had never attempted freshwater fishing, and never thought to attempt a public freshwater lake at that. It seemed unrealistic and impossible to catch fish so close to home when I used to drive so far to the ocean and travel into other states by boat to feel the tug of a fish on the end of my line. It didn't add up to me. Long rides meant fish. I don't know whether it was boredom or curiosity that prompted me, but one summer day I took a saltwater rod, reel, pair of hooks and some fake worms that came with a tackle box I had to Prospect Park I say that to say, it is just that simple. That was the only equipment I had, and that is the only equipment you will need to catch your first fish.1. First things first, you need to purchase a New York State fishing license before you can fish any NYC public freshwater lakes If you are under the age of 16 you do not have to purchase one, and the license is valid from October 1st-September 30. As an adult I purchased mine for $21.00, but if you are in the military, veteran or senior citizen there are discounts available. Here is the link to the website: The online purchasing system is only for users who have already purchased a fishing license and wants to renew it. As a new applicant you must go to a NY State fishing license retailer. I have listed a few retailers below that are located in the city and that are accessible by public transportation. **Personally, I have never been asked for my license, but it's better to be safe than sorry.***

a. Bernie's Fishing Tackle3035 Emmons Avenue, Brooklyn, NY(718) 664-7600
b. Urban Angler Fifth Avenue Manhattan, New York
10010 (212) 689-6400
c. BIGGIES BAIT & TACKLE 65 Page Ave Staten Island, NY 10309 718-966-9206

2. Now you need your equipment. And as in all sports there is the low end, and there is the high end. My personal philosophy is start with the low and work your way up. I don't care how expensive your equipment is, experience and luck seems always to be the determining factor, so work your way up. With that said, let me explain to you my first set-up that I used to catch that first fish at Prospect Park. It was cheap. Honestly, I grabbed the cheapest rod and reel that I could seeing how I didn't know what I was doing, so any starter "rod and reel" combo (See left picture) will do you fine. The key is to choose one that can have multi-functions.

3. Our future posts will deal with matching your gear to the fish you are targeting, but for now, so that you can get your fishing line wet, go with a combo set up that sells with a fishing rod and reel together. It takes the guess work out of matching a rod to a reel for now. However, you still have to choose the size and style of this combo.

4. Choose a rod that has a light medium action which means that it is not too big that you will not feel the small fish that you will catch and not too small that it will be impossible for you to catch a big fish. The size of the rod should be comfortable to your means transportation seeing how most of your fishing will be shore bound. If you think travelling on the train is hard in NYC, try carrying around a big fishing rod. Most of my rods are two pieces so that I can collapse them and store them in a bag more easily as I travel.

5. As in all the equipment you will also be presented with different choices for the type of reel that you want on that combo set-up. Go with the spinning reel (See above illustration). It is very easy to operate and great for the beginner.

6. If your combo set-up does not come with fishing line, don't fret. Purchase 10-14lb. clear colored monofillament fishing line for your reel. (Approx. cost $6.00)

7. Next, purchase some worm hooks. If you are not at a tackle you may not have such a selection as the hooks presented on the left, so choose what's available, but if you are in a decent tackle shop or can order online try size 3/0 worm hooks that are wide gaped as shown on the left.

8. Finally, purchase some fake worms. Now, there are alot to choose from, but I caught that first fish on a plastic worm by Gary Yamamoto and have been hooked since. Purchase whatever is available. (Approx. $7.00)

7. Most NYC tackle stores as well as some sporting goods stores have a cheap combo set-up (rod and reel) for a very reasonable price. Some combos even come with "fishing line" and a "tackle box". (Check out Target, Walmart, Sports Authority etc.) ***The Internet by far is the best seller of tackle*** In all you should spend anywhere between $30 and $50 dollars to get your line wet. And this equipment if maintained well could last you years.

Don't think that I'm making this up. My starter equipment cost me about $35.00 and I have caught a great deal of fish on it. In fact, this is all that I will be using today myself. (Check it out on the left.) Wish me luck. Please comment if you use a different set-up that is achievable and affordable, or if you have any questions or suggestions. I will hopefully post pictures of the fish I catch today.
Tight Lines!

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Welcome NYC Fisherman of All Levels

We are all located in an urban oasis! Pockets of culture and hubs of commerce are not the only gems of our NYC locale. Whether you are a resident of Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx or Staten Island, you are minutes away from what many fisherman refer to as a "honey hole", a place where we can relax by casting a line with the hopes of catching not only a fish but an experience as well. And although the television commercials, movie clippings, and magazine covers lead us to believe that fishing is best done in the country on a boat with very expensive equipment, this is generally not the case. If you do not have a boat, car or expensive "tackle" (fishing equipment), then you are in the right city and at the right blog.

NYC parents, if your looking for a great way to bond with your child, I hope this blog will serve as a resource to aid you in the steps necessary to making that happen.

NYC fishing gurus, any information is good information to put us on the next hot spot; plus, gas is expensive. Maybe, a little practice closer to home is a good way to save money.

NYC recreational enthusiasts, fishing is an affordable way to experience the beautiful public spaces of the city.

Whatever category you fall into, you will find information about fishing NYC in this blog. Most of this data will be delivered through my personal travels throughout the city, but hopefully other visitors will share their success stories as well. Please feel free to share your comments.

Tight Lines!

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