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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