Fall for Eels
Though early July is a great time to fish the Big Apple for bass, DiLernia’s season continues through early November (after which it’s too cold and “time to go hunting,” he says). As summer wanes, DiLernia drifts mostly eels. “They’re migrating then, so it’s a good time to match the hatch.” This is a drifting show and somewhat less tide-critical. And not anchoring allows DiLernia to fish productive areas that include shipping channels.
DiLernia offers eel fishermen a tip regarding the inevitable struggle to get a hook through a writhing eel: “Snap its tail on the rail. For whatever reason, this disables it momentarily but doesn’t kill it.” Some anglers give that love tap to the eel’s head; that will disable it, but sometimes for good.
“This area around New York is highly productive because it’s at the nexus of some stripers’ migration routes, and it’s ecologically productive in its own right,” says John Waldman, professor of biology at Queens College (and author of Heartbeats in the Muck: The History, Sea Life and Environment of New York Harbor). “Also, adult spawners of the Hudson stock, which winter in the open ocean, come into the Hudson to spawn, and so are available in New York Harbor.” Bass from Chesapeake and Delaware Bay stocks migrate north in spring and also enter the mix, Waldman says.
As DiLernia’s customary success shows, in addition to the surprising productivity of this urban waterway, understanding the dynamics of these waters, and how stripers move and feed in them is critical.
For more information about Rocket Charters or to book a trip, visit www.rocketcharters.com or call 718‑423‑6007 or 917‑691‑6489. Options include morning, midday, evening or full-day trips for one to five passengers. Some sticker shock might be involved, but keep in mind the sort of rates DiLernia must pay to dock his boat in such a prime location, as well as the fact that there ain’t nothing in New York that’s cheap. Many of the charter’s regulars are Manhattan businessmen who’ll slip away (there’s a place at the dock to change clothes) or even conduct business with guests while fishing. Expect to be fed, but not your basic 7-11 hoagies; rather, Tony’s better half, Lu-Ann, will send out some of her famous Italian meals. Rocket Charters was picked by New York magazine for a Best of New York award.
Many visitors who fish Rocket Charters also plan some time for restaurants and Broadway shows: this is as much DiLernia’s domain as are the waterways. He can advise, or with Lu-Ann, join you. (One eatery he’ll certainly recommend is Barbetta’s — a very upscale favorite of his on West 46th, in John Jacob Astor’s old townhouse — for some exquisite Italian cuisine, as we discovered.)
Finally, for an unforgettable experience on the water, time your fishing days or nights around the Fourth of July, as we did, and check with DiLernia for some of the best options to get out in New York Harbor to see the spectacular fireworks amid the boats. You’ve never seen fireworks until you’ve seen that show while in the harbor, not to mention the show of such a vast array of vessels crammed into the huge waterway between the Big Apple and Jersey shorelines, and then exiting simultaneously. It’s definitely not a place for an inexperienced hand at any helm.