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Fishing (and Surfing) in The Big Apple

Ben Sargent Fishing in Brooklyn

Bringing in a Fish in New York

New York is not the first place you think of when it comes to seafood, surfing and fishing. In fact, when I moved there more than 12 years ago, I was quite sure my days as a waterman were over. But boy, was I wrong.

My first great discovery was surfing in Queens. One day, I ran into a guy carrying a surfboard on the L train in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “Where are you going with that?”, I asked him, expecting him to tell me about an art installation he was working on. “I’m going surfing. Out at the Rock,” he said.

I dropped everything I had going on that day (including watching my friend’s gift shop) and headed out to the local surf break in Queens. From that day on, my life was changed forever.

Ben Sargent Surfing

Catching a Wave

I came back that day and purchased my friend’s gift shop, turning it into a surf store/chowder restaurant almost overnight. A few used surfboards and my grandfather’s chowder recipes and I was in business. Two years later, I upgraded to a larger location.

My next great discovery was New York City fishing. One day, I headed to the East River to test out a new plug I had bought for a trip to Cape Cod. I was certain I wouldn’t catch any fish in the nasty East River, but the current made it a good testing ground to see the action on the plug. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a bluefish smacked that plug as hard as any I’d battled on the Cape. “Oh my God,” I thought. There are serious fish here!

Fishing out my backdoor? How good could this get?

Ben Sargent Surfing

Fishing in Brooklyn

Not long after that I was fishing all along the East River, finding new (and slightly sketchy) places to fish. I soon organized a fishing derby. It started out tongue-in-cheek, but when almost 60 fishermen entered the first year,  I knew Brooklyn fishing was not to be taken lightly.

It was not long before I realized I was living in possibly one of the most important fish towns in the U.S. I started to gravitate towards people in the fishing business, like my friend Richard. He always smells like salmon. Why? Well, just three blocks from my apartment is the most important and largest smoke-house in the country. And Rich is the master smoker who knows everything there is to know about smoking fish.

Ben Sargent Surfing

Richard shares his secrets for smoking fish.

My local supplier for all my fishing gear is one street over from my apartment, and the best handmade fishing lures in the world are made just three blocks away. And it’s safe to say that just about every variety of fish comes through New York. In fact, oysters were once so prevalent in the East River you could find them at every bar, served just like peanuts are today.

With some of the best markets in the world and some of the best seafood in the country, my understanding of the Brooklyn and New York fishing scene has changed forever. Since my first discovery of surfing in Queens, I have made it my mission to tell the stories of people who made and continue to make Brooklyn a serious fishing village.

Tune in tonight  at 8pm ET to Hook, Line & Dinner for a closer look at the fishing scene in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Recipes from the Episode:

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