Earlier this month, the Brooklyn paper wrote this article on the derby and while riddled with factual and editing errors, it gave us a little bit of press and a springboard of sorts to launch a conversation. Particularly for this commenter NSP Resident to type out this screed:
Its a shame that fishing is allowed on the n 6th st pier, the fishermen are disgusting and they have turned the end of the pier into a filthy mess. to me they are the low lifes of society and need to be removed so that everyone can enjoy the pier, right now local residents and visitors are either intimidated by the low lifes or disgusted by the mess. the local residents are contacting the local authorities and have had a positive response, it is only a matter of time before fishing there is banned.
In case it’s not obvious to you, NSP stands for North Side Piers. Yeup, a guy standing in a shiny, expensive condo overlooking the pier is looking down on you guys fishing
his the pier. Of course, I’m assuming it’s a guy. It may be a woman. Either way, this person who has bought his/her way into the worst eyesore in the neighborhood, the apotheosis of what I would call the transformation of Williamsburg from shitty neighborhood, to trendy neighborhood, to rich neighborhood whose newest citizens now feel the entitlement and need to weed out the riffraff, doesn’t like you fishing guys ruining his/her the pier for “everyone else.” It was only a matter of time before a character like this finally mustered up the balls to anonymously post such a comment on a small neighborhood-newspaper web site.
Of course to hear this person tell it, the end of the N5 pier is full of thugs and bums while the rest of the normal citizenry rarely passes into this zone demarcated by that hideous metal sculpture. And no normal person has any interest in what’s happening over there, none of us have ever had to take a group picture for anyone there, and none of us has ever heard the question, “What are you guys catching in the river?” or “Do you eat the fish out of here?” Because the visitors and residents are too intimidated to talk to the people who fish on the pier, right?
We know the reality, however. On a sunny, windy Saturday Don caught this fish and as soon as the many disparate people caught wind of something happening at the end of the pier, they came crowding over in a rush. These are people who came to see the sunset, people who were checking out the Brooklyn Flea Market, people walking with family and friends, people who live in these same buildings and in the same neighborhood as this NSP Resident. And everyone wanted to see what Don had at the end of his line. When the fish surfaced a collective cheer roared out over the crowd and there was a contagious sense of excitement and anticipation as we waited to see Denton gaff this gorgeous, fat, and healthy 37″ bass out of the water.
Maybe it is the allure of fishing, the modern-primal sense of wanting to see creatures pulled from the water. Especially water like this, the East River that has such a deservedly tarnished reputation (it’s getting better, slowly) after being abused by industry for so long. Everyone cracks the joke about three-eyed fish and mutants. I heard them last night at a party for Mina, and I’ll hear them again every time I tell people about the derby. But there wasn’t one person on that pier who saw the commotion and didn’t feel the urge to come see what it was. There wasn’t one person there with a camera who didn’t take a picture. The top photo shows less than 10 percent of the people who ran to see this fish come out of the water. And after several fruitless weeks fishing, Don’s face says it all.
The point of a reply to such a comment as posted by NSP Resident is that while it’s clear he’s never tried to talk to anyone who fishes the pier or engage them in any way except to silently judge them, the responsibility is ours too. Along the East River there are four places like this, four places that are legal for us to enter and to fish. Maybe in the future there will be more, but it’s partially up to us and how we represent ourselves to the ignorant public like this guy. I think we’ve done a good job so far: fishing is messy but it’s in our own interest to keep the piers clean. Unlike what this NSP Resident offers, a little bit of mutual respect and understanding goes a long way. And anyone who thinks someone like Denton is an intimidating and threatening presence on the pier, it’s a good bet they haven’t tried to talk to him. In the three years I’ve been involved in this derby and fishing the East River I’ve never once witnessed a bystander asking a fisherman about fishing and then getting shut down or disrespected. This is especially true if you are a good-looking woman.
Thanks to Geralyn for providing the photos.