As custom dictates, I started my drinking early for the closing party of this year’s fishing derby. However, I, tempered perhaps by the memories of basically getting banned from Roberta’s last year and knowing I’d eventually have to drive home, did not get blackout drunk this year, much to some people’s disappointment. We closed the 2013 Brooklyn Fishing Derby at the place where it all started, back at Dream Tackle on Manhattan Avenue, with a great group of people and fishing folk. The wind consistently blew blustery arctic air from the west across the East River, but people still toughed it out day and night and I’m so stoked they did. They pulled out ling cod. They pulled out ugly fish. They pulled out perch. They pulled out three nice sized striped bass, and the winning fish hung by the end of a scale, caught only a few hours before the derby ended. Scott Behr made a valiant effort on a Saturday evening and it looked to stand up through the next day. But El Diablo Gringo, upon seeing Scott’s fat 33″, 12.08# bass, redoubled his resolve, sat out all night, and got rewarded in the morning with this fish:
At the closing bell, it was 2009 champion John Ruffino with a 15.5#, 36″ striper who took home the cup and as cool as it would have been to see a new champion crowned, it was great to see John again in glory. If there’s a guy who loves fishing and has supported the derby from day one, it’s been John Ruffino. I know I usually make fun of bait guys, but John, among a bunch of other guys who are out there every day, always puts in work in what he does, and to see him get rewarded is a reward for the rest of us. His friend was awesome enough to post this video of his catch:
Jan Groz is another fisherman who puts in his time on the water—the guy has crushed all competition in the last couple years with consistently 40+ -inch fish, and was there to graciously hand over the trophy to John. They now stand at 2-2, with Damar Douglas the only other winner from 2011. Jan took third place with a 32″, 11# bass caught Friday evening and the new contender Scott Behr took a close second. Congratulations and many thanks go to everyone who fished with us this year.
The formalities over, we retired to the backyard, where we set up three grills and sought to prove people wrong about the character of their question, “You don’t eat the fish out of there, do you?” We had the benefit of having a bunch of great cooks on hand: Jacques Gautier (Palo Santo and Fort Reno), Tim Coughlan (pit master at Fort Reno), and Adam Geringer-Dunn and Vincent Milburn, both from Greenpoint Fish and Lobster Company. All are great people and fantastic chefs and it was an honor to have these guys cooking the fish we caught from the East River.
pic by Alex Marquez
pic by Eric Johnson
Unless you were there, you wouldn’t believe the food these guys cooked for everyone. Cured bluefish sliders got it going early, Adam’s fish chowder kept everyone warm (and Jan’s fish got added to the pot), Scott’s fish became amazing fish tacos, Jacques found some roe in one of the fish and quickly claimed it for his grill, and John’s fish was grilled deliciously whole. We really can’t thank these guys enough for coming through for us. And if you weren’t there, you wouldn’t believe how good the fish tasted. Of course, we may all drop dead tomorrow, but one of the things I really wanted to get back to with this year’s derby was the idea of community. I remember throughout the first derby we all used to meetup on Sundays and fish the East River park (back when they closed the North 5th pier right before the derby started), then walk up a few blocks to the Brooklyn Ale House and drink some beers. I missed the meetings and getting people together to hang out and share laughs and stories together. I felt that over the last few years we’ve started to get away from that, even though we’ve met a ton of great people along the way. Too much stress and time was spent on finding money for prizes, hustling for sponsors, and trying to make everyone happy while feeling like everyone else was shitting on you because someone else measured a fish a half inch too long. One of the things I liked best about the closing parties was getting to see everyone together, meeting the members again, being able to provide something for people to really enjoy and feel like they were a part of all of it because they were, and even though it caused us an incredible amount of stress to put it together, I felt this is what the derby should be about, and the competitive part of it should remain fun, but secondary. For me, the BKUAA has always been about the people and the community we try to build by doing the derby. Every year we get to meet newcomers who are amazed you can catch fish from the river (and eat it, on occasion). Every year we get to know someone else who’s been doing it for years and years. Every year we’re honored to see a lot of familiar smiling faces anxious to fish another derby. All of these things are what’s important to me, and these are the things I feel are vital to what we do with the BKUAA. We’ve scaled back a little this year, but after hanging out with everyone in the backyard at Dream (many thanks to Robert, Barbara, and the crew at Dream for hosting us), I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.
More and many thanks go to Rich at Acme, Harry at Brooklyn Kitchen, Adam and Vincent at Greenpoint Fish and Lobster Company, Jacques and Tim from Fort Reno, and to everyone who showed up to our events and especially to all those fishing-folk who keep it going through the wind and cold.
p.s. Working on planning a blackfish trip either this weekend or next. Will get details out as soon as I can.