Long Islander Newspapers, Summer Adventure Series: Fishing On The James Joseph II

By Arielle Dollinger & Andrew Wroblewski

     The sky was the kind of blue that sometimes seems to exist only in the “happy ending” stage of a fairytale, and a shelf of pure-white clouds sat parallel to the horizon.

Marking our spot with camera bags and a cooler, we took to the white bench near the bow of the 65-foot James Joseph II party boat for a day of fishing with the crew and about 35 others.

On the ground at our feet was a defeated-looking glittery, green plastic squid – a lure – and two feet away was a bucket of slimy bait.

In a sea of man-made edifices, it’s easy to lose sight of Huntington’s natural beauty. But beyond the restaurants, mansions, parks and foundations, there is the actual sea.

Within five minutes of boarding the boat, passengers sail past the wind and into Huntington Harbor.

The only brick building in sight is the historic Huntington Lighthouse, which passengers notice in the midst of the waves crashing on the ship’s walls and the cries of passing birds beckoning for bites to eat. The ospreys fly toward organic-looking nests in high towers, overlooked by man-made mansions on the shore.

A fishing trip on the James Joseph II is the epitome of relaxation. Not only do those who work on the boat provide less-experienced fishermen and women with poles, but they clean and fillet caught fish before placing it into plastic bags for transport.

The four-hour ventures, which leave from the dock behind the Halesite Fire Department at 7a.m., noon and 4:30p.m., allow the opportunity to catch and keep fluke and porgy of appropriate sizes.

To the disappointment of a little blonde boy, Joseph Gemelli, out for a day of fishing with his grandmother, crabs are not for keeps.

“Guys, I caught a crab,” Gemelli, 8, said, following up with questions like, “Can you bring a crab home?” and “Why can’t we keep him as a pet?”

Two fish made it into our bucket.

The first, an 18-inch fluke, was just long enough to keep. It would be cooked that night, dressed in red wine and lemon juice and garnished with lemon slices.

The second was a porgy – smaller, but just as lively as it flopped uneasily.

A sea robin, a burnt sienna-colored fish with tough and textured wings, made it onto our hook, but not into our bucket.

The edibility of the sea robin was a debated topic on the boat. One man said that they couldn’t be eaten. Another said that they could be eaten; they just taste “like the sole of an Adidas.”

Though not everyone can expect to catch a fish worthy of Captain Ahab each time his or her hook sinks to the bottom of the sea, the experience is no less impressive.

As a lifeless line drifts about in the water below, eyes wander to the shore where a green sea – one of trees – is always visible. Houses with multiple stories and Victorian accents peek through gaps of green to inspire awe and ambition; without trying, they draw thoughts like, “I want one of those,” or, “That’ll be mine someday.”

And then, ensuring that wandering thoughts and boating beauty do not completely overcome those with tickets only for the day, the horn sounds three times and the lines come up.

It’s time to go home.

This article originally ran in the July 24, 2014 editions of Long Islander News’ Half Hollow Hills Long Islander, The Record and The Long Islander.