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Catch Your Supper

Right here in the Rockaways.


Catch-and-release is the law of the land and sea in city parks, so the best place to hunt dinner in the five boroughs is the Rockaways, where Jacob Riis Park falls under federal jurisdiction—and striped bass and bluefish abound. Fishing’s allowed (and most productive) from 8 P.M. to 8 A.M. with a permit that can be purchased for $50 at the Fort Tilden Visitor Center. The eminent Manhattan bait shop Capitol Fishing Tackle Company can outfit you with the requisite supplies—rod and reel, fillet knife, and bait—for about $150 (212-929-6132; call ahead—it’s moving soon to a new location on West 36th Street). The shop also dispenses free advice to beginners—and fortunately, the process is beginner-friendly: Bait your hook, stand in the surf, cast, and wait for a bite. The best spots are near jetties, rock outcroppings, and anywhere seagulls or other natural predators are already hunting. Catching one is more a matter of when, not if, though the fish do get less hungry when water temperatures rise above 60 degrees during the height of summer. Campfires are prohibited, but bringing your own hibachi to prepare the feast is okay. Esca chef (and avid fisherman) Dave Pasternack recommends grilling whole with olive oil, salt, and pepper, though if you catch a striped bass, it’ll probably require filleting since it’ll be bigger than the hibachi. (For health reasons, gut the fish even if you’re cooking it whole, avoid red-colored meat, and never eat the skin.) For an even more authentic maritime vibe, Pasternack says, just rub the scales off with the back of your knife and abandon the grill altogether: “When the coals turn white, just wrap the fish with seaweed and throw it right on the fire. That’s what I would do.”

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