May 7, 2007
The Fishing Is Canceled, but Kayakers Are Buoyant
By DARYL KHAN
The New York Times
May 7, 2007
Kayak fishing is a sport still obscure enough that just about anyone who shows up for a tournament quickly finds that there are no strangers.
Yet it is also a sport that can inspire someone like Richard Court to drive the 560 miles from Toronto to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn for the fourth annual Jamaica Bay Kayak Fishing Tournament, which raises money for women who have breast cancer.
Mr. Court and other fishermen will convey the thrill of whispering over the water, without motors or heavy oars, and of the particularly scrappy blue fish or striper that can drag you and your slip of a boat on a “Nantucket sleigh ride.”
Then, of course, there is the Manhattan skyline on the horizon as the fishermen haul their kayaks down a jagged concrete ramp past the husks of derelict boats with names fading into a ghostly blur and a beach littered with everything from a tire and beer bottles to a designer Italian pump.
“Where else in New York City can you go to camp for three days and fish for three days,” asked Carl Schneider, 37, an electrician from Farmingdale, N.Y. “This isn’t about the tournament. It’s more about camaraderie. That’s why I’m here. I’m not here to win.”
That turned out to be fortunate, because the cold 25-knot winds that blew in yesterday morning forced the cancellation of the tournament.
Yet many of the 200 or so contestants who had paid a $75 entry fee and had camped along a patch of weeds at the edge of a large parking lot did not seem to mind; they had already been fishing, some as early as Thursday.
“Just to be among the guys who do the same thing that I do, you know?” said Mr. Court, 62. “No hard feelings at all.”
One group, calling itself the Wolf Pack, set up quarters under a canopy with a banner showing a wolf howling at the moon. The Wolf Pack has two rules — no rules and no meetings — and its members sat along a rickety cafeteria-style table covered with bags of Doritos and pretzels. The drinks were on another table, along with a soldier’s helmet topped with a carved wood kayak and a sticker identifying the owner as the Grand Supreme Ruler.
“That’s mine because I’m the oldest,” said Artie Wehrhahn, 60, of Greentown, Pa.
“It’s a strange paradox,” said Joe Cambria, 42, the tournament organizer, who was born and raised in the Bronx and now lives in New Rochelle. “Here you have this amazing resource. Some of the best fishing, kayaking, birding around. And yet you still have garbage and trash and all kinds of stuff floating in the water.”
Nevertheless, the fishermen say they feel like they are immersed in nature. And they say that this time of year, with fish swimming north, it is some of the best fishing in the Northeast.
“This is like church,” said Frank Stoner, 48. “You come here in the morning, you have no impure thoughts. You’re about to go fishing. It’s beautiful out here. It’s as close you can get to God without visiting him.”
And then he added, “It’s a little slice of heaven in the middle of a concrete cesspool.”