Late Summer Bamboo
At age 10, the only fish I really knew about were gold fish
which lived in a tank purchased at WT Grants on East Main in Patchogue,
and tuna which came in a can purchased at the A&P near the Patchogue Post Office.
Every kid had a pet gold fish, and tuna was a Friday staple for a catholic boy.
It was usually mixed with mayo, and served on bread.
I never gave much thought to where they came from until that one summer....
It was at the end of summer in 1951 when my Dad borrowed some poles from Uncle Al,
and took me and my two brothers snapper fishing. Snappers?
What were they, and where did they come from?
Dad explained they were a baby Blue Fish, and fun to catch.
I'd been to the Blue Point docks and done some crabbing,
but didn't have any idea how to catch a snapper, so I asked Dad.
All I needed was a snapper pole and some bait, he said.
To my surprise, the pole was made from bamboo.
It came with a special hook, bobber and about 7 feet of line,
which was the same length as the pole.
The bait was a small fish called a killie.
After a short trip in the old ford, with the poles sticking out the windows,
we arrived at the Dock at the end of Blue Point Avenue.
Dad showed me the special way to bait the hook,
and within no time at all I was more hooked on snapper fishing than the three snappers I caught.
A couple of days later I bought myself a snapper pole.
School was reopening in a couple of days, so I didn't have much time.
My house on Rowland Ave. was about one mile from the Blue Point Creek dock
and about two miles from the Blue Point Ave dock, but that didn't discourage me.
Since there was only one car in the family and Dad drove it to work, I used my only travel option.
I tied the pole and bait bucket to my bike, and headed to the dock.
It took about twenty minutes in all. Fifteen minutes into the trip I knew I was almost there
because I began smelling the briny odor of the Great South Bay.
I'll still remember the brilliant blue-green waters that surrounded the Blue Point docks.
Clam boats dotted the water as far as the eye could see, and it seemed the fish were everywhere.
The water was clear enough to see the bottom, and a crowd of people lined the docks in every direction.
Their snapper poles created a rhythmic wave like Mr. Miller's baton when he conducted fire Department band.
I remember fondly the cries of jubilation as young and old hoisted their catch out of the water.
The other day I pulled the long unused snapper poles from the garage,
outfitted them with new lines and hooks,
added the bobber and took my grandson to the docks.
When I arrived, I didn't see a single clam boat.
The water was no longer a brilliant blue-green, and I couldn't see the bottom.
The crowd was gone, and in its place a few people were scattered along the dock.
Among them was a young boy fishing by himself. He was no more than 11 or 12,
and his bike rested against a weathered post. As I walked over I noticed he was using worms for bait.
"Catch any?" I grimaced as I looked into his empty bucket.
"Not yet," he replied.
We walked a few feet away, and I taught my grandson how to bait the hook with the killie.
After several casts he caught his first snapper.
The young fisherman looked over, wondering why he wasn't catching any.
"Would you like some bait?" I asked the young boy.
Moments later after rebating with the killie, he caught his first snapper.
I felt a surge of nostalgia as I savored the unbridled joy of these to new anglers.
Snapper fishing at the docks was one of my fondest childhood memories.
I learned at a very early age that it didn't take much to have fun growing up in Blue Point.
And in the process, I also learned that tuna wasn't always in a can.