Gone Fishin’ — On the East River

Written by Lorraine Duffy Merkl on . Posted in Arts Our Town.


Merkl’s son with his latest catch from the East River.

Merkl’s son with his latest catch from the East River.

When a summer tech internship didn’t work out for my 19-year-old son, Luke, he went fishing on the East River.

After completing his freshman year of college as an engineering major, spending his first semester in Australia and his second in Boston, Luke returned to the Upper East Side in late April hoping for summer employment that would put him on the road to saving for a car.

Unlike me, who as a teen in the Bronx needed simply to walk up and down Fordham Road to find a paid position, Luke hit Craigslist. Within a week he was working at a bait and tackle shop in midtown Manhattan. In his cover letter, he had talked about his love of fishing, although he hadn’t done it in a few years.

When he was six years old, we were driving up the FDR and Luke saw men fishing off the promenade. He told my husband, Neil, that he’d like to give the sport a try. Neil had fond memories of going fishing on Long Island with his late father and four younger brothers, so he was glad to oblige.

I am not a sports girl of any kind, but as soon as fishing turned into a hobby, I remembered the words of a long-married colleague, who talked football like a commentator because her husband and sons were fans: “Get involved or get left out.”

So, instead of waving them good-bye, I grabbed a rod, closed my eyes, and stuck my hand in a bucket of bait. Soon after that, Meg and her Barbie fishing rod joined the fun and we became the family that fished.

But as Luke got into his mid teens, he lost interest in anything other than hanging with his friends in Central Park and on the steps of the Met.

Since it was his idea to begin with, angling without him seemed silly, and sent Meg, Neil and I to pursue our own interests.

Until Luke called me from the tackle shop in May requesting his social security number for his W2.

His new job did more than just offer a paycheck; it reignited his desire to cast his line.

The first night after work, I heard him rummaging around in his closet to examine what he had, and what needed to be replenished. The next night he invited a couple of friends to fish on the East River in the 90s, and has done so almost every night since. He and Neil have also gone to Randall’s and Ward’s islands in search of the big catch. On his days off, Luke will often try his luck at the Harlem Meer. We also fished on the beach out on Montauk.

Luke decided against the car for now, but as he readies himself to go back to school, he has no regrets about how he spent his summer vacation. And, with my hand once again in a bucket of bait, nor do I.

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels Fat Chick and Back To Work She Goes.

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