Overlooked New York Park Fisherman
posted: December 8, 2009
Over the 35 years Jeffrey has been fishing in the Harlem Meer, at the north end of Central Park, he's seen it go from the lake that catches fire to the lake for catching fish.

"Central Park is where most of the City kids learned to fish; this is the only body of water around, so this is where we all came. Either here or the Hudson River, if you lived on the West Side. So, back in the late '60s, early '70s, this is where I first learned to fish. Back then, you got bass and sunfish, if you were lucky. If the water didn't catch fire, you were lucky to catch fish, that's how dirty it was.

"There's algae growing on the lake here. As soon as it starts to heat up, the algae starts to bloom. So what they do is skim it, and they use algaecide, it's a type of herbicide, to bring it down.

"When I was a kid, I never ate a fish out of here, no way. But I did one take home and show it to everybody, since it was 5 pounds and nobody would've believed me. Largemouth bass. 1974. Right here. One of my neighbors ate it, but no way were we gonna eat it.

"I usually catch. It depends on how good you are. I've been doing this for 30-something years, so I'm fairly good at what I do. I always catch at least a few small ones.

"I go fishing other places, too. Anywhere there's water. I'm hard core. If there's water, I got a fishing rod with me. I fish every day, if I can, after work.

"When I started, I had an old Zebco, the old Zebco 301. Little silver reels you see the little kiddies with. Little beginner sets. That's what we had.

"Fishing is a relaxing sport: it brings people back to the outdoors, it's what Man used to do long before they became vegetarian. Don't forget, Man's grocery store was the forest and the water. So this is where we got our seafood before there was the Fulton Fish Market. But you don't have to kill anything, you can catch-and-release, just like here in Central Park. So don't believe the PETA people that it's cruel. It's NOT cruel.

"I'm practicing for a tournament now. They call them pro-ams--professionals and amateurs: one professional and one amateur. Fish as a team, at professional tournaments, a lot of prize money. Win up to 100,000 bucks. I'll hook up with a professional, see what I can do. 20 years ago, I was good enough to be a pro myself, but then I joined the Navy, so it kind of knocked those aspirations out. But now that I'm 47, I'm gonna go for it."

This is part of Overlooked New York. To see more profiles of Park Anglers, visit the Overlooked New York website or check out the Overlooked New York book on Amazon.