I like to fish, a lot. And for almost 10 years now, I’ve fished for all sorts of species in the northeast with my main man, nycfishmurderer. Longing for Spring fishing vibes, I recently posted a #latergram of a fish I caught on one of our trips from last season. Then my phone started buzzing:
“Where do you fish? Need to get in on this!”
“Yooo take me fishing!”
“When we going fishing lady?”
If you’ve ever wanted to get into fishing, you’ve probably googled your options. The number of different species, locations, boats, regulations and types of gear that come up can be overwhelming, so I see why you’d might rather just tag along on a buddy’s pre-arranged trip. But if you’re new to the fish game, it’s really not that complicated.
Enter the Porgy Party Boat Chamber.
A smart bet, whether you’re a beginner or not, is to pay-to-play for porgies on a party boat.
These trips won’t break the bank, are super fun, and due to New York’s generous saltwater porgy regulations at 30-per-man, the payoff in food is usually pretty great. Yep, THIRTY.
Porgies, or “scup” as they‘re also known among fishermen, are relatively small fish, averaging 1-3 pounds. Though small in size, these schooling, noble fish put up a good fight and are really great eating. They even share bloodlines to Japan’s “King of Fish” or Tai. And luckily, once your party boat captain puts you on the right numbers, you won’t need to be a pro to catch a bunch of scup.
You’ll rarely see porgies on the covers of fishing magazines, but with them showing up more and more on menus at some of the hottest restaurants on the East Coast, and for upwards of $40 a dish, the option to go on a party boat for $70 with a chance to take home up to 30 fish gives porgy fishing an added appeal.
You’ll find dozens of party boats that go out for porgies all over the northeast, typically from May 1 into the fall. A lot of party boats offer mixed bag trips that go out for porgy as well as other bottom-fishing fish like fluke or black sea bass, which are also great options. You’ll develop your own strong opinions about the best and worst captains, spots, baits and rigs but in the beginning, just pick one with your gut and get out there.
Here are some tips and things to know before you go:
Do not bring bananas. Above all else, do not bring bananas. This seemingly harmless, sweet and nutritious fruit on land transforms into an evil beast with magical powers to shun all the fish ever in the ocean from your boat. Or so some fishermen believe. Seriously though, don’t expect to stay on the boat if you bring bananas.
Bring a cooler with ice. There also won’t be drinking water on the boat so bring lots of water. Other typical things to consider bringing: sunblock, a flask, beers, hand towel, snacks and a packed lunch that you won’t mind eating with your grimy clam hands as you’ll likely be fishing with clams as bait. The party boat crew will set you up with rods, reel, bait and tackle. You can also ask the mates for a bucket of water to bleed the fish, which is highly recommended. If you don’t know how to do this, ask a mate.
Always call the boats ahead for reservations. Also, if you’re not too keen on kids, you’ll want to try to avoid the weekend party boat crowd. Fares are usually $70 for a full day (8 hours). Bring cash money, as not all boats take credit card walk-ons. Some boats offer half-day trips and you have the option of a morning or an afternoon trip, but I prefer to stay for the full day.
PLAY THE POOL
Always opt-in the party boat pool, even if it’s your first time fishing, ’cause beginner’s luck is real. It’s usually only $5 or $10 more and at around 30 fares per party boat, it’ll end up covering your trip costs and then some if you luck out. It also makes fishing more fun by adding a little friendly competition and upping the trash talk ante. The fisherman with the biggest fish (and ego) by the end of the trip takes the pool.
What spot should you choose to stand in for the next 8 hours? Regulars tend to show up 30 minutes to an hour early to secure their “lucky” spots near the stern or bow and to avoid standing shoulder to shoulder with other fisherman. You’re welcome to do this as well but note that all this, of course, goes out the window once the first jumbo fish gets pulled out from the middle of the boat.
AFTER THE CATCH
Towards the end of the trip, you’ll be asked if you want your fish cleaned. Most people will get their fish filleted, but you can ask them to clean them however you want: whole, scaled and gutted, filleted, some filet/some whole, or not at all.
At the end of your trip, be sure to tip your mates 15-20%! House rules.
Here are two boats I like to go on in New York, but if you’re located somewhere else, search “porgy party boats + [Insert your area]” and you’ll be sure to get some good leads:
369 Dune Rd.
Hampton Bays, NY 11968
118 W Broadway
Port Jefferson, NY 11777