The More Things Change

Stores of the Edward’s ilk are increasingly rare
Edward Shugrue of East Hampton landed and released this false albacore at Montauk last week. Don Calder

On Friday morning I had to make a trip to Riverhead and the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new driver’s license. Not only was it set to expire shortly, but the picture of me on the front was at least 25 years old. Looking at the card, I saw I had no wrinkles on my face and that I actually had a pretty full head of hair that extended just below my ears. I was not exactly a hippie, mind you, but I did look young. Needless to say, the photograph does not resemble the me of today.

I was not looking forward to this trip at all. Does anyone wake up with a smile and an extra bounce in his step knowing that he will likely spend a few hours at the D.M.V.? I didn’t think so.

Nearing the dreaded facility, which is housed in a small, nondescript shopping strip on Old Country Road, I drove past Edward’s Sporting Goods, a store that has been in business under the same family since 1954 selling a wide assortment of wares, including fishing tackle, outerwear, guns and ammunition for hunters, as well as just about any kind of sports and athletic gear. A distressing sign was taped to the front glass door of the well-worn building announcing that a sale was underway as the shop was closing its doors for good. 

While I was not a frequent customer of the establishment, I admired that it had the stamina to remain in business for over half a century, a great accomplishment by any standard. I was saddened to see another mom-and-pop store close. No doubt, big box stores and the internet have had a huge influence on how we shop today. Stores of the Edward’s ilk are increasingly rare.

The upcoming closure also reminded me of all the boat liveries and bait and tackle shops that have also shut down and faded away from the shorefront. It has been sad to see. Only about 30 years ago, there were nearly 20 such businesses in and around Moriches Bay. Today, only two remain.

Closer to the East End, it’s a similar story. Gone are the likes of Altenkirch’s Tackle Shop, which was a fixture for decades along the Shinnecock Canal. Sag Harbor for years had two liveries — Bayview and Remkus — that offered skiffs for rent. Others were located in Southampton, Northwest Harbor, Shelter Island, Three Mile Harbor, and Noyac Bay. The North Fork, too, had over a dozen such businesses catering to fishermen and their families at its high point, including the Port of Egypt fishing station in Southold, which offered more than 50 boats for let. 

The long-gone Promised Land fishing station on Napeague was the legendary launch pad for those who pursued large winter flounder (recalled fondly as snowshoes due to their large size) in nearby Tobaccolot and Gardiner’s Bay. Some weekend days saw well over 100 boats plying those locales. Catches were beyond plentiful. But that’s all in the past.

“My best friend’s parents owned the Promised Land station and it was a great place to hang out as a kid,” recalled Harvey Bennett, the longtime owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, one of the few tackle and bait stores that remain. “There were all kinds of fish around back in those days, but the flounder fishing was epic. We thought it would never end. But I doubt anyone has even tried for snowshoe flounder in well over 15 years.”

The fishery, like the businesses that were built around it, is long gone.

For the most part, I disagree with the old proverb that the more things change the more they stay the same. Stores like Edward’s are a dying breed and are not likely to be replaced. Things do change. And not always for the better.

Unfortunately, I also suspect that the long lines at the D.M.V. will never get shorter.

This past weekend saw a long line of boats parade out of Montauk Harbor in pursuit of false albacore, which remain plentiful in many areas, including Block Island Sound, Gardiner’s Bay, and near Montauk Point. Boaters also took advantage of the excellent run of striped bass taking place in the various rips off the lighthouse.

“Fishing for albies has been excellent of late,” said Bennett. “And casters are also getting them good off the Montauk Harbor jetties.” Bennett added that striped bass showed up in large numbers in the ocean wash from East Hampton to Amagansett over the weekend, while blowfish remain plentiful in Three Mile Harbor. “Get the blowfish while you can,” he said. “They will be pushing out soon.”

Interested in fishing or hunting fowl with Bennett on his boat? The licensed guide and captain has resumed his fall charter business chasing either prey. “Now is the time to get on the water,” he said. “Some great hunting going on, too.” No doubt Bennett will have his arsenal of old-time Bonac stories and tales at the ready if the action slows down. 

Capt. Mark Ryckman of the party boat Montauk Star reports that the mixed-bag action for porgies, sea bass, and codfish has been solid near Block Island, following the closure of the fluke season on Sept. 30. “Fishing has been really good,” he said. “Lots of nice sea bass around if you can get away from the giant-sized porgies. And there are a few cod mixed in.” The all-day boat departs at 5 a.m. from the Star Island Yacht Club.

The day before the fluke season ended, Mike Rivera, fishing on the Montauk Star, reeled in a monster 15.5-pound, 34-inch fluke. “We believe it was the largest brought into the harbor and all of Long Island this 2018 fluke season,” Captain Ryckman wrote.

“Not many boat reports, but if you want to catch false albacore, they are all over the place,” said Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor. “And there has been some good action on stripers near Indian Wells in Amagansett.”

Morse added that anglers are getting ready for the start of the fall blackfish season. The fishery opens today in Long Island Sound, and commences on Monday in the remainder of New York.

“I sold a lot of green crabs this weekend, so people are getting ready for them,” Morse said of popular bait that is a favorite of the toothy fish. “The waters are very warm, so people should fish shallow water if they want to score.”

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Mike Rivera hoisted a 15.5-pound, 34-inch fluke caught on Sept. 29 on Capt. Mark Ryckman’s Montauk Star. Rivera Family Photo