Summers seem to come and go in the blink of an eye, but I’m always struck by the lasting memories they leave behind.
Some of my earliest ones are inextricably linked to exploring the water: Watching for heron along the Peconic River, learning to swim in the Long Island Sound, digging for clams during low tide or fishing in the “crick” in the woods near my uncle’s Pennsylvania home.
I can still picture my dad’s tackle box full of hand-painted lures and can laugh back at memories of a miscast line, hopelessly tangled in a tree, knee splinters from a rickety Aquebogue dock and, of course, the big moment: feeling a tug on the line and reeling in my first keeper.
Admittedly, I didn’t exactly get hooked and can’t even recall the last time I’ve been fishing. That’s why I’m adding it to my summer bucket list — and you should too.
As the weather warms up, local Captain Ben Savercool will be setting sail to pass the tradition on to the next generation.
He’s planning to host a kids fishing camp tailored to ages 6-12 on June 18 in honor of #NationalGoFishingDay. A morning and afternoon session is planned on the bay and the $175 fee includes everything from snacks to gear, ice, fishing licenses and life jackets.
An avid outdoorsman, Savercool has held similar programs informally in the past and hopes to branch out to make this a regular offering.
“Kids are just so excited when they get a fish on the line and it brings me a lot of joy too,” he said. “I like passing it on in honor of the people that taught me how to fish.”
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Savercool recalls fishing for bluegill in small neighborhood ponds before moving to Mattituck as a teenager and experiencing saltwater fishing.
“Once I moved to Long Island, I fell in love with saltwater fishing,” he said. “The fish are bigger and they fight harder.”
Soon after he obtained his Captain’s license at 18, Savercool, now 23, founded Fish the Fork, a fly fishing and light tackle charter. He primarily specializes in shallow-water fishing for striped bass and bluefish and can accommodate all levels.
This time of year, porgies, fluke, weakfish, striped bass and bluefish can be found in the waters of the Peconic Estuary, where many of the species spawn in the spring.
As a teenager, Savercool started out primarily porgy fishing.
“It’s a great way to fish for beginners. They’re a plentiful fish, easy to catch and will pretty much eat anything in terms of bait,” he said. “They’re not picky.”
In this magazine, we’ve well-documented the endless options to enjoy freshly caught culinary delights on the North Fork, from striped bass to blowfish. But getting to catch your own is a time-honored way to connect with the area and perhaps appreciate its bounty in a new way.
Whether you prefer a quiet afternoon on a small creek or hunger for the adrenaline of the Atlantic, the North Fork has it all.
“It’s a calming experience on the bay and you get a beautiful perspective viewing the North Fork from the water,” Savercool said.
If you aren’t shorebound, charter boats are a popular way to get out on the water. The crews know where the fish are running and can increase the odds you take home the catch of the day for dinner.
Captain Ken Holmes, who has run charters out of Orient on the Brooklyn Girl since 1995, said that joining a charter is a great way to learn the sport.
“It’s a friendly atmosphere on the boat and great because as people get better, they get hooked,” he said. “It’ll really shorten the learning curve if you can spend a day on deck.”
He said Orient is one of his favorite places in the world to fish as several bodies of water adjoin.
“The Peconic and Gardiners bays, Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound all come together and really makes for a great place to fish,” he said.
This season will mark their third with a new 50-foot Carman boat, which cruises at about 16 knots and has allowed them to expand their capability.
“It allows us to spread out from Orient. We used to be limited to a 15 mile radius around Orient and now we can go 30,” he said, adding that they frequently fish near Block Island and even up to Rhode Island for blackfishing in the fall.
Charters aren’t the only way to get fishing.
This time of year, you’ll likely see fishermen lining the shore, anxiously awaiting the spring runs. It’s a different — and at times more challenging — experience than offshore fishing, but still a rewarding way to spend time taking it all in.
After all, it was Herbert Hoover who wrote fishermen “must be of contemplative mind, for it is often a long time between bites … he is by nature an optimist or he would not go fishing.”
You’ll need some inexpensive equipment before heading out. There’s no shortage of bait and tackle supply stores that can outfit you with gear, from a rod and reel to fishing line, tackle, lures, bobbers and weights.
If you’re unsure of what you need — or need a few tips to get started, we recommend asking anyone behind the counter at a local bait shop. Wego Fishing in Southold is a go-to source for many local fishermen.
Owner Steve Sponza is an expert on fluke and porgies, while other employees have specialized knowledge on offshore tuna or bass fishing.
“Everyone has their talent,” he said. “You meet a lot of nice people and it makes a big difference. People come back and thank you. It’s sort of like a family.”
“At the end of the day, it’s fishing and not catching,” said Craig Jobes, who helps manage the shop. “But getting local knowledge in a bait shop or on a local charter boat is a good way to start.”
Although permits are not required for saltwater fishing, you must register with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for free. (Freshwater fishing requires a license and fees range between $5 and $50). You should also be aware of regulations for size limits and open seasons.
FIND A SPOT
Public piers are great spots for beginners to get the hang of fishing and are kid-friendly as well.
RAILROAD DOCK Greenport
This dock at the end of Third Street is popular for good reason: It’s also long been the site of the annual snapper derby held during the Maritime Festival weekend.
STEAMBOAT WHARF New Suffolk
A favorite spot for watching the sailboat races on Wednesday nights, the newly reconstructed wharf is a picturesque place to fish.
HASHAMOMUCK MARINE WATERWAY ACCESS SITE Southold
This brand new public boat ramp was completed by the state in 2021 and provides access to the Peconic Bay. You can also walk down a path on the 3.2-acre property onto a pier for fishing between Hashamomuck Pond and Mill Creek.
CEDAR BEACH COUNTY PARK Southold
This 68-acre park is limited for use by Suffolk County residents, but is a hotspot for fishing near the Shelter Island Sound.
ORIENT BEACH STATE PARK Orient
Fish from the shore at this iconic, easternmost point of the North Fork that’s also a popular spot for swimming, kayaking and hiking.