Silly Lily Fishing
“There’s a tag line that Gary Gunseich at Silly Lily Fishing in East Moriches has use for years: “Quit Wishin’. Go Fishing!” It’s fun, catchy and straight to the point. It’s also a poignant reminder that even anglers who don’t own a boat have plenty of options to get out on the water and start catchin’ – especially during the heat of summer.
Long Islanders, especially, are blessed with a variety of ways to overcome lack of boat ownership. You can, of course, fish from the shore, surf, jetties or docks. Kayaks present another opportunity, one that is rapidly gaining in popularity for its low start-up costs. I even know a few people who fish from stand-up paddle boards these days.
For my money, however, there are three boating options that are tough to beat: party, charter and rental boat fishing. As with any other aspect of the angling game, each has its own dedicated following. For beginners especially, though, there is a lot of crossover. That’s a good thing as it keeps the action fresh and interesting while opening eyes to different routes for success.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
What’s the difference between party, charter and rental boats? Actually, there are several. Party boats, also known locally as open boats or head boats, tend to be large vessels that accommodate from six to as many as two-hundred fishermen per trip. With the exception of special trips (i.e., far-offshore wreck fishing, overnight runs for tuna, and drift-fishing for striped bass) reservations are not generally necessary for these ventures (although you might want to call ahead on weekends just to be sure). All you do is show up at the dock prior to the advertised sailing time, hop aboard and pay the fare.
Charter boats, in contrast, generally cater to groups of six or fewer customers and reservations are always necessary. The big plus here is that you get to pick your rail mates because you book the boat exclusively for the day. Charter boating also affords the opportunity to fish with a specific type of tackle, such as fly-fishing gear for stripers and blues, target less populous species like false albacore, and interact one-on-one with a mate and skipper who can really teach you some neat tricks to turn on the fish.
For the more independent or adventurous angler, or those who want the option to pull up onto a sandy beach and go swimming, clamming or custom define the parameters of their trip, rental boats are the way to go. These afford the opportunity to be your own skipper, find your own fishing spots, use your own gear and set your own pace. You are the skipper and you call the shots and head home whenever you want during operating hours.
At one time, there were nearly 50 rental skiff stations around Long Island.
These days, with such a high level of private boat ownership and the expensive nature of waterfront properties, there remain only a handful but these are certainly worth checking out and perfect for a summertime family adventure.
THE PARTY BOAT GAME
Generally speaking, party boats sail for species that are highly abundant at a particular port or time of season. Since the skipper has to produce a solid haul for many anglers, easy-to-catch or prolific species such as summer flounder, bluefish, porgy and black sea bass are the usual targets.
Party boats usually sail on a full or half-day schedule, but there are exceptions to this rule. Some add evening or nighttime trips, a few feature overnight specials to far off waters. Most provide bait free of charge and all have suitable rods, reels, hooks and tackle available for free or at a nominal charge. Fares vary from port to port and even from boat to boat but are usually based on how far the vessel must cruise and what species the boat is after.
During the summer months, most boats sail seven days a week, weather permitting. You can figure that a full day of party boating will run from $40 to $90 with half-days costing $30 to $50. Plan to tip the crew 15- to 20% of the fare.
A phone call to any boat you plan to fish will fill you in on the details.
While party boaters can decide to fish on the spur of the moment, charter fishing requires more advanced planning. For one thing, many of the better boats are booked weeks in advance.
This is especially true for weekend fishing, peak tuna season and full moon striped bass trips. For another, the fare is much steeper, ranging from as little as $250 for a half-day inshore guided trip to over $1,200 dollars for an extended trip to the offshore canyons. As with party boating, a tip for the mate is extra.
Most charter boats can accommodate up to six passengers for a flat rate fee.
Thus, the more anglers you bring along, the lower the price per person. In some types of fishing however, like offshore trolling for tuna, more people equates to less time on the rod so be aware of the cost/fishing time trade-off on these ventures.
Whether you are thinking of taking a charter boat or an open boat, make it a point to stop down at the dock at some point to check things out in person if at all possible. Ask departing anglers if they had a good time and what they thought of the crew. Note the condition of the vessels you are considering, and take a gander at the on-board tackle. Most top-notch skippers are sticklers for a clean boat and quality gear.
THE RENTAL ROUTE
If you’ve always wanted to be a captain for a day, this is your chance. For under $100, you can rent a small but seaworthy vessel complete with engine, required safety gear and enough gas to reach nearby fishing grounds. Because these boats sport simple engines no special skills are needed to steer your way to fishing success.
“Rental skiff fishing is less expensive than owning your own boat,” explained Candy Caraftis, of Caraftis Fishing Station (631-473-2288) in Port Jefferson.
“Divide the cost of a trip by three or four people and it’s really quite a bargain.”
“All true,” adds Gunseich at Silly Lily (631-878-0247), “plus it’s flexible. If the fish stop biting, go clamming or hit the beach. You’re the skipper, so you decide.”
For this kind of fishing, you’ll need to bring your own gear and bait, plus a cooler with ice to keep the catch fresh. Stow lunch and drinks in an additional soft cooler. A large zip-lock bag keeps cameras, cell phones and car keys dry.
Bring a pliers for removing hooks, a knife to cut bait, and a net in case you
hook the big one. Sun block and a hat are necessities, as with any other type of fishing these days. All members of your crew over age 16 will also need a free NY State Saltwater Fishing license, something you don’t need when fishing on an open or charter vessel. At most rental stations, the first container of gas is free.