Go Fish!

jacques_top2

Jacques Torres has not yet entered the first-ever Brooklyn Fishing Derby, as far as we know, but he’d be our man for the win, for sure.

This past weekend Edible Manhattan hit the other side of the East River to check in on the first-ever Brooklyn Fishing Derby, which runs till the end of the month. The Derby–basically a contest to see who can catch the biggest fish, but also an attempt to get New Yorkers to remember we do live on some extremely productive waters–is the handiwork of Ben Sargent. You might have seen the slightly surfery Brooklynite (who does look supremely fishermanlike when he dons his insulated plaid jacket and a baseball cap, even if it does read Katz’s) on Martha Stewart and on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown. That’s because Sargent, who grew up in Cambridge, is often known as “chowder guy,” serving up myriad kinds at the surf-themed shack formerly called Hurricane Hopeful on N. Sixth St. in Williamsburg. (It’s now Surf Bar.)

During the Derby, he’s usually out at Williamsburg’s East River State Park on Saturday and Sunday, and will gladly show you how to cast, or school you on Greenpoint’s best bait and tackle shop, or remind you that the city now requires a fishing license or you’ll get a $150 fine. (They head to Brooklyn Ale House with poles in tow for brews afterwards, too.) Most importantly, Sargent can walk you through what is no doubt your primary question: Can you eat what you catch? The answer is mainly yes: The fish has to be large enough to be legal, for starters. Sargent also recommends sticking with transient, fast-swimming fish like striped bass (it’s their season, so expect chocolatier-cum-fisherman Jacques Torres, shown above, to be out there on the waters, too) which “in essence, are not here very long,” says Sargent. But be sure to skip the crabs and other bottom feeders. You can register for the Derby, or get more info on becoming Brooklyn’s “biggest hooker,” as Sargent likes to put it–we want that on a T-shirt for sure–at brooklynchowdersurfer.com. That’s also home to Sargent’s cooking, fishing and surfing videos, all of which are totally rad.

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.