All homes have stories to tell. Those occupied by anglers can be especially expressive. Frequently, their décor reflects a love of nature highlighted by hints of a pastime shared across generations. A mount on the wall, a shadowbox displaying lures or a photo of the big one that didn’t get away are obvious clues. But practical hints abound as well — think rod racks, foul-weather gear, or orange tote boxes on the lawn. All of these indicate an angler or fishing family lays claim to this homestead. Here’s how a variety of those who fish in Long Island incorporate piscatorial passion into their personal living space.
DICK KISSEL: ROOM FOR EVERYTHING
Dick Kissel, 73, of Amityville is a biologist and passionate angler. He loves to tell a great tale, and any item on display in his home can be a starting point. His two-bedroom renovated house on the water oozes history. When Robert Moses was building the causeway that bears his name, the house sat on a sandy isle west of Captree. In need of sand for cement, Moses had New York State declare eminent domain and moved the residence to the spot where Kissel has lived for more than 45 years.
“Anything of fishing or outdoors interest can end up here,” says Kissel, who lives with his wife, Jill, and displays treasures like museum pieces. Step onto the front porch, and you’ll spot gyotaku prints, or rubbings with ink or paint -- one is of a 40-pound striped bass, the other a fluke print that Kissel created with acrylics. In the living room, 20 antique fishing rods are racked tight to the ceiling. A spectacular mosaic of a striper Kissel constructed from more than 2,000 seashells dominates the back wall. It took him four months to piece it together.
“I like to surround myself with things I fish and hunt for,” says Kissel, who has more than 100 deer antlers atop a downstairs bathroom cabinet. An upstairs studio has beach glass, seashell mobiles, plus a mosaic made of sea robin skull bones. Fishing lures are placed inconspicuously throughout the house.
Out back, a spectacular deck with a large maple tree in the center spills out to a canal on Great South Bay. A World War II bombshell is suspended from the tree, and colorful striper lures line the fence. A set of three school stripers Kissel pounded out from roofing gutters grace the southeast side while a wooden outdoors shower stall in the yard’s northwest corner has colorful, recycled plastic beach shovels. Turning back to look at the house: A fiberglass replica of a 9-pound blackfish resides near the back door. Interestingly, it’s the only fish mount on the premises.
• If it interests you, find a place for it. Grouping like items together helps with organization and comparisons.
• Tape one item to the outside of small storage boxes representing what’s inside to save time when tracking stuff down.
• Soak fish bones and seashells outside in a mixture of bleach and water to remove heavy scents. Rinse, and dry in the sun. Eventually, most smells will dissipate.
JERMAINE OWENS: PRACTICALITY IS KEY
Jermaine Owens, 41, just moved into a home in Peconic with his fiancee, Danielle Cullen, and their daughter, Rylee, age 10. There’s not much on the inside walls here yet, but the family plans to decorate with a nautical flair. That would be especially fitting for Owens, a professional fish cutter and fishing mate.
“This was a ladies’ hat factory back in the 1890s,” explains Owens. “It’s a square building with a single main support beam that runs right down the center, so we have fewer walls and more open space than most homes. We like that a lot.”
The two-level house has five bedrooms and four baths. It backs up to a park with plenty of open space, tennis courts, ballfields and a running trail. It had fallen into disrepair before the couple purchased it and began remodeling.
“I’m working on the garage now, trying to get my fishing gear organized,” explains Owens. “I need to know where my stuff is for work, so I’m sorting it, storing it and hanging it to be easy to find. Next, I’ll work on decorating the inside.”
Owens appears off to a good start. He’s built a work bench and shelves and has acquired clear plastic boxes to store assorted small fishing items. Fishing overalls hang from a hook on a garage wall, and a dozen rods stand ready for service. Outside, lobster pots are stacked neatly on the side deck. Things are coming along.
“We’ll take our time and let our nautical theme settle into place,” he says. “With decorating, as with fishing, patience can be a virtue.”
• Store fishing gear where it’s easy to see and reach. That way you can grab it and go. Place everyday fishing items closest to the garage entrance.
• Small, clear storage boxes are great for organizing swivels, snaps, hooks and lures. A screw cabinet with small trays works well, too. Short fishing rods can be racked along a wall. Rack surf rods overhead.
• Lay stuff out before deciding where to stow it. You need to know how much gear you actually have before trying to pack it away.
ANN COSGROVE: LOCAL ARTWORK
Ann and Richard Cosgrove’s three-bedroom, two-level Cape sits on a canal overlooking eastern Shinnecock Bay. Built in 1962, it’s just 300 yards from the bay in a private community and positioned on a slight hill to offer reasonable protection from storm surges.
Like Kissel’s home, the Cosgrove abode features a big backyard deck with a maple tree framed in the middle. There’s also a fish-cleaning table in a corner by the canal. It’s here the couple keeps an active crab trap, which excites their Jack Russel terrier, Molly, whenever it’s checked. Inside the house, there’s little in the way of trinkets or small items of interest. Instead, larger seascapes rule the rooms.
Ann Cosgrove, 56, has a passion for fly-fishing, which is instantly apparent when you step inside. The living room has a flyrod replica lamp, and a copy of local author Tom McCoy’s book “How to Improve Your Fly Fishing and Catching” resides on a coffee table. A spinning rod leans against the fireplace mantel while a print of a fly-fishing boat chasing stripers at Montauk hangs from the opposing wall.
“I like local themes,” explains Cosgrove, “so most of our prints, fish carvings and the like are by local artists.” Vito DeVito published the Montauk print. “In the dining room, I have a photo of stripers on the prowl from photographer and charter skipper Jim Levinson, and a tin striper on the wall is by Nick Groudas,” she adds. “In the kitchen, there’s a seascape painting that could pass for any boardwalk cutting through the dunes.”
Cosgrove, an elementary school teacher and member of both the Long Island Fly-Rodders and Trout Unlimited, volunteers time as an instructor with Casting for Recovery, a program that takes breast cancer survivors fishing. “Fishing is wonderful therapy,” says Cosgrove. “It’s a way to relax, have fun and experience thrills at the same time. That’s why we incorporate it into our home.”
• One or two items can set the tone for an entire room. Choose artworks for how they make you feel and how they bring the outdoors indoors, and pull some color from them to match furniture or other items within the same room.
• Winter outdoors expos carry a surprising amount of fish and seascape art. From original carvings to prints, you’ll find items depicting specific locations and fish species found on Long Island.
• Consider both the art material and color themes when trying to determine where artwork works best. Hanging art can be a two-person operation. Agree on a spot, then one person can hold the artwork, and the other can mark where the hanger screw or molly should go. Be sure to use picture hangers that are rated to provide appropriate support.
GREG NISITO: OLD TACKLE SERVES DOUBLE-DUTY
Greg Nisito has plenty of fishing tackle around his three-bedroom Colonial-style Massapequa home — you just have to look carefully to find it. A tackle sales representative, Nisito, 64, says he loves to repurpose old fishing rods, crab nets, lures — anything fishing. Most of his older gear eventually earns a second life in the small, well-manicured yard.
“Almost anything fishing can be tastefully redesigned to serve a useful purpose,” chuckles Nisito, who lives with his wife, Dolores. “I use old crab nets as support posts for bird feeders and the butt sections of broken rods become rake, broom or shovel handles. A cull rack, formerly used for sorting little necks from seed clams too small to harvest, holds my garden cultivators.”
“Of course, I have plenty of fishing stuff inside as well,” states Nisito. “There’s the obligatory bait freezer in my garage — complete with the head of a 20-pound blackfish I’m going to remove the dentures from and use to make gyotaku prints on T-shirts.”
There are also boxes and boxes of colorful bucktails and other lures from the companies Nisito represents, stacked and inventoried neatly on shelves. His home office sports a 4-inch striped bass replica hand-carved and signed by famous fishing plug maker Stan Gibbs.
Perhaps his favorite item, however, is an original painting by artist friend Dan Pollera: a composite of the Fundy Bridge, High Flats Drain and Neds Creek marshland, three western Great South Bay areas Nisito loves to fish for fluke and stripers. His boats, a 21-foot McKee Craft, 17-foot Boston Whaler and 14-foot MonArk, are painted into the scene. Nisito keeps the 24-by-35-inch original in his living room and a print in his office.
• Old surf rods bend nicely to make a u-shape arbor or vine guide.
• Smaller rods can serve as tomato and vegetable stakes. Stick them in the ground and use the guides to tie off your tomato support wires or strings.
• Evasive cat? Tie several feet of brightly colored yarn to the top guide of an old fishing rod and add a few feathers from the yard to the end of the line. Flip the feathers under the couch or out on the lawn. Mr. Whiskers will pounce and hold on tight -- giving you a chance to get a good grip.