From Croatia to LI, a family tradition lives on
If you search online for a town called Nerezine, you might find this: “Nerezine is a fishing village on the Island of Losinj in Croatia. The current population is 400.” That’s where my story begins. You see, when you are born into a fishing village on an island, it becomes part of your genetic makeup that’s passed on from one generation to another. You instinctively yearn for the sound and smell of the ocean and the bounties that lie beneath it.
My family immigrated to the United States in 1961 when I was 6. We bought a two-family home with my grandparents in Astoria, Queens. Many from Nerezine lived nearby, including Roberto, who owned a summer home in Rocky Point. When I was 12, my father included me whenever he would go fishing with Roberto.
I remember waiting impatiently for late spring to arrive, bringing its much-anticipated warmer weather and the opportunity to go fishing with my father on Long Island’s North Shore. Typically on a fishing weekend, at least once or twice a month beginning in late April until early November, my father would wake me at around 3 a.m. And, truth be told, it was difficult to even fall asleep the night before, anticipating the next day's event. So, most of the time, I’d pretend to wake up out of a sound sleep.
We’d quickly gobble down breakfast and tiptoe out the door to our massive, red 1965 Buick Electra.
In the 1970s, the Long Island Expressway was still under construction, so it would take us a good two hours on Route 25A to reach Rocky Point. From there, the three of us would carpool. Rain or fog never stopped us, and we’d drive to the Port of Egypt Fishing Station in Southold. There, we would buy bait, either fresh clams or green crabs, depending on what we were fishing for.
We’d rent a wood-hulled skiff with a 10-horsepower outboard motor to venture into either Peconic Bay for mackerel or weakfish or -- what I enjoyed the most -- fishing in Orient Point, which hosted porgies, fluke, blowfish, blackfish and sea bass. Driving there, though, meant an additional hour to reach the launch site.
The North Shore’s geography is unique. The hills, cliffs and rocky shore are remnants of the Wisconsin Glaciation, the geological movement that formed 10,000 to 70,000 years ago. Upon arrival at Orient Point, we’d present the attendant with our boat rental receipt from the fishing station.
Typically, within 30 minutes or so, it would be our turn to load the boat with our gear and bait. There was a sizable vertical drop from the parking area to the water. So, the boat would be positioned on a railroad-like contraption connected to a winch on a rusty Volkswagen Beetle on blocks for both launching and recovery. I considered this an engineering marvel that I imagined existed only on Long Island.
After cruising to our favorite fishing spots, I was assigned the lackluster task of shucking clams, then cutting them into strips for bait.
It's been approximately 31 years since we purchased our home in Lake Grove nine years into our marriage. In the blink of an eye, we raised three sons and now have four grandchildren.
Now, when I fish the Sound outside Port Jefferson Harbor – sometimes with my sons and grandkids -- I recall those fond memories of going out with my father and his love for me and the sea. After all, it’s embedded in our DNA.
Reader Lino E. Bracco lives in Lake Grove.