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Porgy

For those less fortunate who require meals provided by a Port Jefferson based soup kitchen, fresh-caught fish is a luxury. But thanks to the generosity and hard work of the crew of a charter fishing boat from Port Jeff and Welcome Friends, a soup kitchen that feeds as many as 75 people daily five times per week at local churches, that luxury became a reality.

The plan started with a phone call from Amanda Peterson, third-generation owner and captain of the Osprey Fishing Fleet. She reached out to Margaret Tumilowicz, president of Welcome Friends, and asked if her guests would enjoy fresh fish to be caught and donated by her customers on a June 12 fishing trip. The company offers seats on one of their two charter ships — the Osprey and Osprey V — for day trips into the Long Island Sound to catch fluke, porgies, bluefish, striped bass, sea bass and blackfish, depending on what’s currently in season. Typically a few dozen people are on board for a given trip, and they’re allowed to take home up to 30 fish each. This time, everyone on board was there to catch fish for people in need.

Peterson said in a phone interview she got inspiration from a trip she had taken with the Lady Reelers fishing club, a local group that at least once a year donates all of their catch from an outing to the food bank Long Island Cares. This was the second attempt at a massive catch-and-donate plan, after the first in the fall fell through due to bad weather. Peterson explained why she decided she wanted to hold a similar event to the Lady Reelers’ with her business.

“It’s such a great way to give back to the community,” Peterson said. “We’re a business that’s solely supported by the community. We want to find different ways to say thank you for keeping us in business.”

On June 12, about 35 fishermen and women lined up on the dock at the Port Jefferson Marina to help the worthy cause. Visitors of Welcome Friends weren’t alone in receiving a special meal though, as the participants of the trip were also instructed to bring $25 worth of nonperishable food items to be donated to Maryhaven Center of Hope Catholic Health Services or $25 worth of dog food for the Brookhaven Town Animal Shelter. The only other fee for prospective fish catchers was $10 to offset the costs of bait and fuel for the charter.

Members of Peterson’s crew were on board to donate their time to help catch the fish, as well as filet and debone them. The trip yielded more than 1,000 porgies in about an hour and a half. The arduous task of prepping the fish for cooking took the crew of the Osprey about five hours.

“I understand going without, so it’s good to take that feeling away for somebody,” deckhand for the Osprey Fleet Travis McRae said in an interview. He joked it was easy to convince people to attend the event because everyone likes fishing.

Tumilowicz reiterated it’s a rarity for guests to have the opportunity to enjoy a dinner of fresh-caught fish.

“It makes me feel really good,” Peterson said when she heard Tumilowicz had said that.

The soup kitchen president tried to put into words what the generous gesture meant to her.

“Can you imagine — god bless them,” she said. “We cannot say enough to describe the incredible generosity of Captain Amanda and her outstanding crew as well as their customers. Because the Greater Port Jefferson community supports our soup kitchen and other like-minded local organizations, we are able to provide for our neighbors in need.”

Tumilowicz said the bounty would provide about 500 meals for needy members of the community. Once the fish were caught and fileted, Welcome Friends’ team of volunteers, including cook Arty Shertzer, Mickey Cantwell and Tumilowicz’s husband Bob prepared the meals and bagged and froze fish for future meals.

One more positive outcome came from the June 12 outing. A three-year-old pit bull named Bella who was in need of a home at the Brookhaven Animal Shelter was brought aboard for the trip and was since adopted by Eddie McRae, who was on the charter that night. Peterson said about 1,000 pounds of dog food and 500 pounds of canned goods were also part of the yield.

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Sea bass will continue to remain on the North Shore in August. Above, Angelo Peluso and Adrian Mason show off their catches. Photo from Angelo Peluso

By Angelo Peluso

As we move into late summer, fishing has hit peak strides throughout the entirety of the Long Island Sound. Despite the sweltering heat that often accompanies August, the eighth month of the year contains National Smile Week, and if you play your fishing cards right you just might smile broadly while finding some of the best local fish of the year.

August brings many surprises along the North Shore of Long Island. Many anglers take time off during the often scorching days of late summer, relenting to the call of the beach and BBQs. But succumbing to the myth of the dog days is a big mistake. August brings with it numerous and exciting fishing opportunities. The cool depths of the Long Island Sound and abundant bait can keep fishing vibrant and at times hectic. This is especially true of the central regions of the Sound where, striped bass, bluefish, fluke, porgies and seas bass can be caught with a high degree of regularity.

Water quality in the Long Island Sound is at its finest along the central portions of the North Shore. The month, named in honor of Augustus Caesar, also brings with it the strong possibility of visitations by some highly anticipated pelagic species: Atlantic bonito, little tunny and Spanish mackerel. With conducive bait and water conditions, those highly coveted light tackle gamesters should show in numbers sufficient to warrant expanded time on the water. All significant recreational species are in season and several ocean-roaming species visit local waters.

Summer flounder, also called fluke, have been in abundance and will continue to be caught through to the season’s end on Sept.  21.  Although it appears at times that anglers need to weed through dozens upon dozens of undersized fluke and sea robins to be rewarded with a limit of keeper summer flounder, bigger fish are still around and patience pays dividends. August usually also witnesses some of the largest striped bass catches of the season. Nighttime moon tides and drifted eels will typically relinquish some of the finer specimens of bass. While some of the largest bass will succumb to large natural baits, casting artificial lures early and late in the day will yield bass.

All the other popular summer game fish species will also continue to remain along the North Shore: bluefish, scup and sea bass. Bluefish have been prolific, but beginning in July, larger pods of marauding “choppers” began moving inshore to feast on snappers. That predation pattern should continue through August and into the fall. This is a great time to cast large top-water plugs to snag what just might be the largest bluefish of the year. Porgy, aka scup, fishing is now as hot as the weather. There are lots of these tasty scup around, but finding the jumbo porgies will take some searching in deeper water. At this time of year, smaller scup can be found well inshore and often well within reach of shore anglers fishing around jetties, rock groins, boulders and other structures. Porgies are the most democratic fish that swim in the Sound, and they can be caught by just about anyone who fishes for them. If you’d like a little different kind of fun with porgies, try feeding them small artificial baits. Scent-infused plastic lures work wonders on porgies, as do small flies. Sea bass will also present themselves this month.  To date, there have been some impressive catches of quality sea bass, and those results should continue for the remainder of the season. Deep water structure is the key to this form of bass fishing. So get out there and have a great, safe month on the water. The fish will be waiting.