Fishing for winter cod in the Atlantic
Morning on the Lady Frances started out slowly, with more dogfish than cod being caught. If one spot proved unfruitful, the captain ordered passengers to pull up their lines and set off in search of new waters. Around 11 am, the Lady Frances hit fishy gold, and for about 45 minutes, nearly everyone pulled up at least two cod.
The beautiful, spotted, green fish, which must be at least 22 inches long to keep, were fat and fleshy. Their mouths gaped in perfect circles as they were hauled aboard; the odd whiskers on their faces make them look a bit like catfish. They wriggled and thrashed about on deck before being thrown into bags to await their ultimate fate, presumably on the dinner table.
Even when there are no bites, deep-sea fishing is a very pleasurable activity. There is something hypnotic and relaxing about the repetitive task of baiting your hook, dropping your line, feeling the weight bump along the bottom of the ocean floor and reeling it in to hook some fresh bait, over and over again.
On one side of the boat, the ocean spread out to the distant horizon, with untold squalls, storms and cloud formations stretching to the European coast. On the other side, Rhode Island and Connecticut promise warmth, rest and dry land to weary fishermen. Reeling in these robust fish is a strenuously satisfying activity, and when the captain announced that the boat would be returning to land, everyone seemed ready.
Government numbers may differ from the recounting of recreational and commercial fishermen, but most people agree that it is responsible and important to monitor the populations of cod and other fish in order to ensure schools remain healthy and can be fished for years to come.
The Frances Fleet leaves daily, weather permitting. Reservations are recommended. Other outfits that offer winter fishing trips include the Marilyn Jean IV, which leaves from Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, NY, and the Helen H which departs from Montauk on Long Island.
The crew of the Lady Frances will fillet the fish for you on deck as the boat heads back to port. They work for tips and put in a great deal of effort throughout the trip, so this is a good time to give whoever has been helping you about $20.
Cod are a delicious, firm, white-fleshed fish that can be prepared a variety of ways – baked with herbs and vegetables, fried, topped with a tomato sauce, or cut into chunks and cooked in a chowder or curry.