------It’s 7:00 on a Monday morning at Inspiration Wharf Marina. This early on a summer’s day it’s still calm and quiet, and Peter, the chief mate, unbolts the storage lockers and hauls the fishing gear out onto the deck of the Angler II as the Captain checks the gauges and the marine forecast. The morning sun has burned off most of the lingering haze that gently swirls above the rippled bay water, and the sound of terns and gulls keeps them company as the mate readies the rods and reels for the days passengers. Long before the last rigs are tied to the lines, the sound of gravel crunching under car tires breaks the quiet, but instead of the typical old timer up early for a day of fishing, it’s a suburban mom with an SUV full of kids and the voices are bursting with excitement.

------They barrel down the gangway carelessly swinging their carefully packed bags of clothes, lunch and lotion, but they are much more deliberate in how they handle their rods and tackle boxes. They may be 10 years old, but they are already fishermen by every honest measure.

------“I’m sorry to bring them down so early” mom apologizes, “but they were up with the sun and haven’t stopped pestering me. They really couldn’t wait”. “No sweat,” replies Capt. Bob, “I understand completely”. And he truly does. The irresistible urges that make a person a fisherman come to the surface on that first childhood outing, and they never go away. The body ages, but the enthusiasm is ageless.

------He takes a final sip of his coffee, welcomes the kids aboard to stow their gear, loads them up with fresh bait, and sends them back on the dock to fish for snappers. This easily occupies their time as the crew continues to ready the vessel for its scheduled 9am departure. In short order a dozen more cars empty their precious cargo, and soon this week’s adventure will begin.

------This morning scene repeats itself Monday through Friday from June 17 to August 30 as the Angler Fleet Kids Summer Fishing Adventure plies the waters of the western Long Island Sound, giving modern day Huck Finns the chance to experience the natural wonder that still inhabits the places their grandfathers may have played as kids. Capt. Ken Tokar, owner of the Angler Fleet, came up with the idea for this after 10 years of running his vessels as standard open fishing boats in both Howard Beach Queens and Port Washington LI. As a child, Ken had free run of the marina his grandfather managed, and with those joyous memories still clear in his mind it occurred to him two years ago that he could offer a sample of this idyllic lifestyle to a new generation.

------His program centers around fishing and each day’s voyage targets one or more of the local in-season species such as porgies, bluefish, striped bass, or fluke. These stable Coast Guard approved and fully licensed and regulated vessels pursue their quarry in the predominantly sheltered waters from the Whitestone Bridge east to Hempstead Harbor, and all the bays and inlets of both north and south Sound shores in between. Vessels are staffed with a licensed captain and one or more mates to keep the ratio of adults to children around one to five. Capt. and crew instruct the new passengers first and most importantly on safety rules. Once each child is clear on the rules of safety, it’s time for rule number two… Have fun. You must have fun and you must ensure that everyone has fun. Once those responsibilities have been accepted by all, it’s time to learn fish.

------Basic instruction on how to use the fishing gear is provided, as is all bait and tackle, and everyone starts to fish. Further instruction usually comes not as part of a curriculum, but instead as an extension of a child’s natural inclination to want to do things by themselves. That desire for independence creates an excitement about exploration and accepting new challenges, and successes build on each other in an inspiring way. The boys and girls soon learn to bait their own hooks, tie their own rigs, use their tackle and unhook their own fish. Many take this “do it yourself” credo home with them, and it’s kind of funny to hear a group of kids during a lull in the action on the third day seriously discussing their recipes for preparing sea robin fillets, or explaining how they made their own de-hooker out of scrap metal.

------Being on a big fishing boat is a new experience for all the gang, and opportunity abounds for new learning. Kids get to sound the gas tanks, assist with the lines, help haul the anchor, steer the vessel, prepare the bait, learn about fish finders, GPS, the buoy system, tides, moon phases, and whatever piques their curiosity.

------Should the fishing slow down, or the heat of the day become too much to comfortably handle, anchoring the boat in a shallow lagoon and wading the beach opens up a whole new world of fun. Swimming, snorkeling the tidal flats, dragging a seine net, and studying a bucket of starfish, hermit crabs, jellyfish, snails, clams and sea worms you just collected begins to make video games seem far less essential.

------To keep things varied, crab traps, and fish pots are set, hauled and re-baited by the kids on a regular basis to provide a look at a myriad of arthropods and small bottom dwelling fish that are otherwise rarely seen. Dressing and filleting the days catch is a crowd pleasing activity where examination of stomach contents provides both a look at some new aquatic species and a lesson on predatory behaviors of the targeted fish.

------Biology and nature are big topics when you spend 6 hours a day on the water. There is much to see, and plenty of questions to ask. Strange things come up from the bottom, and often kids observation skills surpass the adults. Mates sometimes need to task themselves with an online search from home to identify some strange object or behavior that an observant child noticed that day. Sea birds abound in these waters, including gulls, terns, ospreys, cormorants, skimmers, herons, egrets, geese, swans, and an variety of ducks. Unfortunate schools of baitfish rise to the surface and become sandwiched between diving birds and feeding bluefish creating a spectacle of sight and sound that is never to be forgotten. The vessel has stories of hailstones in July, seal and porpoise sightings, a wayward pelican, and double rainbows, all within site of the Manhattan skyline. Capt. Ken says “You could spend three lifetimes out there on the water and never have a boring minute”. The kids certainly seem to agree.

------The Angler Fleet consists of the 50 foot Angler II and the 50 foot Angler III as well as the 25 foot Angler Xpress charter boat. The two big vessels sail open boat every day in spring and fall and on weekends and evenings all summer long with Kids Summer Fishing Adventure on weekdays. The kids program is limited in capacity. Capt. Ken advises “many of those who have sailed in previous years have already reserved their dates for this year and so the calendar is filling up quickly. Early reservations are essential”.

Visit the fleet website at www.theangler.com or give Capt. Ken a call at (718) 659-8181. Don’t miss the boat.

The ANGLER (718) 659-8181

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