Most people don’t think about fishing when they say, ‘New York City’. It would be safe to say that shopping, taxi’s, pizza, or the stock market would come to mind before we think of NYC as a fishing destination. It’s time to rethink that notion, because Manhattan and the outter boroughs are surrounded by water that delivers one of the most diverse wildlife refuges in the United States with a long history of fishing.
The Lenape Indians responsibly fished the area for thousands of years until the Dutch and English settled in the 1600’s. Shellfish was so abundant and important to the Lenape people that they used the clam shells as currency. By the 19th Century, NYC became overfished and polluted. The oysters that once dominated downtown Manhattan and Pearl Street had been depleted due to a lack of reseeding. New York City’s water ways became even more polluted as the industrial revolution raged on.
Now the water ways are much cleaner with environmental regulations and upgraded water treatment facilities. Many species such as striped bass, bluefish, etc. have returned in great numbers. As a result, you will find people fishing from piers, bridges, and beaches on any given day. If you look closely, they are poetic silhouettes nestled in the foreground of New York City’s impressive skyline carrying on a rich tradition.
So why is NYC’s urban fishing important and needs a spotlight? NYC anglers are from all corners of the world and reflect the cities wonderful range of diversity. For locals, fishing is a great stress reliever and for some it can be a great way to put food on the table.
I wanted to highlight this often-overlooked hobby because I personally found that fishing improved my mental health especially during the pandemic. When speaking to these anglers during the project, this was a common theme.