For five hours Saturday anyone with even the slightest interest in outdoor pursuits could avail him or herself of a virtual cornucopia of experts ready and willing to share their knowledge of nature at the Sportsmen’s Expo on the Amagansett Fire Department’s grounds.
“You gotta pay attention,” Glen Mikkleson, a maker of saltwater flies, said to one inquirer. And while Mikkleson, some of whose shrimp, worm, and spearing lures were only a half-inch long at most, was speaking to the question of the feeding habits of striped bass, and to the relative advantage or disadvantage of fly rod fishing, or “glorified handlining,” his adjuration could well serve as an outdoors mantra.
Mikkleson’s display of flies included larger ones, as well, to be used when the bass were farther out in the surf. “You gotta pay attention, you gotta know what they’re eating — they’ll eat anything but spider crabs or jellyfish.”
“Oh yeah, the blues and bass are here,” Sebastian Gorgone of Sam’s Auto and Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle Shop, said when queried. “The season just opened. There are really big blues at Gerard Drive, following squid. That’s the first sign of spring.”
“Also chain pickerel — that’s a freshwater fish that’s very aggressive and fun to catch — at Scoy Pond. They pop at you, they attack you!”
Given the chain pickerel and his new heavy metal band, Volken Destructo, which is to play at the East Hampton Bowl and at the Stephen Talkhouse in the near future, he had every reason to be excited, he said.
“I’m living the dream!” said Gorgone, who was offering a full panoply of fishing gear at bargain-basement prices, essentially “to the local guys who stop your bleeding and put out your house fires.”
Asked how Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle Shop had come to be, Gorgone said, referring to his late father, “Sam had some extra space and said to my mother,” Denise, that it was hers to oversee, assuring her (correctly as it turned out) that “with this, we’ll be able to put the kids through college. We’ll be celebrating our 30th anniversary next year.”
“I enjoy the car stuff,” he added, “but fishing is my passion.”
“This is going to be a busy summer,” predicted Ed Michels, chief of the town’s marine police. “For both the beaches and the waterways. There are a lot less beaches on Long Island now after Sandy. We suffered erosion here too, though the beaches are coming back, in Amagansett and Montauk. As for boating, everyone who has a powerboat in Suffolk is going to have to pass a safety test this year. This came about because of those bad accidents up the Island. . . . The town supervisor’s office is handling registration for an all-day boating safety course that we’ll give at Town Hall on May 18.”
The Montauk Coast Guard station was on hand too, with its 25-foot patrol boat. Inside, Marine Enforcement Officer Second Class Victor Davalos answered questions as to the Coast Guard’s purview, and handed out thick federal and state guides for recreational boaters.
Carl Forsberg, of Montauk’s Viking Fleet, who later was to learn he had won a lifetime New York Department of Environmental Conservation hunting and fishing license donated by the expo’s sponsor, the East Hampton Sportsmen’s Alliance, used the occasion to announce the imminent arrival of a top-of-the-line 65-foot charter boat, the Viking Five Star, which, he said, would make overnight offshore excursions with a dozen or so onboard for tile fish and tuna. Questioned further, Forsberg, who is married to the former Stephanie Talmage, the assistant clerk of the East Hampton Town Trustees, described it as “a sportfishing yacht . . . it’s fishing its way up the coast from Tarpon Springs, Fla. It’ll be here May 9.”
Stephanie, who had come across the hall from the town trustees’ table in the hunting exhibits room with lunch for her husband — chili she’d gotten from Terry O’Riordan, one of the expo’s progenitors — said, in reply to some questioning, that scallops, clams, and oysters had served as the basis for her doctoral thesis at Stony Brook University, and that she hoped in time to teach marine science here to middle school or high school students.
“I’ve always had a passion for marine science, and I would love to teach the subject to the next generation . . . it’ll happen one of these days,” said Forsberg, who was wearing an eye-catching scallop shell pendant. Looking over at her husband, she said, “He loves what he does and I love what I do. Loving what you do makes all the difference.”
John (Barley) Dunne, who oversees the town’s shellfish hatchery, said the seed clams, oysters, and scallops — especially the scallops — had been flourishing at the Montauk hatchery, at the nursery at Three Mile Harbor, and at the field site at Napeague Harbor.
Mike Andreanni of the Star Island Yacht Club and Marina said, in answer to a question, that the yacht club’s shark tournament, which is to take place June 14 and 15, was “not as bad as people make it out to be . . . there’s a minimum weight on all the fish, and most of the sharks caught are makos and threshers — nothing is wasted, it’s all edible. We [he and Scott Leonard] are usually sitting at the end of the table, hoping for a couple of steaks to bring home.”
Dale Whitley, a turkey caller from Rocky Point whom O’Riordan has described as “larger than life,” said during a brief conversation that “Dave DiSunno’s grandson [Raymond, 15] got a turkey this morning. There’s a special youth season on — today and tomorrow. Shotguns only.”
In the hunting room, which included several local decoy carvers, David Bennett and Robbie Greene among them, a goose and duck hunting guide, Duane Arnister, a Water Mill farmer who grows privet now instead of potatoes, and who leases land for his goose and duck-hunting guide service on the South and North Forks, and a Cornell Cooperative Extension exhibit of a marine meadows program designed to encourage an eelgrass comeback, J. Mitchell Yates, a Hampton Bays gun maker whose late father, Bob, taught for many years at the Amagansett School, and who grew up here, said that he’s making early American (1760s to the 1820s) long-rifles full-time now.
The stocks, he said, were mostly of curly maple, though some were of walnut and cherry. “I don’t make the barrels — I buy them — but everything else I do myself. I try to do everything as it would have been done in the period. . . . They take about 200 to 400 hours to make, and I sell them for $3,000 to $7,000.”
“I grew up hunting and fishing here — I still do it,” said Yates, who said muzzle-loaders, which take three to four minutes to load, make hunting “a little bit more of a challenge. You get one shot.”
“The follow through is so important,” said Arnister, who was listening in. “First there’s a click, then a phhhht, then a boom.”
“You gotta stay with ’em,” he said, siting along his hands as his arms swept from right to left. “It took [NBC’s Sports Outdoors’] Tred Barta two shows to get a goose with a muzzle-loader — I got two in two minutes.”
The venison liver paté on the kitchen’s counter was tasty. While this writer was eating some, O’Riordan said, concerning the turnout, “so far we’re happy — the traffic seems to be steady. The word ‘free,’ ” he said, referring to the sign outdoors, “draws a lot of people.”
Later, Steve Tekulsky reported that “this year was our second year doing this, and it was bigger and better — there were at least 200 who turned out. We’re very pleased.”
He added that, besides Carl Forsberg, the other raffle winners were David Gamble, who won an H&R 20-gauge rifled slug gun donated by Herb Kiembock of Amagansett Hardware; Bill Cardone, who won a Remington model 887 12-gauge shotgun, also donated by Herb Kiembock, and Fred Verity, who won a 7-foot Shakespeare rod with a Penn 310GT reel loaded with 30-pound line and a striped bass jig that was donated by Tight Lines Tackle of Sag Harbor.