Just Don’t Call Them Old

Richie and Jacob Nessel
Richie and Jacob Nessel will be honored tonight at the annual Old Timers Dinner hosted by the Montauk Chamber of Commerce. Janis Hewitt

The brothers Richie and Jacob Nessel are probably the most reluctant oldtimers to be honored tonight at the annual Old Timers dinner hosted by the Montauk Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m not old,” said Jake Nessel.

“It’s wonderful. Can I leave now and go home for dinner?” asked Richie Nessel when the two met with a visitor for a photograph on the docks near the Ebb Tide, the boat Captain Jake runs.

They may not consider themselves old, but they have been fishing commercially for more than 50 years, mainly in Montauk. Richie Nessel’s boat is called the Nasty Ness, and he also mates on other Montauk boats.

In a release, chamber officials called the brothers fishing activists, record-holders, and legends in Montauk’s harbor community.

Richie Nessel recently received the International Game Fish Association’s Chester H. Wolfe Outstanding Sportsmanship Award at the annual Shark’s Eye tournament, a tag-and-release event in Montauk that promotes the conservation of sharks. He was also instrumental in easing this year’s state fishing regulations and catch limits, specifically addressing the summer flounder restrictions in New York as compared to other states.

He got in touch with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and invited him out for a day of fishing on his boat. The governor accepted his invitation and the visit resulted in heightened awareness of problems with the regulations and changes in the daily bag limits by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, which fishermen hope will have a positive effect on charter and party boat business this summer.

Captain Jake began fishing with his father in 1951. When he was 15 in 1955, he started working as a deckhand on party boats out of Montauk on weekends and summer vacations. He spent the next 15 years running the Marlin III, IV, and V boats. He purchased his own boat, the Sportfisher, and fished from that for two years.

Since 1996, he has captained the Ebb Tide party boat, formerly the Marlin V. Highlights of his career include landing two 18-pound fluke and helping a woman land a world-record 55-pound codfish. He is the current world record-holder for a codfish weighing in at 85 pounds. He also won the Montauk Marine Basin Shark Tournament in its first year, landing a 320-pound mako.

Phil Hewitt, a lifelong friend of the brothers who now lives and captains boats in Florida, sent a statement to the chamber to be read at the dinner, recalling that when the Nessel family first moved to the hamlet a bunch of local fishermen got a quick lesson from them.

He said Jake is the guy with all the skills and intuition to be a successful fisherman in a highly competitive area. “He proves his ability every day, and has a good dose of normal luck,” Mr. Hewitt said.

But Richie Nessel, he said, takes luck to a whole new realm. “Just like Jake, he has the skills to load the dock with fish on a regular basis. But in Richie’s world the golden starburst of luck seems to perpetually glitter.”

He mentioned one fishing trip with Richie Nessel in which a spotter plane was used to locate swordfish. Mr. Nessel’s back was to the water, and he kept asking what the pilot was yelling about. Mr. Hewitt and another mate shouted in unison, “Turn around!” and as he did he saw a massive fish slipping under the boat. Quick of hand, Mr. Nessel flipped the harpoon like a garden rake and made a direct hit, said Mr. Hewitt. Soon the 476-pound swordfish was flopping about on the boat’s deck.

At tonight’s party there will be a roasting of the two brothers before dinner, which comes with beer or wine. A cash bar will be available. Tickets cost $40, but only a few remain. Guests without tickets have been invited to arrive at 5 for the cash bar and the roasting.