As The Fisherman enters its 50th year of publishing, it is difficult not to reflect on some of the dramatic changes that have taken place in our fisheries, in tackle, electronics, and especially in publishing. From those humble beginnings in 1966 as The Long Island Saltwater Fisherman in the basement of Rich Reina’s Long Island home, to four regional editions and its own Long Island based printing facility, The Fisherman has come a long way, indeed. As the largest, paid circulation weekly fishing publication in the country, it is also the most respected regional publication to be found on the East Coast. Reader loyalty is unmatched as evidenced by a renewal rate that hovers in the 70-percent range, the highest among regional and national consumer magazines.
Founded in 1966 by Richard Reina as The Long Island Saltwater Fisherman, the road was filled with pot holes. Producing a magazine back in the 60s was a difficult task. Those were the days of hand setting type, and getting the magazine out every week was a long and tedious process. Rich’s family, and people like Mickey Chiarenza, Don Miller, Al Reinfelder, Mike Zarella, Gerry Gomber, Scott Simons and Pete Barrett were among those who spent long hours helping to get the magazine off the ground in its infant years. Many of these names are well known in fishing circles and some have stood the test of time.
Rich Reina was working full-time in a printing plant in those early years. When he wasn’t at his job, he was busy collecting and writing fishing reports, selling advertising space, distributing magazines, and doing whatever else had to be done to get the job done. That job also helped pay some of The Fisherman bills in those early years.
The Long Island Fisherman was beginning to enjoy some success by the early 70s, and Rich Reina had visions of bigger things for The Fisherman. In 1973, he launched the New Jersey Fisherman, with Pete Barrett at the helm. Eventually, Pete served as senior editor of Fisherman publications. Now retired and fishing every chance he gets, his work continues to appear on a weekly basis in the magazine.
It wasn’t until 1983 that the Mid Atlantic Edition of The Fisherman was launched. Its first editor was Eric Burnley, who left for a stint as the director of Virginia CCA, before returning for a second stint as managing editor of that same edition. Back on Long Island, Scott Simons was to become one of its more visible editors. Scott had a knack for controversy, and his editorial column was aptly titled “From The Fighting Chair.” Bill Muller also put some time in the editor’s chair, prior to Fred Golofaro taking over the reins from 1980 to 1995, when he moved into the publisher’s seat and Tom Melton began a ten year reign as editor. Fred currently serves as director of editorial, while Mike Caruso, another staffer with some 20 years under his belt wears multiple hats as both publisher and now owner of the publication.
Through the years, The Fisherman has always been at the forefront of issues affecting access, fisheries management and conservation. Some of the more memorable battles include the attempt to create alternative markets for bluefish, the 200 mile limit, haul seining, fish traps, gill netting of weakfish, the saltwater license and striped bass management. Fisherman readers have always been the most responsive when letters, phone calls and e-mails were needed to sway legislators on a particular issue. Many a politician has commented on the overwhelming response to a particular issue trumpeted in the pages of The Fisherman.
The Fisherman’s base of operations has come a long way over the past four decades. From Rich Reina’s basement, to a small space in Bay Shore, to Long Island Avenue in Deer Park, and out to Sag Harbor where Rich would realize his dream of living on the East End, within an easy commute of the office. Sag Harbor might sound like a great place to work, but it was not without its downside. Built on swampland, those of us who worked there remember all to well the smell and flooding that came from some of the more extreme high tides. And, the leaky roof made for some entertaining days spent shuffling garbage cans and buckets around some of the more threatening waterfalls. We did not shed any tears when Rich’s son, Richard S. Reina orchestrated the move into our new, modern and spacious offices and printing plant in Shirley some 20 years ago.
People have left the biggest mark on The Fisherman's legacy over the years, and we have been blessed to have some of the finest put in stints on The Fisherman masthead. It would be impossible to mention all of them, but in addition to those already mentioned, we can’t forget some names that Fisherman readers have developed bonds with over the years. There’s been Al Reinfelder, Dick Mermon, Matt Ahern, Fred Guardineer, Gerald Hahn, Andy Regina, Al Ristori, Marty Garrell, John Fritz, Russ “The Tackle Doctor” Wilson, Lorry Mangan, Geoff Lawrence, Brad Topper, Joel Lucks, Joe Wenegenofsky and scores of others whose names have been associated with fishing reports and feature articles.
As The Fisherman legacy continues, there will be new people to share their knowledge and new issues to address. The news will be delivered more timely than ever before, and reach more people than ever before through mediums like our E-Newsletter, The Fisherman Facebook and our website. As technology continues to expand, changes in how we address and strive to meet new challenges to recreational fishing, and deliver editorial content will be more dramatic than ever before. One thing that will not change, is our commitment to deliver our readers the best fishing news, while maintaining the highest level of editorial integrity.