Party Boat Musings - The Fisherman

Party Boat Musings

The author’s first party boat experience was on the Viking when located out of Freeport. Now the popular boat sails from Montauk all year long providing the same memories for their fares.

The party boat fishing experience will no doubt be a fun-filled and learning experience.

It was mid-summer of 1952 when my father asked me, “You think you can handle fishing for bluefish on a party boat for the first time?”

“Of course I can, dad,” I boldly replied. So a few days later, we drove to Freeport in his ‘50 Oldsmobile “Rocket 88” from our Queens home for a daytime trip aboard the Viking party boat. At that time, many moons ago, the now Montauk-based Viking Fleet sailed out of Freeport.

As a youngster, I was very excited, as up until then, my fishing had been confined to a few local freshwater ponds, catching sunfish, an occasional carp, and if really lucky, a pickerel.

We arrived at the dock on Woodcleft Canal about an hour before the scheduled sailing time and boarded the wooden boat that seemed huge to me. One thing I clearly recall was my father buying a burlap bag for a quarter and tying it to the ship’s rail right in front of where we were going to fish. This was where our catch would hopefully go. As best I can recall, we headed out to a location called the acid waters, where the bluefish were said to be biting. After arriving at that spot (you could tell by the grayish/yellow color of the water), we sent out our cut-up butterfish baits on rental outfits rigged with a hook and wire leader. I didn’t have to wait long until a blue hit so hard that I thought I was fighting my dad’s “Rocket 88” on the other end of the line! After much huffing and puffing and tugging and pulling, I finally got that fish alongside where the mate gaffed it. Turned out I also won the $3.25 pool for the first fish caught that day.

The Captree fleet continues to serve as a main port for those looking to enjoy the party boat experience.

Hooked For Life

After that one trip, I was definitely “hooked” on party boat fishing, a lifetime love that has lasted many decades. While a high school student, I even worked on a couple of party boats in Freeport and Point Lookout during the summers and on weekends during the winter, wreck fishing for codfish. However, my love of flying later “took off” for a career that spanned 40 years, first as a flight instructor, charter pilot, and ultimately as an airline pilot. But my love of party boat fishing has always endured, and now retired, I still wet a line whenever I can from a party boat for striped bass, tuna, tilefish, blackfish, or whatever else might be running. Although I owned my own boat for quite a few years, there was something enchanting about party boat fishing that drew me back like steel to a magnet.

Up and over the gunnel! New Jersey & Delaware Bay managing editor Jim Hutchinson works a bluefish to the deck of the Nancy Ann out of Orient with the help of the mate. Matt Broderick Photo.

Fishy Appeal

There are a number of reasons why party boat fishing has always appealed to me. First, prior to each trip, there is always the anticipation of the day or night ahead, thinking of past trips and the fantastic fishing on many (For some unknown reason, however, I never seem to recall the trips when the fish didn’t bite?). Next, there’s the pleasure of boarding the boat and seeing the friendly faces of fellow anglers, many of whom I have come to know and respect over many years. This brings me to the next reason: learning fishing techniques from many folks on board, along with the friendships that developed over the years with other fishermen, captains, and mates. Some of these fellowships have lasted many years, extending well beyond fishing, as there have been phone calls and times of personal happiness and sadness shared with many. Don’t misunderstand, charter boats also do well and catch many fish, sometimes more so than a party boat, because they can better vary the techniques to catch fish. But the main difference lies with the people, because with a charter, we usually know the folks well that we’ll be fishing with beforehand. That’s normally not the case, however, with a party boat because much of it is about speaking with and learning from the anglers you fish with.

I have also discovered there are definite types, both men and women, good and not-so-good, that gravitate to party boat fishing, probably for the same or similar reasons I do. While the vast majority are a courteous, upright, and respectable group of men and women that should be emulated, like with most groups, there can be exceptions.

Another Montauk-based boat, the Ebb Tide, took its customers to the tog grounds last fall for some banner trips.

The Cast

As I’ve mentioned, a big part of the appeal to party boat fishing is the people, of course you will encounter a few bad apples here and there just like anywhere else in the world. Some that are very territorial or others that become very demanding and even confrontational when hooked up to a fish, and on the rare occasion that I find myself parked next to one of these individuals, I simply move on, so that I can continue to enjoy my day of fishing.

But aside from those mentioned above, the party boat fishing experience will no doubt be a fun-filled learning experience, allowing you to hone your angling skills. This is because party boat captains and owners have invested much of their life savings and effort into only one thing: catching fish, and they are more than happy to pass on what they have learned to you. And aside from that, the bonds you friendships you can potentially make with your angling peers will sometimes last a lifetime.

Most of the local party boats advertise in The Fisherman Magazine, with the sailing location, times, and species they target, along with any other pertinent information.

When you decide to go, I’ll probably see you on board!



Travel Log: Crystal River, Fl

A Jersey snowbird settles in for the winter along the Nature Coast. 


Buffalo Stampede! Harker’s Island Giant Albies & More!

Monster albies and exotic species galore!


Sebastian Florida: Fish Where The Locals Fish

Head south this winter to one of the hottest spots in the sunshine state.