At age 3, Jerry McGrath was introduced to the world of fishing while
in a rented boat out of Bayville, NY. For many, 23 is remembered as
Michael Jordan's jersey number, but to Jerry it was the number of winter
flounder that his father, Al, had helped him capture on the first day
of a long fishing career. After countless excursions with his dad while
fishing the party boats and rental skiffs from Sheepshead Bay to Orient
Point, Jerry eventually, in 1977, wound up calling Montauk his home
port by operating as a pinhooker (a commercial fisherman who catches
fish by rod and reel only) in his own private craft.
In 1980, Jerry obtained his six passenger captain's license from the
United States Coast Guard and began operating his own charterboat, the
Nostalgia II. Capt. Jerry would also work with a Montauk regular,
Capt. Bill Ricca (Alyssa Ann), as a fill in skipper and first
During the mid-Eighties, Jerry was offered the job of teaching the
science of sportfishing to adults in the Shoreham Wading River Community
Education Program. What he thought to be a one-shot-only-attempt resulted
in two decades worth of instructing. In 1994,
the Suffolk County Association for Continuing Community Education recognized
his efforts by naming him "Teacher of the Year." Capt. Jerry
currently teaches the SPORTFISHING ON LONG ISLAND program for
the Suffolk County Department of Parks in Hauppauge, NY. In addition,
Jerry presents his programs to many public school classes, libraries,
and fishing organizations. It's quite clear that Jerry has an affinity
for sharing his love of fishing, along with a lifetime of knowledge
and experiences, with his students.
Jerry has written fishing articles for The
Fisherman and Nor'east Saltwater magazines, as well as for
other outdoor publications.
In the year 2000, he was appointed Northeast
spokesperson for the Tanaku Fishing Lodge in Elfin Cove, Alaska. Currently,
Jerry represents the lodge and gives presentations on fishing in Alaska
at trade shows in the New York area.
In 2002, the videotape, SPORTFISHING ON LONG
ISLAND with Capt. Jerry McGrath, was produced by Mike Malkush Productions.
The tape is in its second production phase and also recently
came out on DVD.
Capt. Jerry resides in Wading River, NY with his wife, Cathie (the Admiral),
and their children, Daniel and Darcie.
The North Shore Sun,
Hanging next to the front door of
the blue house, where the welcome mat is shaped like a flounder, is a small
The sign is handmade, but it says
everything: "A fisherman lives here with the catch of his life."
This is the home of a man who's a
fisherman to the core, a man whose life has been defined by his passion for the
"I've been fishing all my
life, and I'm 61 years old," says Jerry McGrath, whose house is reached by
a driveway guarded by two stone sailor sentinels. "My dad had me out there
when I was 3 1/2."
His hobby has seen him through
all stages of life, from learning the basics with his father, to captaining his
own boat, to today, when he spends most of his time teaching others how to do
what he loves. Beginning Feb. 23 Mr. McGrath will teach a 10-week sport-fishing
course offered through the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and
Conservation at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. He has designed the
classes, which begin at 7:30 p.m. each Monday, to educate novices as well as
the more advanced anglers in all areas of fish finding, bait and lure selection,
chumming, fishing locales and "hot spots," anchoring, tackle
selection, knot and rig tying, and safety.
Mr. McGrath's passion for fishing
stems from fishing with his father. "That was something we really shared
together," he said.
His dad's technique was never
sophisticated. "He was kind of a hack of a fisherman," he said.
"But he loved it, and he shared it with me, and I love it."
A fifth-grade teacher for 30 years
at WadingRiverElementary School,
he also followed in his father's footsteps by teaching children about fishing.
For 28 of his teaching years, he
coordinated an annual fifth-grade fishing trip, a tradition he continued into
retirement. Now he does four trips every year with the MiddleCountrySchool District, and is
hoping to snag a grant that will allow him to restart the trips at Wading River
Elementary. Drawing on a lifetime of experience as well as decades of summers
and weekends spent as a commercial and charter fishing boat captain, he also
teaches and talks about fishing as a guest speaker in classrooms and at
These days, Mr. McGrath enjoys
teaching others and watching people catch fish more than he likes doing it
himself. "I like to put smiles on people's faces," he said.
But it all comes back to his dad.
In Baiting Hollow, where the
family owned a cottage, Mr. McGrath's father was known as "Uncle Al, the
kiddies' pal." When Mr. McGrath was serving in Vietnam, he said his father would
take kids out fishing with him, teaching them how and fostering their love of
"That's what I've done, but
in a much wider scope," Mr. McGrath said. "It's a good feeling to say
you had a good influence on someone's life, whether direct or indirect, and
steered them in the right direction."