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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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February 02, 2016

Separating Fact From Fiction

by Bob Banfelder

Oh, so many of you folks have asked for elaboration concerning the facts as they pertain to the contamination of the Peconic River and its bays. In sum and substance you had asked: "Tell me more about those articles you wrote, Bob." "How do you fight bureaucracy?" "My family and I camp, picnic, swim, and fish at Indian Island Park in Riverhead. I want to hear more about this pollution matter." "Your blog is very upsetting to me because I clam in the Peconics."

Also, a few folks wisely stated: "Although the blog isn't specifically about fishing, it is, because if we don't have clean rivers and bays then we won't have any fish or shellfish to enjoy anymore."

Bunker die-offs are occurring more frequently in the Peconics. This die-off reached all the way out east to Mattituck on both shores. Said Christopher Gobbler, a professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, "I've seen small kills around here but I've never seen anything like this." We also saw a terrapin turtle die-off this past year.

Enzo Magnozzi and Bob with a couple of nice weakfish. We would all like to see more of this—not like the top picture of the die-off.

And so you shall hear more about this debacle.

I'll begin at the beginning. As many of you know, I am a mystery/thriller novelist as well as an outdoors writer. Referencing my fiction, I weave topical facts throughout my works. Eight of my nine novels are of a rather dark nature; they portray serial killers. Two of those novels are award-winners, one of which is titled The Author. I got the idea for the story surrounding facts that you are now somewhat familiar with—the Peconic River plume. Here is how the story came about in a piece that I wrote for a prestigious literary site. What you will read here concerning the Peconic River is sheer fact, not fiction.

A Toxic Plume and A Serial Killer Thriller

April 1, 2009

Back in 1991, Donna and I were very fortunate to find a slice of heaven. We purchased a home situated on the Peconic River in Riverhead, Long Island. A recent article titled Toxic Plume Threatens Peconic River, published in our local newspaper, The News~Review, caught my eye. Donna and I fish the Peconic River and the bays beyond, so this story certainly grabbed my attention. It is quite evident that the defunct Grumman airfield in Calverton, where aircraft for the United States Navy were built, commencing in April of 1954, has significantly contributed to polluting the upper reaches of the Peconic River. The culprits were chemicals used to clean those airplanes. I've been addressing this matter for years. Senator Charles Schumer has called for the Navy to commence a clean-up operation of the site to prevent further damage to the waterways.

Referencing serial killers, I research and delve into the slick, sick mind of the serial murderer. In order to build verisimilitude into my works, I attend trials; for example, the Robert Shulman serial killer proceedings. I have lectured at Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on Ward's Island, New York, regarding that trial. I had made it my business to interview heads of law enforcement such as Detective Lieutenant John Gierasch, head of Suffolk County Homicide (now retired). Too, I sought out many peripheral players. You may be asking yourself, "But what does a toxic plume have to do with serial killers?" My thriller titled The Author explores an apparent psychopath who is ostensibly obsessed with the pollution of our environment and brutally murders the loved ones of those he deems guilty, while those actually responsible live to suffer interminably. Initially, the police believe they have an eco-terrorist on their hands, but authorities, along with my protagonist, Justin Barnes—a covert operative for Suffolk County homicide—soon discover that they are dealing with a prolific serial killer.

The Peconic River has been in the news many times concerning heavy metals that are harbored in its depths. That is what motivated me to write The Author. I write to entertain, but I also write to educate the reader.

Suffolk County, Long Island is a magnet for cancer. That is a fact. I delve into the issue with devastating documentation. Too many lives succumb to this dreaded disease, which was my impetus for writing The Author. The United States Navy, in its naiveté and neglect, deserves, to a large degree, blatant blame and the shame in polluting the upper reaches of the Peconic River. This is but a facet of cause and effect.
What will follow is a piece titled
The United States Navy's Poisoning of the Peconic River
Fact, not fiction. Stay tuned.

Robert Banfelder
Island Outdoor Communicators Network
New York State Outdoor Writers Association
Outdoor Writers Association of America
Fishing Handbook
Hunting Handbook (available mid February 2016)
Award-Winning Mystery/Thriller Writer (nine novels to date)

December 02, 2015

Indian Island County Park

by Bob Banfelder

This is the final report in a six-series installment referencing Suffolk County beach access areas. Indian Island County Park in Riverhead offers RV trailer and tent campsite accommodations, picnic tables, grills, playground, and good fishing. Among angling opportunities, set your sights high for striped bass chasing anything from peanut-size (baby) bunker to nineteen-inch adult-sized prey. Stripers love bunker (aka menhaden). During the height of the season, it is not uncommon to take 40-plus inch linesiders by live-lining bunker, tossing tins, poppers, or any number of lures. Big blues in the 12- to 17-pound category may also be found in the mix. Fluke, although mostly shorts, are caught periodically. Of late, nice weakfish ranging from 3 to 5 pounds for the past three years have invaded these waters. So, too, have blowfish made a nice comeback. Porgies have always been around the area; however, jumbo-sized scup have also been a tasty treat for the past few years.

Bob trying for striped bass or bluefish off the beach at Indian Island on an unusually warm autumn day. The beach overlooks Flanders Bay.

Donna walked down the west end of the beach to fish the marsh area.

Indian Island County Park is a 275-acre gem located at the estuarine mouth of the Peconic River. From the campground, you can carry in your own kayak or canoe and travel these waters westerly, upriver, or easterly to the bays. Directly across from the park to the south is Reeves Bay. Heading a short paddle east will put you into Flanders Bay. Continuing east will take you into Great Peconic Bay. These three bays, including the Peconic River, depending on the time of year, hold the aforementioned species. As Donna and I live on and have fished the Peconic River for over a quarter of a century, we know the area quite well. Admittedly, most of our fishing is done from a powerboat, canoe, or kayak rather than from the shoreline. However, for Indian Island County Park, a small craft such as a kayak or canoe is the perfect vessel for the Peconic River and especially Reeves Bay and Flanders Bay. I should mention that canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals are available at Treasure Cove Marina, located next to the Hyatt Place Hotel, 469 East Main Street, 727-8386 and the Peconic Paddler, 89 Peconic Avenue, 727-9895.

It is, of course, not unusual to find folks engaged in other activities aside from—strictly speaking—fishing the park's beach. You'll perhaps see a person employing a seine (net) in order to catch baitfish for a later hour's angling outing, an individual combing the sand for treasure with a metal detector, or a family walking out to the sandbar at low tide, digging up clams.

At low tide, the east end of Indian Island beach reveals a sandbar; a favorite fishing spot.

However, it's not every day you spot a man picking, prodding, and probing the shoreline with a stick, searching tirelessly before carefully selecting several empty conch shells! Donna and I met up with Sean who collects them for his jewelry-making hobby. Sean uses the inner part of the shell to make necklaces—chipping, cutting, sanding, and polishing. Sean says it's a long and painstaking process, but he enjoys it and wishes that he had more time to devote to his hobby. Yes, there is almost always something new to explore and learn while traveling our local Suffolk County beach access parks as covered in this six-series installment: Cupsogue Beach County Park, Shinnecock East County Park, Meschutt Beach County Park, Montauk County Park, Cedar Point County Park, and Indian Island County Park.

Sean displays one of the conch shells he collected for his jewelry-making hobby.

Sean uses a handcrafted walking stick while wading and searching for conch shells.

Within the beach area, you will see a park bench lovingly dedicated to Caroljane Munzel. Caroljane was an avid walker and was often seen strolling the area's Sound and bay beaches. She especially enjoyed walking Indian Island Park and taking in its natural, peaceful environment.

Park bench dedicated to Caroljane Munzel.
Rod & reel setups: Donna wielded a Shimano spinning reel on an Ugly Stik with a Shimano Waxwing lure. For the entire season, I carried and will soon review a Penn Clash Model 5000 reel on a Penn Carnage II rod, spooled with Stealth Blue Camo-Braid SpiderWire.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading the six Suffolk County beach-access areas that I covered. Get out there and explore these waters while the weather is still cooperating. Before long, we all will be armchair anglers via books, magazines, and videos—unless, of course, you're off to warmer climes.


Take the Long Island Expressway (495) east to Exit 73 (last exit). Continue straight to County Road 105 then make a right. Go approximately a quarter of a mile and exit at the County park entrance. You will see the office parking area to the right. During the in-season, you will need to register prior to driving into the park proper. Maps are available to lead you to the closest parking area for access to the beach.

Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Thriller/Mystery Author & Outdoors Writer
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
Co-host, Cablevision TV, Special Interests with Bob & Donna

July 01, 2012

Clamming the North Fork of Long Island

by Bob Banfelder

Clams (quahogs) make for interesting fare with which to create many a fine meal—from appetizers, to soups, to magnificent main courses. Clamming is really a simple process requiring little more than a decent clam rake; a basket, be it made of wood, wire or whatever; a small inner tube in which to set and float the container, and a length of line wrapped around your waist to pull along your prizes as you rake bottom structure. Additionally, you'll want to check the local regulations for Shellfish Harvest Areas, as you may need a permit or license. For productive clamming, simply work a sandy-muddy shoreline, the periphery of a sandbar, or in-between patches of eel grass. The further away from traffic—be it bathers, other clam diggers, boats, et cetera—the better.

Unless you want to look at this activity as a form of labor instead of a labor of love, arrange your schedule to coincide with working one hour on each side of a low tide, and you are sure to score without becoming enervated and/or sore. Two hours is a good amount of time to collect a decent amount of clams for the table, which should provide many a meal for family and guests. If the pickings are great and you're a bit greedy, or if the start proved slow from the get-go, you can always elect to continue for another hour or so. However, if you are not used to working a clam rake, a half hour on each side of a low tide might be enough activity the first time out. A moment or two of instruction is all that is needed to operate a clam rake efficiently. In a matter of a couple of outings, you'll probably be able to discern the difference between a rock and a clam as you scratch away at the watery floor for quahogs.

Quahogs are a general term relating to the family of edible clams having a relatively hard shell. Littlenecks, cherrystones, topnecks, and chowders comprise the list. However, there is a bit of confusion leading to a heap of controversy as to size order. Some folks argue that topnecks are larger than littlenecks (true) but smaller than cherrystones (not necessarily true). By strict definition, topnecks are actually larger than cherrystones; region determines interpretation. Even its spelling is argued in some instances; sometimes shown as two words: top necks.

To belabor the issue and to have a little fun, I set forth the argument in one of my novels titled The Author. The setting is a Sicilian restaurant on the south shore of Long Island. A mafia boss and his henchman, both customers enjoying dinner, argue the point insistently. Who is right? The boss (our parents frequently told us) is always right. Right? Well, in this case, the boss' henchman's family were Bonackers (blue collar folks from the south shore of Long Island who had for generations made their living from fishing and clamming) and, therefore, knew better. The argument escalates and is presented to a tactful waitress who, right or wrong, realizes that the customer is always right. But which customer—the mafia don or his henchman? The waitress resourcefully addresses the dilemma when challenged by Don Ciccio as to what kind of clams were set before him. She simply states, "I believe you [Don Ciccio] call them topnecks."

That's pretty much the crux of the matter. It has become, for the most part, a regional issue or argument. In New England, it's unquestionable that a topneck is larger than a cherrystone. On Long Island, some folks insist that a topneck has found its niche between a littleneck and a cherrystone in size order. A good many fish markets in our area cull, grade, and sell them accordingly; that is, littlenecks being the most expensive per dozen, followed by topnecks, cherrystones, and then chowders. If you want to belabor and argue the point intelligently, go to the source for meanings and spellings. For openers, open an unabridged dictionary—as you probably won't find what you're looking for in a desk copy reference. Enough said. Now that I've shamelessly plugged one of my novels and made my point with regard to quahogs, let's look at an important book to keep in mind; your log book. You may already keep records of your fishing excursions.

Keeping a log of your outdoor activities, be it for fishing or clamming, will provide you with important information for future outings that if went unrecorded might prove nothing more than a pleasant yet distant memory. By keeping an accurate accounting of your excursions, you will be quite surprised and pleased to see a pattern emerge that will aid in enhancing your abilities and enjoyment. Just short of revealing our secret locations, you will see that in most cases Donna and I quickly became more productive as we proceeded through the years. Too, you will note how we truly upped our ante by securing a second clam rake. Not just any clam rake, but one better suited to securing more clams. The initials below, BB and DD, belong to Donna and me; then later, to those of our friends. Where you see two sets of initials but only one rake, it means that one of us is trailing a basket while the other digs for clams. Hence, the designated hours are to be interpreted as man-hours per rake, not the number of persons per se.

June 25th, 2008. Fishing was off. Headed to our clamming area(s); 2.5 hours; 1 rake operation–36 clams; all sizes; BB, DD
June 27th, 2008. 3.5 hours; 1 rake–47 clams; BB, DD
June 30th, 2008. 4.5 hours; 1 rake–90 clams; BB
July 3rd, 2008. 4.25 hours; 2 rake operation–133 clams; BB, DD, GF, SF
July 10th, 2008. 2.75 hours; 1 rake–48 clams; BB, DD
July 18th, 2008. 3 hours; 1 rake–51 clams; BB, DD
July 22nd, 2008. 5 hours; 3 rake operation–193 clams; 8 scallops; BB, DD, GF, SF
August 3rd, 2008. 3 hours; 1 rake–50 clams; BB, DD
August 19th, 2008. 3 hours; 3 rakes–101 clams; BB, DD, GF, SF
August 21st, 2008. 3.5 hours; 2 rakes–211 clams; GF, SF
August 22nd, 2008. Donna and I decide to purchase a second rake. We are taken to a secret spot by two other secretive souls: Bob Johnsen and a female friend. Bob finally broke down and took Donna and me to his secret area. 1 hour; 4 rake operation–339 clams! Wow! BB, DD dug up 227 clams; BJ, LW 112 clams. We are sworn to secrecy and may only visit that spot by special invitation. If you think fishermen/women are secretive souls, wait until you meet up with a few clammers.

Note: A good part of our success I attribute to the new rake's design: nine tines configured with corners to its basket. The new rake outproduced our old rake by a considerable margin. Compare the old So Lo rake to our new Ribb rake. It was purchased for $70.55 (including tax) at White's Hardware Store in Greenport. It paid for itself after a couple of outings. No, you don't need a twenty-one-tooth bull rake with an extension handle to cash in on recreational clamming— unless you're thinking of going commercial. Keeping it simple is sound advice.

Back to our old spots:

September 2nd, 2008. 3 hours; 1 rake (new)–73 clams; 1 scallop; BB
September 3rd, 2008. 4.5 hour; 1 rake (new)–97 clams; BB
September 12th, 2008. Secret area by BJ's invitation only. Very windy and rainy. 45 minutes; 3 rakes–105 clams; i.e., BB, DD: 58 clams–BJ: 47 clams.

Donna and I love this life. Can you dig it?

For those of you in the Riverhead area, I will be giving a presentation titled Clamming & Crabbing on Long Island at the Riverhead Free Library, 330 Court Street, Thursday, July 26th, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

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