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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been pretty busy doing a cleanup of my basement, and of course, you come across 'stuff' thats been sitting around for years, never to be used or looked at till you actually go and make space for something new. One of the things which i dug up, was a few books, which i saved old press clippings, and magazine article. One of the first was a article written by Nick Karas in Newsday on February 5, 1995. And its a short little article about how Cholera Banks got its name.

I and many others always asked this question when we were younger, why this very productive area got that particular name. During the 60s and 70s when i was growing up and making trips on the party boats, Cholera was considered the area for Sheepshead Bay party boats to make a OFFSHORE COD TRIP! Hard to believe but here in the Bay, such areas as Scallop Ridge, Ambrose Ridge, and of course the TOURNAMENT Grounds were areas that the Sheepshead Bay would normally fish at certain times of the year to fish for cod, and make very good catches. But to get back on the subject of Cholera Banks, many skippers considered this one of the TOP areas for catching cod to 50 lbs on the west end of Long Island. So it would always make you ask, why would they name a great piece of cod bottom, Cholera Banks.

The article tells the story about how a women sent Nick Karas a article written in the Stan Smiths outdoor column in the Daily News in 1949 that was originally cut out by her father, a avid fishermen who recently passed away. Well it got the ball rolling, with a party boat captain from Brielle New Jersey, 'Candy" Keefe of the Tambo giving who learned his trade during the years of 1904-1909 from the son of the man who first found these grounds. This Captains name was Henry Bebe who ran a sidewheeler fishing steamer from Battery Park NY, called the Mt. Desert. He stated that his father, Alsono Bebe who used to fish commercially for lobsters from a 'small sailing sloop' found these high rocky grounds when his boat became 'beclamed' (aka no wind for the sails) while he was fishing. After two days he took soundings using a lead weight, which indicated shallower waters then the surrounding area.

Mr. Karas writes,

'that Capt. Bebe decided to bait a handline with mossbunker to determine if their were any fish in the area'.

Well it seems that this unfished rocky area gave up so many BLACK SEA BASS, that Capt. Bebe filled up ten barrels with fish, i guess, as fast as you could pull them, in our modern day terminology. The article continues that he tossed a 'flag bouy' on the spot around noon time, and headed home as the wind came up.

Captain Bebe at this point knew that he just found a area that was never fished before, and wanted to name it like fishermen normally do when they find a new spot. After some thought, he came up with the name CHOLERA BANKS because at that time New York City was going through a cholera epidemic. And with such a rampant illness going on at that time, people would 'go out on ships' to avoid catching this malady....the sea acted like a 'haven' as Mr. Karas wrote.

It is not clear in the article, but, party boats began sailing out to the new fish haven, with loads of customers, who were charged 10 cents a head, thus the name we occasionally hear, headboats. And, at that time, party boat captains who only had shore ranges to give them a idea of where a piece of bottom was, would take take their two navigational tools, their time piece and compass, using time and course, head south, and eventually find this rocky high spot, that sprung up from our normally sandy bottom we have in the NY BIGHT.

Most of us today are born within the modern era of electronic navigation, take for granted running out the 8-10 miles out of Jones inlet with the numbers 26770 x 43670 in our lorans to give us the start of the Banks, which comes up from 80 feet of water to almost 60 feet at whats called High Rock on Cholera. Along with it being a great area for sea bass fishing, it of course is one of the top areas for chumming and jigging bluefish, and later in the season albacore and bonita. Later in the fall, we catch some blackfish on the stickier, rocky patches on Cholera. What is sad though, is that for many of us, the first time we fished on Cholera Banks was for codfish, which over the last for years has been non-exsistant.

So for many of us, that wonder how Cholera Banks got its name, we can thank Nick Karas of Newsday, for writing this very informative article.

EC NEWELL MAN*
 

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Believe it or not but, I knew that from a course I took in college last semester. The course was onthe History of New York City, and specific mention was made to this area in one of the books that had to be read. In addition the book also made mention of how the old boulders, rubble etc from subway construction was dumped not far from where it originated, i.e. a few miles from NY Harbor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi GradySailfish, Cholera Banks, along with Sea Bright, are the only two spots in the NY BIGHT that are considered/classified as NORTHERN CORAL REEFS. Cholera happens to be a large area once you go south of that point, running to Middle Banks, and Anglers Step, with many rocky patches...During the spring through the fall, you used to see many lobster pots marking these areas.

That sounds like a interesting history book. And as we have seen, their are many areas off our coast that were dumping grounds for wrecks and subway debre, such as 17 fathoms, the area surrounding the Scotland area, the twenty mile wreck area, and the area south of the BA Buoy.

EC NEWELL MAN*
 

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The book actually stated that some ships wold anchor there and doctors would check the incoming immigrants for Cholera. Hundreds of ships anchoring and re-anchoring in the same area for about a dozen continous years caused the bottom to be stirred up thus, making structure. It was discovered and consequently given the name Cholera Banks.
 

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grady's recount is the one i've heard. the cholera was a quarantine or holding area for ships carrying passengers until they could be checked for cholera. it's relationship with the present day shipping lanes makes this seem feasible.

i agree it is one of the few natural pieces of bottom we have in the new york bight. I've read that many consider the highlands itself, shrewsbury rocks, rattlesnake, 17 and even cholera to be part of the same piece of structure, namely a morraine. (The morraine is where the rocks end up where a glacier meets the sea).
 

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Interesting

I also had heard the same as Grady and Paulh - I wonder if BOTH explanations are correct?

In any case the name should now be changed to the "Mono-choked Banks" as it seems like there's about 300 miles of lost, snagged mono draped across every decent high piece out there. Including about 40 miles of mine, unfortunately.

rgds, Leprechaun
 

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I dug up some nutty stuff on Cholera Banks some time ago there was an article I tried to get from Harper's Weekly "a day fishing on the Cholera Banks" ready 1880. This was an at aunction but they lost the original they were asking $30.00.

For the history buffs World War 2 you can check this out at Fort Tilden HECP destroyers frequently dropped "ash cans" down in the vicinity of Cholera to check sounds echoing back from Cholera to the NY harbor. Apparently a thing called a Hyrdrophone a large cone shaped device had been placed in various areas around the NY bight to detect enemy subs I guess? To wit in the Cholera area you have left over shrapnel casings from the ash cans and maybe/probably if they haven't degreaded Hydrophones which look to be pretty good size structures from the Fort Tilden website pictures. Just maybe Captain Al located some of these hydrophone sand cables which added to his Cod fishing lore.

As to the mono, anchor lines, hooks, sinkers out there I would gladly donate to a permanent floating bouy instructing Cholera newbies to use a.) more than 75 feet of anchor line,b.) mono greater than 12 pound test but less than 50, no kmart whippy spinning outfits and achors weighing a bit more than the 8 pounders without bent flukes - oh well that is some piece of bottom for sure Gary.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I did some more investigating, and found something about Cholera Banks that seems to confer what most on this board were saying. It seems that during the late 1800s that Cholera was used as a quarantine area, since it was both close to shore, but also easy to anchor, due to the shallower water then the surrounding area. "SOME" ships would stop here, off load its passengers who were checked for various diseases, then taken off on other ships to NYs Ellis Island or the Battery. It seems that the article may have been a little 'fish lore' after all!

EC NEWELL MAN*
 

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This is a great post thanks alot. I have heard the story about ships docking to check for cholera but never the other one. Very interesting. Is it Spring yet? I am going crazy.
 

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While searching for more info on this, I found that the authorities used to offload ships at Fire Island, for the required 20 day quarantine. It was somewhat discriminatory, since it was mostly the poor passengers (Russian Jews) in steerage who went through quarantine in unsanitary conditions, while the rich folks with cabins stayed at this Fire Island hotel. Quarantine was bad, because you stood a good chance of catching cholera there too. Anyway, the authorities took over some land for this purpose, which eventually became Robert Moses State Park.
 
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