By Connor Adams Sheets
A Bayside man has a big fish story to tell.
Howard Schultz has caught carp in lakes and ponds all over Queens and Long Island. From the lake in Bayside’s Crocheron Park to Herricks Pond in Nassau County, he has dropped his line in all of them.
But he keeps returning to Flushing’s Kissena Lake, which he says has the best fishing on the island. He says he has repeatedly caught — and thrown back, in accordance with city law — monster carp culled from the still, tranquil body of water. And he has dozens of photographs to prove it.
“Most people don’t realize how big the fish get in this lake,” he said Friday, while leaning over the railing that separates the humans from the critters in Kissena Lake, clutching the tiny rod and reel he swears by. “The carp in here are huge. I hardly ever catch a carp here under 10 pounds. It’s very impressive. I’m into big fish. I’d rather fish all day and catch one big fish than catch 100 little ones.”
And the 62-year-old, who has been fishing since his grandfather turned him on to the pastime when he was 5, knows his technique. Calling himself a “carp hunter” rather than a fisherman, he actively seeks out the colorful fish, making it more of a sport than a waiting game. He prowls the edge of the lake — half of which was converted into natural wetlands about three years ago — looking for a couple of carp, or an area where he thinks the algae-eating fish might be grazing.
“I can usually get a pretty good idea just by looking down by the lake whether I’m going to catch something,” he said.
Schultz uses a special bait and tackle combination honed after years of trial and error. He takes a doughy ball of potato bread, forms it into a spherical glob and buries a small hook deep inside. He uses dough to avoid catching less desirable water-dwellers such as turtles and bass.
No bobber, no weights, he douses the whole thing in a homemade concoction he calls “dip,” a sweet-flavored, bright red fluid that he says carp “go nuts for”.
Once a fish takes a bite, all the preparing and waiting are worthwhile, and Schultz comes to Kissena Park as many as five times a week to get that feeling ever since he lost his job waiting tables when the Scobee Diner in Little Neck closed in November.
“When they’re pulling the drag out, that’s the best sound in all of fishing,” he said. “It’s very exciting. They’re very strong these carp. Especially when they first get hooked, the drag just sizzles.”
On Friday, Schultz’s luck was low. The sun was hidden behind clouds and a chilly breeze swept across the water’s surface, creating a dreary mood not conducive to snagging trophy fish. At one point, the line started to pull from a bite, but it was no more than a nibble. The carp of Kissena Lake had avoided Schultz’s targeted hook for a day.
Though the lake is just a stone’s throw from busy 164th Street, Schultz says it is particularly clean — a fact he believes contributes to the preponderance of large, healthy carp.
“Before the edge of the water was all these stone walls and the water was this sickly green. Ever since they put in the natural lake front, it’s been much better. It’s a great success story,” he said. “I didn’t used to fish here ever, but the wetlands filtered the water. Nature is a beautiful thing.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.