The Bergall and the Baseline

Our ocean’s story in a single fish

Paul Greenberg

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The lowly bergall, a.k.a. “cunner” by Derek Keats is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When the fishing stops the internet takes over. In the Northeast, winter drives us anglers indoors and with computer instead of rod-and-reel we bounce the sinkers of our minds over the depths of our pastime. Tackle is browsed, trips are planned, and the sites of the few “open” boats still fishing are perused to see what’s coming over the iced-over rails.

In years past the “whose-fishing-and-what-are-they-catching?” peruse would often be a “gosh-I-wish-I-had-been-there” experience. A brace of nice green codfish held up by a beefy dude in Montauk or maybe a shot of a “snow shoe” flounder — the big spawner sized editions of Pseudopleuronectes americanus — gripped around the middle and shoved toward the camera might have made our fingers twitch with line-less envy. In much earlier times I might have done my perusing offline, making my fingers inky by looking through the flimsy winter editions of “The Long Island Fisherman” to see who was catching whiting (a.k.a. “frost fish” a.k.a. silver hake).

New York Times headline from 1921

But this year as I sit back and check the usual fishing boat websites, a new kind of winter game has emerged as the catch of the…

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org