It may seem like an unusual spot to catch dinner, across the East River from Manhattan’s imposing skyline. And the tiny fish that a group of fisherwomen trap in these waters may not seem like dinner at all.
But the women, Bangladeshi immigrants who live nearby, show up nearly every day, along a stretch of Vernon Boulevard in Queens that overlooks a sheltered section of the East River known as Hallet’s Cove.
They wear long, colorful dresses and head scarves, and tote numerous metal traps that they toss into the river to lure small, silvery fish typically used by many anglers as bait and commonly called spearing or shiners.
Small fish like these happen to be staples of the Bangladeshi diet, often stir-fried with rice and vegetables. So these women appear this time of year when schools of the fish are plentiful in New York City’s warm waterways, even in this urban stretch of river where the coastline is dominated by power plants and sewage treatment centers.
The women, who lack a New York State-mandated recreational fishing license or a city permit to fish near a boat launch at the location, also seem to be far exceeding the strict limitations that state health authorities recommend for eating fish taken from the East River.
The woman said that when enough fish were in her bucket, she would, as usual, take them home to her family’s apartment in the nearby Astoria Houses public housing project, and serve them to her family for dinner, frying them and adding tomato sauce, garlic, onions, chili pepper and other spices.