Reeling In The Fun With “Hook, Line and Dinner”

June 20, 2012 Denise Romano
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Transplanted Brooklynite Ben Sargent knows a thing or two about urban fishing and shows off his chops in the show “Hook, Line and Dinner,” which airs on The Cooking Channel.

Sargent, a New England native, first made a splash in New York City when he started making lobster rolls out of his Williamsburg basement a few years back. “It eventually grew into something that couldn’t be controlled and had to eventually be shut down,” he recalled.

Since he developed a character being an “illicit dealer of lobster rolls” Sargent hounded the Cooking Channel and the Food Network for his own show. “Finally they said, ‘This guy keeps popping up and he is going to be more and more annoying until we give him a show,’” he explained, adding that he has owned two seafood restaurants in the past. “I would film episodes myself. I always wanted to be with the fisherman and the chef – kind of the same thing as being backstage with the band – it really races my engine.”

Sargent’s love of the aquatic started when he was four years old. “I caught a red striped bass with grandpa and it was as big as me,” he said.

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The episode that aired on May 3 features Sargent fishing in the waters around the city, with characters like cabbie fisherman Pastor Phil and Alex Guarnaschelli from “Chopped.”

“I will catch more in the East River than I have in a lifetime growing up in New England,” he said, adding that Kissena Park in Queens is a great place to fish for carp.

“The reason the Indians moved to New York in the first place was because it was such an easy place to live,” Sargent noted. “The area was so rich with life …you could go hunting for deer and then harvest oysters. This was one of the most prosperous oyster spots, but once the white man came, they sold off all the local oysters to Europe. [The Narrows] was one of the most abundant and clean waters in the U.S., if you can imagine the East River being crystal clear.”

Sargent said that he sees animal life starting to come back to the city. He walks three blocks from his Greenpoint apartment to fish every morning. “Fishing is great right now – it’s a great time to be in New York,” he said.

Although no one’s sole source of protein should come from the river, Sargent said the striped bass caught there are safe to eat. “A striped bass has to go in his lifetime from Florida, to the Chesapeake, coming all the way up to us,” he explained. “It’s a traveling, migrating fish. If you catch it in the East River, it’s the same fish you would catch in Cape Cod or Montauk and it would be advertised for $13 a pound.”

Sargent said that he is just trying to enjoy the ride. “You sort of blink and can’t believe you are being paid to do what you love,” he said. “Out on a secluded beach with fishermen – it’s hard to believe. I am living the dream.”

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