Mijoy party fishing customers leave their cares on land

David Conway and his son Vitya of Ledyard are greeted by a small rainbow as they wait to start a morning of fishing aboard the charter fishing boat Mijoy off of Montauk, N.Y., on Friday, June 9, 2017.  (Tim Cook/The Day)
David Conway and his son Vitya of Ledyard are greeted by a small rainbow as they wait to start a morning of fishing aboard the charter fishing boat Mijoy off of Montauk, N.Y., on Friday, June 9, 2017. (Tim Cook/The Day)

Aboard the Mijoy — The regular customers had staked their fishing positions along the port side rail of the main deck when Capt. Joe Devine and crew boarded the 85-foot party boat Friday morning.

Though there were fewer than 20 customers, newcomers quickly figured out that they, too, should put their rented rods in holders to guard their battle stations for the day.

At exactly 6 a.m., the horn sounded and the Mago Point, Waterford-based trawler set out for Montauk Point, where porgies — a silver colored, white meat fish — are abundant in the summer.

For more than 40 years, Devine, a bear of a man with a knack for affectionately sarcastic one-liners, has been getting up at 4 a.m. to ensure that others have a good time on their day off. Once the Mijoy passes under the railroad bridge and sails by the Millstone power station, he said everyone leaves behind their land-bound lives and enters a different world.

"People who live in the city, when they get out on the water, they see how beautiful it is," Devine said. "We have regular customers who come from as far as Montreal."

On Friday, Devine stayed on the main deck in the role of first mate, ensuring customers properly were equipped, standing by to untangle lines and rebait hooks and tossing out jokes along with the fishing lines.

"That's some pretty nasty chum. That'll make the fish throw up," he said of a bucket of putrid fish remains that could be thrown in the water, if necessary, to attract fish.

Capt. Jim Engelmann, who also started working on the Mijoy in the 1970s, piloted the boat from the wheelhouse on the upper deck. As the Mijoy headed south around Fishers Island at about 12 nautical miles, crew members cut clams and baited them onto rigs tied with lead sinkers that would take the fishing lines to the bottom of the ocean. A rainbow burst through the clouds as if to confirm it was going to be a good day on the water.

At 8 a.m., with the Montauk lighthouse and mansions in view along the adjacent cliffs, the Mijoy's sonar fish finder was alight with colors indicating a school of porgies in 30 feet of water. Other charter boats clustered in the distance, including the Mijoy's competitors from Niantic bay, but Engelmann said he likes to find his own fish.

Within minutes, passengers were reeling in porgies, sometimes two at a time, along with an occasional out-of-season sea bass or undersized fluke. The porgies went into burlap bags, buckets and coolers, while the others were released. The flood tide hampered the fishing only slightly, and the crew said it was likely that some customers would snag their limit of 30 porgies.

Family owned for 70 years

Devine helped a teenager, who was on her first fishing trip, remove a porgy from her rig, measure it to ensure it was at least 10 inches long and rebait.

"Here you go," he said. "Just keep doing that process over and over."

Watching a young person catch their first fish is "priceless," he said.

Engelmann said he likes to ensure that everyone on the boat is catching fish. When, due to the current and tide, those along the back of the boat were catching the most fish, he sounded the horn, signaling that the fishermen should reel in their lines, and found a spot nearby where everyone could share in the bounty.

Devine's family, by marriage, has operated the Mijoy business since the 1950s. His wife, Mary-Lou (Brockett) Devine, an English teacher in Stonington, does the books and works in the office. His father-in-law, Paul Brockett, still captains the boat now and then. A nephew, Sean Smith, recently has obtained his captain's license. His brother-in-law, Jimmy Smith, also is on the crew.

"We've been here over 70 years, doing the same thing, owned by the same family the whole time," Devine said.

A regular named "Mack"

Born in the Bronx, Devine, 59, said he loved fishing by the time his family moved to Niantic in 1970. He started working part-time as a mate on the Mijoy at 16, graduated to first mate within a few years and then became a captain. The Mijoy was employed as a commercial fishing boat, plying the waters along the continental shelf for tile fish, from 1975 to 1980, he said, before returning to party fishing around 1982.

Operating through November, they'll fish for whatever is in in season and running, including bluefish, which "put up a good fight," blackfish, flounder, porgies and sea bass, he said.

Devine said the crew donates extra fish to the New London soup kitchen and provides free trips each year for kids with cancer and others.

"It's a fun job," he said. "You meet people from all walks of life."

Friday's regulars included John Mackiewicz, 80, of New Britain, who takes up to 100 trips on the Mijoy each season and gives away any fish he catches beyond his self-imposed limit of one. Known as "Grandpa" or "Mack" to the crew members, the Pratt & Whitney retiree has earned the privilege of reserving his spot for the next day with a burlap bag that says "Save for Mack." He said Devine is like a father to his grandchildren. He sleeps on a bench in the boat's cabin on the way to and from the fishing ground and rushes to his station when the horn sounds.

"You meet a lot of customers, and they say, 'Mack! You're still alive!'" he joked.

On Friday, he fished the back of the boat along with Luther Walton, a Baptist pastor from Bridgeport, and Walton's fishing buddies. They, too, are regulars.

"It's relaxing," Walton said. "It's very relaxing. Everybody's got their hobbies. This is one of mine."

Other customers had driven from Farmington and Hartford. There were parents with teenage or adult children and, along the port side of the boat, a line of men who knew their way around a fishing rig.

"This is my first time on a charter boat," said Larry Penn of Hartford. "I love it. I'm coming back. Maybe tomorrow."

k.florin@theday.com

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Summer at the Shoreline

Friends Tony Sierra, left, and Larry Penn, both of Hartford, celebrate after Penn pulls in a large porgy as patrons and crew of the charter fishing boat Mijoy enjoy a day of fishing for off of Montauk, N.Y., on Friday, June 9, 2017.  (Tim Cook/The Day)
Friends Tony Sierra, left, and Larry Penn, both of Hartford, celebrate after Penn pulls in a large porgy as patrons and crew of the charter fishing boat Mijoy enjoy a day of fishing for off of Montauk, N.Y., on Friday, June 9, 2017. (Tim Cook/The Day)
Porgies pile up as patrons and crew of the charter fishing boat Mijoy enjoy a day of fishing off of Montauk, N.Y., on Friday, June 9, 2017.  (Tim Cook/The Day)
Porgies pile up as patrons and crew of the charter fishing boat Mijoy enjoy a day of fishing off of Montauk, N.Y., on Friday, June 9, 2017. (Tim Cook/The Day)
6/9/17 :: A :: FLORIN :: Porgies pile up as patrons and crew of the charter fishing boat Mijoy enjoy a day of fishing for Porgies off of Montauk, NY Friday, June 9, 2017.  (Tim Cook/The Day)
6/9/17 :: A :: FLORIN :: Porgies pile up as patrons and crew of the charter fishing boat Mijoy enjoy a day of fishing for Porgies off of Montauk, NY Friday, June 9, 2017. (Tim Cook/The Day)

If you go

What: Mijoy fishing charters

Where: Mago Point, Waterford

Hours: During the summer, the Mijoy runs seven days a week, with two trips on weekends and Tuesday through Thursday. 

Cost: Trips start at $63 a day for adults, with special rates for children and seniors.

More information: go to www.mijoyboat.com or call (860) 443-0663.

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