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On the Water

City casting call

Fishing enthusiasts hooked on an urban summertime rite

Ken Simpson, 49, of Mattapan, did not take up fishing until he moved to the United States from Jamaica. Ken Simpson, 49, of Mattapan, did not take up fishing until he moved to the United States from Jamaica. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Ben Wolford
Globe Correspondent / July 2, 2011

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Reinaldo Rodriguez plunged his hand into a slimy plastic bag, sliced off a chunk of the mackerel he brought with him to Castle Island, and hooked it to his line.

He cast it 30 feet into Boston Harbor and sat down on a concrete sea wall. Nothing left but to wait. It beats his day job, repairing washing machines and microwaves.

The 49-year-old appliance technician from Weymouth was among a band of anglers who came to the eastern edge of Castle Island yesterday for a quaint pastime in an unlikely place: under the roar of Logan arrivals and in view of the skyline.

The fishermen along the shore who dropped their hooks in the harbor represent a sizable group of urban outdoorsmen who say the sport is a summer rite, a way to unplug from life in the city and connect with family, or even strangers. On any given day, you’ll see anglers casting into the harbor, the Charles, and other local waterways.

“It’s relaxing. You don’t have to think,’’ said Pablo Zayas, 47, who came with Rodriguez, who is his cousin, and their children to Castle Island yesterday.

The two are natives of Puerto Rico and have family there and in Florida and California. They bring their rods wherever they go.

“Some people golf everywhere,’’ Rodriguez said. “We fish everywhere.’’

Fishing in and around Boston might raise eyebrows among some who question the cleanliness of Boston Harbor and the Charles and Mystic rivers, recalling the pollution of decades past. But recent efforts - including the opening of a huge wastewater holding tank to capture runoff into the harbor - are helping to restore confidence in the water and the health of the fish.

The fishermen at Castle Island yesterday said they would definitely eat the fish from the harbor.

If they could catch them.

“Even the birds are having a hard time,’’ said Fuxie Chin, 52, as he watched a bird swoop down and swoop up, empty-beaked.

When Fuxie, a construction worker, isn’t building Boston’s roads, he likes to fish.

He was raised by his grandfather in the inland Jamaican town of Mandeville. At 8 years old, he tied a bent pin to some of his grandmother’s thread and taught himself.

About 10:30 a.m. yesterday, he parked a cooler full of bait on a Castle Island pier.

Two hours later, he had found no fish - but he did find a friend. He recognized the accent next to him and discovered that Kenneth Simpson, 49, of Mattapan, lived his first 25 years in Mandeville. The two had never met.

“I grew up in Jamaica, but I didn’t do a lot of fishing,’’ Simpson said. “You always just buy your fish from the fishermen. Mostly, there it’s a trade.’’

Onder Ondemyr, 31, a Turkish graduate student at Northeastern University, had brought his rod all the way from Istanbul, but he bought another in Boston anyway.

“I just wanted to increase my chances,’’ he said. His two lines were cast far out into the harbor, unnoticed by the bluefish and striped bass the fishermen said were out there - somewhere.

If the veterans were failing to hook anything, surely the most inexperienced among them would leave without a catch.

Conor Dines, 11, and Spencer Dines, 7, two brothers from Framingham, could barely wait to try out their new fishing poles, a gift from their grandparents, said Milton Dines, their grandfather.

“They’ve been waiting since March,’’ he said. “Of course, they’ve been having some problems because we aren’t fishermen.’’

But once they untangled their lines and dropped their hooks, fishing is anybody’s waiting game.

“When I was a kid, my dad used to take me fishing in the Laurentians,’’ the mountain range north of Quebec, Dines said. “And we used to catch perch, suckers, and catfish. I hated the catfish.’’

Rodriguez and Zayas, undeterred by their ill luck yesterday, said they would return around 10 p.m. tomorrow, a few hours before high tide, when they said fishing is best.

Rodriguez has only fished for about 12 years - a late start.

“Probably because that’s something that a father might introduce you to,’’ he said. “I didn’t have a father; he left. But now that I have it, I’ll probably be fishing for life.’’

His 4-year-old son, Jordon, enjoys helping prepare bait, Rodriguez said. But his attention span is too short: “He wants to throw rocks.’’

“Hopefully, before long, he’ll like it,’’ Rodriguez said, “and I’ll have a partner.’’

Ben Wolford can be reached at bwolford@globe.com.

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