The ocean is Robert Aaronson’s driveway. Aaronson is the cigar-chomping captain of a forty-foot charter fisherman, the Oh Brother, and has the salty attitude to match.
Though the Oh Brother! runs trips every day, its home waters are in a bygone era, when Montauk was dubbed “The Fishing Capitol of the World.”
CONVICTS caught up with Captain Rob on our last trip to Montauk and got the good word on his relationship with the sea, Montauk’s unique beauty and changing nature, and the special bait (hint: dildo) he’ll sneak onto the lines of arrogant customers.
Hey Captain Rob. To start, can you tell us a bit about Montauk?
It’s an extremely unique community and the place, the beauty of the place is just outrageous. There’s great history out here. I’ve been attached to the lore of the place since I was a little kid. I’ve fished all up and down the East Coast in many, many different ports and there’s no port like Montauk.
Tell me about the mornings. What’s it like coming out here at sunrise?
Usually, we’re the first boat out so it’s a blank canvas. You just slide on out of the slip and have your coffee, have a nice cigar, the quiet, no boats rocking and rolling you around. It’s pretty neat.
Does it still feel like work?
It’s like going to work, and then not working. I feel like I’ve never worked a day in my life. In the winter grind, off shore commercial fishing where we’re gone many days at a time, fishing up and down the coast-I’m away from home sometimes three weeks or a month depending on what port we’re going into. It’s still a cool way to make a living and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Can you still enjoy the fishing side of it?
I enjoy fishing very much. It’s afforded me a good living, good education for my kids, I get to meet a wide variety of people. We had a bunch of day laborers out this morning and tomorrow we have a bunch of hedge fund managers.
The whole spectrum. What time does the boat leave the dock each morning?
It depends on what we’re doing, but generally we’re away from the dock by 5:30 every morning.
What kind of fish are you mostly catching?
You never know what you’re going to run into. You never know what you’re going to catch. Off shore on our off shore adventures, we catch tunas, big blue marlins, swordfish. We recently this past weekend won a shark tournament. We get fresh fish everyday. It’s good to know a fisherman. It’s worth more than currency knowing a fisherman. Ask all of my neighbors.
Right on. Can tell us a bit about that Montauk community?
It’s small. Most of us know one another. If there’s any issues with families, everyone rallies behind them and it’s always been that way. Everyone seems to coexist. All the fisherman out here, commercial and charter boats, are pretty much united and it all comes from community. Helping one another out when times are tough. It’s just a special place.
Would you ever consider living anywhere else?
I can never fathom living somewhere else. After we’re away on a trip-which isn’t often because when you’re a year-round fisherman you don’t get much time off-driving back into town and coming over the hill and seeing the ocean is incredible. You know you’re home.
What’s the commercial fishing industry like around here?
There’s about more than a hundred for hire boats out here and maybe fifteen of them-the guys who do this full time, who it’s not a part time gig for or supplementing a hobby- that you want to try and get on.
Are there enough fish in the waters around Montauk to keep everyone in the local area busy?
There’s enough fish on this boat. They always say ten percent of the fisherman catch ninety percent of the fish. That’s what it is around here.
Tell me about how Montauk’s changed. I don’t know if you notice the pack that migrates out here in the summer. It pisses everyone off in the summer.
Montauk’s changed a great deal in the past six or seven years. We used to be dubbed ‘The Fishing Capital of the World,’ and now it’s like the party capital of the world. It’s affected business greatly because the family groups that would normally come out and spend a night and go fishing with us don’t have that opportunity or can’t afford to.
For every up, there’s a down. Can you elaborate on that a bit?
To be perfectly honest with you, the changes in Montauk have been a burden on this industry. People coming to these clubs here really don’t even know that there are fishing boats here. They have no idea. So the influx of revelers out here hasn’t helped our industry at all, even though there’s ten times the people out here now than there was ten years ago, it really hasn’t helped this industry at all.
It’s the bars that are getting it.
The bars are having a great time. There’s plenty of talent walking around town. The eye candy’s not bad to look at.
Our research shows the same thing. Can you talk a bit about the charter fishing industry, as a whole?
The charter boat industry gives people access to a tremendous amount of fish. Most of our customers don’t have that access because they don’t own their own boats. The guys we had this morning, they save up their money to take their one or two trips a year. They’re blue collar guys and use every piece of fish that we catch for them. Nothing goes to waste. We have other clients who come purely for recreation and just catch and release, which is also great.
What’s your mindset like when you’re heading out onto the water?
We’re going hunting. We want to go and catch anything we possibly can. I enjoy it every morning, coming down here. It’s a part of our life. I’m just no good on land. Out here on the water is just where I want to be.
Do you get restless back on dry land?
I go stir crazy on land. You get into this discipline when you fish where you’ve got to get up everyday and go and you just get used to it. When I’m on land, I drive my car around in circles and chain smoke cigars ‘til I can’t stand it anymore. It’s awful for me. Being on the water is my sanctuary. It gets all my chi lined up the right way.
Describe how it feels when you’re behind the helm of the Oh Brother.
This boat’s an extension of me. I can feel every little rumble under my feet, every little sound change. You know when something’s wrong, you know when everything’s right. Boats definitely suck, but I need one to earn a living and this boat’s been nothing than good to me all these years.
Tell me what’s going on just here…
That’s a special fishing lure for special customers who deserve it-like dickheads.
What do you do with this special lure?
If we have a customer whose chops we need to break, we’ll sneak this over the side on a line and tell them they have a fish on. When they catch this they’re like…sometimes they don’t even get it, they’re like ‘Holy shit, I just caught a dildo.’ And honestly they don’t get it. They have no idea how it got on there. Some people say they actually taste good.
The elusive dildo-fish. Thanks Captain Rob, and best of luck on the water tomorrow.