I never thought that I’d go fishing for striped bass in New York City. I never thought that I’d visit an archery range in Queens or cook venison burgers in Harlem. But in the past few months, with some tips and inspiration from my coworkers here at Field & Stream, I’ve done all of those things and more. I never thought that I’d get to spend all day here in the F&S offices talking with the writers that I’ve been reading in the magazine since I was little. Most of all, though, I never thought I’d find myself running down the streets of Chinatown in Lower Manhattan on a quest for a live American eel.
But when Deputy Editor Colin Kearns and Fishing Editor Joe Cermele ask for an eel, you can’t say no. “This is your final test,” Colin shouted as I’d walked out of the office. It was my last day at F&S for the fall. “Don’t come back here if you don’t find an eel!” With a photo shoot happening on a tight deadline, and a photographer waiting for my arrival with his slithering subject, the stakes were high.
I climbed out of the subway and worked my way through the crowds until I found Chinatown’s Central Seafood Inc. It took a few minutes to explain to the man behind the counter what I was after. Fortunately, I’d brought along a photo. He took a look and nodded. The man offered me a bucketful of eels from a tank. “Actually, I just need one,” I told him. “It’s for a magazine shoot.” He shook his head.
On the way to the shoot, a woman standing beside me at the crosswalk jumped a little when the contents of my plastic grocery bag started kicking and squirming. The older Chinese man working the manual elevator that took me up to our photographer’s studio wasn’t even fazed. He had seen F&S editors deliver everything from live rattle snakes to 1,000 pounds of deer corn for past shoots. “What do you have in that bag, an eel or something?” he asked. He said that he recognized the smell.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I dropped the bag at the studio. I passed my final exam. Now I’m headed home for the winter, to spend some time with family and some time in the woods before I come back to Field & Stream in January. Here’s to 2012 and to all the eels living in back-room tanks down in Chinatown. Keep an eye out for this one — you’ll see him in the magazine in March.