Colicchio, the head judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, is the owner of nine restaurants, including New York’s Craft and Colicchio & Sons and Miami’s Beachcraft, which opens this summer. He started fishing when he was 4 years old, crabbing and clamming with his grandfather in Toms River, N.J.; he learned to fly-fish at 26. Colicchio takes his boat out at least 20 days a year. Here’s his best angling advice.
1. Find a good captain who will share information with you. But don’t expect him to share it the first time you go out. You have to build a relationship. If you want to go for stripers out of New York, I highly recommend Captains Frank Crescitelli and Joe “Maz” Mustari.
2. Buy the best equipment you can afford and take care of it. I was on a boat, and we lost a good fish when the reel seized up, because it wasn’t maintained properly. For fly-fishing, I typically use a Sage rod. Reels, you can go with Abel or Tibor. For offshore stuff, I like Accurate.
3. I only keep a fish if I’m going to eat it that day. I’m not into catching things, killing them, and freezing everything. It’s wasteful. When I was growing up, there were no striped bass around. They came back in a great way, and now we’re overfishing them again. Bluefin tuna is gone.
4. If you’re 40 or 50 miles offshore in the Northeast in the summer and you see a log, there’s a good chance there are fish under it. Dolphinfish like to sit underneath things—weed patches, weather buoys, anything that provides any shelter at all.