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Sep 10, 2018 3:08 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

The Plumber Marched To A Different Drummer

Finn O'Rourke decked this 8.74-pound fluke off Montauk recently. Scott McMahon
Sep 18, 2018 9:27 AM

A lot of fishermen from Montauk snickered a bit a few election cycles ago when one of the presidential candidates trotted out some guy they called “Joe The Plumber” as an everyday guy people should connect with.I don’t remember if the ploy worked or not, but if that candidate ever heard of the Joe the Plumber fishermen knew from the Montauk beaches, he might have re-thought the approach.

To say that Joe Marco, as his mother and a couple other people knew him, was not exactly ready for prime time is a spectacular understatement. There were a lot of colorful euphemisms used to describe Joe—in fact, colorful, was one of them—and none of them really did him justice. I use “gruff” usually. I think gruff is fair

Joe was raw, unvarnished, uncouth, unkempt, and he didn’t give a damn what you or anybody else thought about it.

There were only a few things I can think of that he really cared about: a couple of close friends, and catching fish.

Joe caught fish. He just did it differently than most. When someone mentions Joe the Plumber, the image of him that pops into the heads of those of us who knew him is of a picket line of fishermen stretched along a rocky North Side beach, most up to their waists in the water and outfitted in waders and rain gear, and Joe standing on dry land 30 feet behind them in his white boots, jeans and sweatshirt, catching the same fish they were.

For those of you who didn’t know him, allow me to paint the picture briefly as I remember it: Joe was heavyset but not really fat, wiry black hair that had never been combed, various stages of a full beard that I assume he trimmed himself with scissors occasionally, grungy jeans and sweatshirt, white deck boots, sometimes a green Grundens rubber rain jacket. For years he drove an old GMC/Chevy Blazer, which for the last couple of seasons he had to hang his arm out of the driver’s window to hold the door closed.

If Joe owned more than one surf rod and surf reel, I never saw the other one. The reel, a 710z, was something so misapplied to surfcasting in Montauk that most anglers (guilty) would scoff when they saw it. But then they’d see the rod was bent toward a fish.

Compared to the guys draped in more tactical gear than Seal Team Six and carrying enough lures on their back to last 10 seasons, Joe might look like a neophyte out for his first day trip. But he usually caught as many fish as any of the commandos did, or more, without hardly getting a boot wet (which is a good thing, because they probably had holes in them).

I would venture to guess that Joe never owned a plug bag, definitely not a Van Staal or a Boga Grip or a headlamp or a belt with multi-faceted connections. He owned a pair of waders but they were mostly for clamming and if he broke them out for surfcasting it was usually just because it was cold or raining very hard because he still rarely stepped more than a toe’s depth into the water.

Joe was a superb jerk to most people. But I’d always tell people “you just have to get to know him, he can be very nice,” which was true. I know he had a very dark side, but I choose to believe that at his foundation was a gentle, if troubled, soul hidden behind the gruff.

That said, if Joe is in some old fisherman’s heaven right now, with the ghosts of Jack Yee, Percy, and the Michelson boys, he’s probably still pissed off at the crowds.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

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