Boston Harbor Views

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Captain Richard McKenna

Capt. Richard McKenna has been boating and fishing as long as he can remember. "When I was 7, Santa brought us a 2-hp outboard that went on the back of an old O'Day dinghy.

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My brothers and I used to bring my mom sunfish and perch from the pond near our house to clean and cook for us all the time. Of course we never actually ate them. We preferred hot dogs."

McKenna quickly outgrew the dinghy and moved up - first to a 16-foot Glastron, then a rebuilt Larson 18, followed by a wooden Bristol, which promptly sank on Great Herring Pond in Plymouth, Mass. When he graduated from college, McKenna picked up (in rapid succession) a 15-foot Boston Whaler and an 18-foot Robalo center console.

Today McKenna, 44, is still catching fish and eating hot dogs, but on a much larger pond and from a much larger boat: a 1994 Albin 28 TE, which he describes as his "next-to-last boat ever." From April to November he berths his 38-foot flybridge cruiser, Legacy, on Boston Harbor and fishes for striped bass, bluefish, cod and flounder, and the occasional - and elusive - bluefin tuna.

McKenna, a licensed charter captain, is CEO of WCM Partners, an advertising agency in Charlestown across from Constitution Marina, where he keeps his boat to entertain clients, and for the occasional bass or tuna charter. "It's an important part of our outreach strategy" says McKenna. "At least that's what I tell my clients and partners."

Despite the long hours he puts in at the agency, during the season Capt. Rick is often on the harbor at first light.

"Fishing is a great escape, a chance to clear your mind and get your priorities straight" says McKenna, "But it is not relaxing - if you do it right."

Still, the scene seems relaxing at sunrise anchored off one of Boston's 34 rocky harbor islands as McKenna breaks out the light tackle and begins to chop herring for chum - until the fish move onto the flat.

Within 15 minutes the reels are screaming as all four anglers (and Capt. McKenna) hook up with big striped bass to 40 inches, about 30 pounds. For the next four hours the action simply doesn't stop - until the tide goes slack and it is time to go.

On the short ride back to the dock, McKenna talks of the "sea change" he has seen on Boston Harbor. In the 1980s, when he was running "booze cruises" to help pay his way through college, the harbor was a disaster, he says.

"Today the harbor is healthy again and the fish - and the fishermen - are back and that's a very good thing. Now if only the tuna will cooperate this weekend, I'll be a very happy man. But I still prefer hot dogs - or lamb chops - to sushi."

Contact McKenna at rmckenna@wcm-partners.com.

Author E. Bruce Berman, Jr. teaches marine science, harbor history, management and communications at Boston University, and is the spokesman for Save the Harbor/Save the Bay (www.savetheharbor.org).

This article originally appeared in the New England Home Waters Section of the June 2010 issue.