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Cory Weyant at Smithsonian
Cory Weyant: Bayman and Educator
1957–2011



Cory Weyant Memorial Fund

Cory Weyant, the anchor of LI Traditions’ maritime programs, died in a tragic boating accident on March 2, 2011. To honor his memory please contribute to a trust fund being established for his son Collin Weyant. All contributions are tax deductible. You can contribute online or by sending your contribution to Long Island Traditions, 382 Main Street, Port Washington, NY 11050. Please make checks payable to “Long Island Traditions.”

 

Cory Weyant was one of the most energetic and knowledgeable baymen in Freeport. He was a master storyteller, expert eeler and crabber, dragger mate, and fish smoker. Cory grew up on Woodcleft Canal in Freeport. “I was born in Oceanside, but I lived, lived here (Freeport) for 30 years, 30 years old, I lived here 20, that house next door for 17, 10 here. Guess I’m basically living on the canal all my life.” When asked how he first started getting into the bay he replied, “Fend for your own! Me and my buddy Bill Ross, we used to, when my friend Mike who owns the fish market up the block, I know him since I’m two, right, so he lived over there, there were no houses, so we used to make rafts, ya know, like Styrofoam rafts, and just rowed across to the island just to see what was over there with an old oar and then we used to find like a dingy with a hole in it, and we’d patch it up. We used his mother’s fiberglass curtains one time, patched up a boat…we used to row all over the bay because we didn’t have a motor you know.”

Cory learned early on that in order to make a year round living he would have to master a variety of skills for both the bay and ocean. He learned to clam, crab, trap eels and killeys, catch horseshoe crabs for bait, and to smoke fish from German residents (Cory is German). Cory believed that as long as there were enough variety of species to catch he would be able to continue working on the water. Like most traditional baymen, Cory built his own traps which differed in design according to the species. In order to smoke eels, he first trapped them, prepared them in a traditional brine made from brown sugar, salt, and vinegar, then smoked them using an aromatic fruitwood such as cherry or apple in a smoker. His smoker was made from a discarded refrigerator that has shelves. “Like I said, I just fooled around with it. Oh down, at my uncle’s marina, Frank’s marina, I just fooled with it, then, like when I ran the fish market tried it a little more, you know, I could sell ‘em, then I got into trapping them, made more and more traps, matter of fact every year I try to make more.” His customers learned about him through word of mouth. “They come to my door, knock on my door, I like, when I get the old German people, ya, you got some eels…come on over, how many pounds you want?”

Cory reflected commercial fishermen in Freeport, in that he learned to work in a variety of different activities in order to work year round. As a teenager he worked on the clammer boat, the St. Peter, which was directly across the street from the house he grew up in. “The first time I worked on a dragger I worked right here on the St. Peter, across the street, I worked there like I was 17, 18, 19 till I was about 21. Then I ran that fish market and I got into the smoked fish after that. I just decided I’d had enough of the fish market, said I can go out and make my own living in the bay.”

Cory learned to fish from a variety of commercial fishermen including the Cona brothers, who were dragger fishermen originally from Italy, and from dragger boat fisherman Tony Sougstad. He learned to work on the bay from Elwood Verity, one of the most traditional baymen who taught Cory and other baymen how to make eel, crab, and killey traps. Cory also learned about boat design from the Remsen family, another long time Freeport fishing family. Cory worked in both the bay and on the ocean.

Cory was a master educator in Long Island Traditions’ programs. For over 20 years, Cory taught in Freeport’s elementary schools, teaching students about the work and lives of Long Island fisherman and baymen. Students eagerly awaited his arrival in their classrooms. For some, this was their first exposure to local fishermen and baymen, as well as Freeport’s working waterfront. In addition, Cory demonstrated fish smoking at hundreds of festivals, including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Woodcleft Nautical Festival in Freeport, entertaining visitors with his stories about the bay. He also worked as a tour guide during the winter months for seal watch trips.

Cory died in a tragic boating accident on March 2, 2011. We shall forever remember his devotion to education and to preserving the working waterfront of Freeport.