by Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
The picture you see here is of my third oldest son Joe, showing off one of his 3-pound walleye caught at Chautauqua Lake last week. Joe owns a cabin in the woods in Chautauqua County that is about a 10-minute drive to a Chautauqua launch ramp. He and I spent three days together fishing this lake, and what I want to say is, there is nothing like father and son spending quality time together on a lake, or wherever, no-matter what your ages are. I had a Father's Day gift, early!
OK, it's about time you did it if you haven't already. Sometimes all you need to do is ask dad to go fishing with you, sometimes he'll need coaching, sometimes he'll say OK, let's go. Maybe your dad is already your fishing partner, so make this a special fishing expedition.
Think of all the sisters and brothers that don't have stay at home dads or dads that have passed on, or are members of the armed forces that need to leave their children out of necessity. You could be a mentor for those youngsters. Think about it, one of the best things in life is to get outdoors whether you hunt or fish, take the challenges, the serenity, and taking part in what is naturally yours. As long as I live, I will never forget a fishing friend that never went to church on Sundays; his church was in the woods, or fishing a pond somewhere. He always said he found the hours spent doing that; it was his peace with God. The day he peacefully passed on I felt maybe he was right. Who knows?
I don't mean taking dad out on Father's Day per se, because Father's Day I know how busy that day can be for many families, but you can promise your dad that you two are going fishing on another day for a Father's Day present. Give him a promissory note with his Father's Day card! He won't forget it when it comes and neither will you.
My father was never a fisherman of any sorts, although I had repeatedly invited him to go with me for a couple of hours of fishing, "just to try it." One day I asked him to go with me in the boat with a couple of my kids, his grandkids. He was in his 70s then and he surprised me as he said, "OK I'll go for a little while."
Wow that was a surprise. Dad as far as I knew, never even stepped foot in a boat and this was his first time. So we grabbed some bait, and packed the boat up, and headed for the launch ramp in Lewiston. We stuck around in front of the launch area for a while and fished, thinking dad needs to get used to this to get his sea legs. No fish caught around there that day so we moved on down to the bay at Joseph Davis State Park, fishing different places along the way. Dad caught the first fish and it was a small sheep head. Sheep head aren't a quality fish to many, but I always felt our creator put them there for somebody to catch and get a thrill out of on those days when fishing isn't so good.
After dad caught his second or third sheep head, he latched on to something big. We were fishing with night crawlers, and sheep head love those as much as the eel does. Wouldn't you know, what dad had on his Zebco rod and reel was a 2-1/2 foot American eel weighing, I would guess 8 to 10 pounds, and it was big. If anyone ever latched onto an eel this size, would know what a fight one of these critters can give. They'll curl up your line, uncurl themselves and fight you every crank of your reel handle. After a 15-20 minute fight and dad tiring we lifted this critter out of the water for pictures. But we never took it in the boat, as when they get on the floor even then they are hard to control. They are strong and when captured like that become very slimy. You are better off to snip the line and let it go. Because of the acids in a fish's body, (any fish) a small metal fish hook will dissolve in a matter of days, leaving no harm to the fish.
All the action from that day was recorded on an old Kodak Super 8 movie camera. We didn't have digital cameras back then. I haven't dug that movie out in quite a while, but I can remember the look on dad's face, his actions, and when the fight was over, how he sat resting his arms and squeezing his hands to get the circulation going through them again. Excited, I guess he really got tensed up and held on tight to that rod, and that fish, and was determined not to lose it. My children and I will never forget grandpa's first fishing trip. Some day I'll tell you the story of the American eel, as it is a whole story in itself.
John Eddy is a fisherman who lives in Sanborn. Here is one example of taking your father fishing. As far back as I can recall, John and his father, George, were practically attached at the hip. Fishing and hunting together was a given. I would see them not only on the waters, but coming into Carl Penders Harvest Inn in Youngstown, later named DJ's, stopping by for their breakfast before heading out for a day of fishing. Rain didn't bother them nor, cold weather, it was a given. Father and son were going fishing regardless.
Some of you may recall the story about Jesse Owens from the Ransomville Manor, going fishing for his last time at age 81. Jesse had no one to take him, even though he fished most of his life, and as time went by in his later years there was no one to take him until Ed Mort and Roy Barr met him, took him to a pond, and the excitement that followed that trip was all for Owens. Every catch, if caught by Owens, the fish would get a hug, a kiss, and a pose for the camera. Mort and Barr will never forget it either, my kind of heroes.
Father's Day is on Sunday June 16. The official New York state opening day for bass season is the day before, Saturday, June 15. Children under age 16 don't need a fishing license, adults 70 plus and military-disabled get a 1-year license for $5. Anyone in between has to pay $29 for the privilege (soon to be $25).
•Fish free too! New York state, back in 1991 incorporated "Free Fishing Days" to anyone fishing New York waters. On June 29 and 30 this year you can fish for free. Go to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation website for more details here:http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6091.html.
Summer is here: Take that kid fishing, and an elder, too.