A writer writes a love letter to peach and his late father
Although it was so many years ago, I remember catching my first fish with my dad, Lloyd, like it happened this morning.
My family had rented cabins on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, where I swam and waded with my cousins and where my dad and uncle fished every morning.
One beautiful and not too hot summer afternoon, my father asked me if I wanted to go fishing. It was my first time and I wasn’t sure what to expect as he rowed the little wooden boat to a spot not too far from our cottage, baited a small spinning rod with a live worm and threw it for me.
When the red and white plastic bobber started dancing on the surface of the water, my dad said, “I think you have a fish. I can’t remember who was more excited, me or my dad, when I brought this little bluegill back to the boat, then watched its black vertical stripes and shiny olive green body while my dad pulled the hook from his mouth.
Being a typical 4 year old, I asked my dad if we could keep the fish. He said, “Let him go back to his mom and dad so he can grow up,” which made perfect sense to me.
This trip hooked me into fishing for life, and I thought about it often during the two weeks after my father passed away at 89. My dad loved to fish and sharing his passion with me at such a young age changed my life. , although I didn’t know it at the time.
My father grew up in Boston and he told stories of fishing with his grandfather in the Charles River and from the docks of the Massachusetts coast. His favorite was the time his grandfather caught a huge carp, and as he brought the fish closer to shore, my dad, who was 10 or 12 at the time, was wading through the water to pick up the carp in her arms. His grandfather was the envy of the neighborhood, and my father’s mother was cooking carp for dinner that night.
I grew up on Long Island, New York, where my dad fished local party boats for bluefish and flounder, which we loved to eat. After getting my first newspaper job and moving, he fished the local freshwater lakes, where he caught carp and bass.
I had been carp fishing in my early teens, biking through town with my rod to a pond that had so many carp it was hard not to catch one. A nearby Italian bakery would give me dough as bait, and I would catch and release carp until it was time to pedal home. I brought back my catch for the day to dinner, my father nodded approvingly and my sisters ignored me.
When I became an outdoor writer in South Florida through my fishing experience and my dad retired here, I was able to take him fishing. In fact, whenever I called captain friends asking them to go fishing in hopes of getting a story, they would say, “As long as you bring your dad.”
Trips with Bouncer Smith produced dolphins, jacks and snappers, and he and my dad developed a special bond. My dad had a friend with a boat and they fished Boynton Beach Inlet twice a week. They didn’t use wire snoods, and my dad once told Bouncer how many hooks he was losing to the sharptooth trevally. So Bouncer started sending my dad three hook kingfish rigs with the tip of the top hook going through the eye of the bottom hook. Used with dead sardines the rigs were extremely effective, and every time I spoke with Bouncer he asked me if my dad needed more hooks.
I had so many memorable fishing trips with my dad. George Poveromo from the Salt Water Sportsman Seminar Series invited us to Bimini, where my dad caught a trevally with Harry Vernon that hit the bottom of a 50-pound ladder. While fishing with multiple sailboat tournament winners Mark Lamb and Daryl Deka, my dad released two sailboats on a windy day off Riviera Beach. And he caught a 100-pound tarpon, his first, fishing at night in Haulover Inlet with Tom and Marcia Calandra.
One of our last trips together was to Boynton Inlet with Captain Chris Lemieux. We trailed several hard fighting bonito which put my dad to the test and then he caught two guardian trevallies. When a kite bait in the bow of the boat got hit I grabbed the rod and landed a 43 pound king.
Like that very first bluegill, I don’t know who was more thrilled, but I’m pretty sure it was my dad.