An angler’s paradise eludes my rod and reel

Do you like to drop line? I’m proud to brag that my hometown is easily considered the freshwater fishing capital of the world. Elite tournaments like the Bassmaster and weekly fishing derbies attract the best anglers in the country.

Dad can attest to massive schools of fish caught on four river systems that converge in Massena, NY: the Grasse, St. Regis, Raquette and St. Lawrence Rivers. He’s fished them all since his days in diapers.

In nothing more than a 12-foot aluminum rowboat, Dad has caught hefty largemouth bass, walleye, giant muskie and northern pike. His sturdy skiff was bought used from a friend in 1972 for no more than $125. (No surprise if you know pop.)

Today, he was determined to show off years of trawling prowess by returning to his favorite spot straddling the border of Ontario, Canada. Over the years, the turbulent waters near the massive Moses-Saunders Power Dam have been incredibly kind to many anglers.

So, sporting two big plastic pails for hooking bounty, we launched our humble craft alongside bigger outfits. Sometimes, it’s not he who owns the biggest boat but, rather, he (or she) with the most passion.

We made our way under the Barnhart Island bridge to a spillway called the Long Sault Dam. Earlier this spring, the New York Power Authority made a decision to open the gates to help to ease unusually high water levels. Past experience says this action unleashes a treasure trove of hungry biters.

So, using a variety of bait on a bunch of fishing poles, we waited and waited and waited. In a depth of probably 30 feet the only thing we hauled in was St. Lawrence seaweed. Snags and an invasive species called the tubenose goby were the other two nuisances.

Dad became discouraged but 12 year old nephew Payen remained hopeful. After an hour, we lifted anchor and drifted downstream trying other fishing methods. A swooping blue heron gracefully kept up with the fast current.

Several soggy sandwiches later we let the dream of a fish fry fade with the afternoon sun. Ominous clouds loomed overhead so we headed for port.

While putting the boat back on the hitch, we learned that even professional fishing guides were striking out.
Empty bucket or not, I stand by my original comment and we’ll be back again to prove it.

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Sonja Stark

The only thing domestic about me is that I was born in this country. Now, lets TRAVEL!

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