ROCHESTER, N.Y. — “He was doing doughnuts off of my port side,” said Mark Menendez. “At one point, he’s coming straight at me, idling pretty fast and he slams the boat in reverse and misses the boat by about a foot and a half.”
That was the scene Menendez faced just over a month ago at the Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmaster Elite tournament on New York’s St. Lawrence River. But by keeping his wits, and by knowing the local fishing laws, Menendez scored a victory in court on Friday as that land owner — Rochester’s William Bishop, 68 — pleaded guilty to charges of harassing an angler.
Bishop was fined $175, according to officials from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. But Menendez said he hopes the lesson he learned will prove more valuable. “I’m just glad that it was me and not a young family that may be fishing for the first time,” the seasoned angler noted. “There’s no telling how many times this guy has done that to people. Now, he’s got a record for it.”
The encounter escalated when Menendez approached a dock near a residence that Bishop appeared to be living in during the event.
“I’m coming down the bank, and I’m pitching at boat docks. It was fairly early in the morning,” the 20-year pro recounts. “I skipped up under a boat dock and caught the big bass of the tournament — a 6-pounder. I’m thinking I could make the finals if I keep this up. I’m relaxed, in a groove and working a line of temporary boat docks when I get two docks away from this guy’s boat dock. And I see — I swear to you this is true — a head pop up from behind a window. I move to the next dock over and here he comes down the hill … with purpose, with speed.”
Menendez said Bishop then proceeded to discourage him from fishing the dock with a series of verbal assaults and a threat to throw rocks at him. “He’s cussing me pretty good. He says that there’s a big fish under the dock and it’s his grandkid’s fish. They catch it and let it go, and it has a big scar on its back from where the dog bit it.”
"I told him, 'I can appreciate that, but I do have the legal right to fish any of this water I want to without getting on your property, and I intend to.' An involuntary reflex sent that Strike King Rage Craw about two inches from the end of that dock, and he was shocked. He said, 'You’re gonna get it now.’”
That’s when Menendez says Bishop went for the boat keys, resulting in the aforementioned doughnuts and eventually a call to the local game warden, who met the Bassmaster Elite pro at the weigh-in.
Bishop, for his part, threatened to call Menendez’s sponsors. “He did call B.A.S.S. less than 10 minutes after I had gotten off the phone with the warden, and he did talk to them. I don’t know that he talked to Skeeter, but I think he contacted Tackle Warehouse. I had everybody in the loop; all my bosses knew what was going on, and I got the utmost support from all of my sponsors,” he said.
In this case, Menendez notes that knowing the local law made the difference. “I knew that New York had that law. I can’t remember how I knew it, but I was 100 percent sure they did. Russ Lane was harassed by a guy in a boat during that same event, but he didn’t know there was a law. It cost him making the Top 50, maybe much higher, because he was way up there.”
Menendez says he hopes the incident will raise awareness for both fishermen and hunters who face harassment on public property. And that big fish?
“I swear that 6-pounder had a big scar on its back,” he laughs, “and I caught it less than a hundred yards from where that guy was yelling at me.”