I grew up on the shores of Lake Ontario fishing for smallmouth with my dad in from of Ginna Nuclear Power Plant and for largemouth in the bays from Irondequoit to Sodus. My dad moved to Florida in the late 80s, and I moved to the Finger Lakes. I enjoyed some of the finest fishing in the country while serving as the PR man for the Rochester Bassmasters, a club with 125 members at the time.
Eventually, I also ended up in Florida and spent a lot of time on Okeechobee before settling in the Tennessee Valley nearly 15 years ago. Now I live a mile from Tims Ford Lake (a very underrated fishery) and 50 minutes up and over the mountain from Goose Pond Colony on legendary Lake Guntersville.
It took me quite a while to adapt to these southern reservoirs, and it’s no coincidence that I have gravitated to the clear waters of Tims, it's a mixed bag of smallmouth and largemouth bass, and the grassy Guntersville that reminds me in many ways of the glacial waters of upstate New York. But I can assure you, stereotypes sure die hard.
My 79-year-old dad – the one who first put a pole in my hand, the one who taught me how to run a boat and a business – called me on my way to Champlain for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open last week. The conversation started like all of them, with him asking, “Where are you?”
“Headed to the homeland, dad.”
“No, pop, New York.”
“Fishin’ tournament on Champlain.”
“I seemed to remember that as a perch lake…do they have bass there?” he asks, totally serious. Now I'm flummoxed. This guy taught me how to fish, and I know he’s lived in Florida for 40 years now, but really? Champlain is a perch lake?
So I let him know that Champlain is a bucket list lake that is high on the Bassmaster Top 100 lakes list that is filled with both largemouth and smallmouth bass.
“So can you weigh in smallmouth or just largemouth?” he asks me.
Who is this guy, I’m thinking to myself.
Later in the day, I get a call from a good buddy of mine who was born and raised in North Alabama. He’s an avid fisherman, but the offshore saltwater type. He keeps a boat at his family's place in Destin, Fla., and gets down there when he can. He wants to know where I’m going. I tell him.
“New York? Bass fishing? They fish in New York? Like where, around the Statue of Liberty and stuff?”
“No, man! I’m not fishing in the Hudson River in New York City!”
Perceptions die hard.
I love living in the South, around some tremendous fisheries, and year-round fishing. And no, I don’t consider drilling a hole in the ice and dropping a maggot through it fishing. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But New York – from the Niagara and Lake Erie in the Buffalo area, to Chautauqua and the Finger Lakes, to Oneida, the St. Lawrence, Black Lake and the “Adirondack Coast” and all the small waters in between – is a great state to fish.
Vermont too! Don’t want to upset the fishing gods over there, in case I end up on the East Shore.