My dad started fishing as s child growing up in North Africa. One of his uncles was a passionate angler, and introduced him to sport fishing somewhere around the age of five years old. They fished saltwater, mainly from the shore or piers, for various Mediterranean species consumed as table fare.
Though I don't know much about the Tunisian sport fishing scene in 1935, I do know that their tactics were crude, if not ancient by modern day standards. Their targets species were small enough to avoid the use of reels, which most likely weren't readily available or affordable to most people back then. My father mentioned using breadballs dipped in fish juice to catch mullets and porgies.
After moving to Canada in 1958, my dad took up freshwater fishing. He fished quite often for most of his single life here, until marrying my mother in 1972. He fished many of the same waterways as I do, often from his small 16 foot boat equipped with a 9.9 hp Evinrude. No fancy electronics of gear back then, and for the most part, he used live bait rigs fished either on bottom or under bobbers. Live minnows, fresh caught worms, and occasionally frogs or crayfish if he found them at the local bait shops.
Though he caught many of the various species found in Quebec and Southern Ontario, his passion was for bass, and especially smallmouth bass. He told of many campfire fishing tales of his exploits, his eyes twinkling with good memories. Like many fishing tales, the fish seemed to grow bigger every time the story was repeated.
Once my dad got married, he sold his boat and significantly reduced the amount of time he spent fishing, opting to spend time with his new bride, my mother. I came along less than one year later. Being the firstborn son, I was to be introduced to sport fishing by him a few years later.
My first memories of fishing with my father were back when I was a young child. I vaguely remember him baiting our lines with live minnows bought just outside the entrance to the Long Sault Parkway, one of his favorite shore fishing spots. I also remember him taking me worm hunting with red flashlights on the nights before outings. I remember catching some perch on the baited lines, but they were far and few in between hooking rocks on bottom and massive bird's nest tangles that mono line created in the hands of an inexperienced kid like myself.
Eventually, he introduced me to fishing lures, tying on a small red and white wooden Jitterbug. In addition to having me practice my casting, I was no longer worried about hooking bottom, nor getting fowled up in weeds. I still remember my first topwater fish, as if it were yesterday. I was casting shallow along a steep rock bank at the Mille Roches section of the Long Sault parkway. As usual, I watched my lure to try to make sure my retrieve was giving the crawling / gurgling action my dad suggested I maintain while retrieving the lure. In the gin clear water, I could see a smallmouth bass rise and chase my lure before exploding and crushing it at the surface. Not a big bass, it probably measured in the 10 to 12 inch range. But likely one of the most memorable bass I've caught over the 40 some years since then.
As a child growing up in Jewish school, we attended 6 days a week. Saturday was our day off school, but as orthodox Jews, it is forbidden for us to fish on the Shabbat. Instead, we spent it at the synagogue. Basically, we didn't have too much opportunity to fish during the 10 months of the school year, except for a few days off school during spring and fall holidays. Summers were better, if we weren't away at sleep way camp, we got to fish with my dad on Sunday's, as he had a tight weekday work schedule.
I have fond memories of saltwater fishing with my father on a few occasions while visiting Florida. We didn't have much cash to lay out for private charters, so we opted to fish either from party boats or piers. Not much fish landed most of the time, but he did manage a nice kingfish and some bonitas on one such outing.
Once my brother and I hit adulthood, it was out turn to re-introduce him to fishing. Equipped with much of the same gear we used as kids, he rediscovered his passion for the sport through us, and my children as well.
Between trips on my small boat during the 2006-2009 period, and our yearly family bass fishing trips from 2005, until he was no longer to fish with us due to physical limitations around 2015, he enjoyed what turned out to be some of his best bass fishing days, especially for largemouth bass, which he hadn't targeted much earlier on in his heyday.
Though snapping digital pics is quite easy these days, earlier on, before we even had disposable cameras, shooting fishing pics was quite the ordeal. My dad loved photography, and as such, had a fancy Canon that required manually adjusting everything from focus, speed, light, etc. Which made for tough fishing photography. As such, we have very few fishing pics from that era.
I will have to go through old family pics to find earlier fishing pics with my dad, which I'll add here once I find them.
Here are a couple shots of us fishing during summer vacation on Schroon Lake in 1979.
In more recent times, I got some nice of my own shots of him fishing with the family:
Shore fishing with his boys:
And his first grand daughter:
Some of the many nice catches on my 14 foot boat a bit over a decade ago:
And of course, many great moments during our week long family trips to Mijocama outfitter every summer.
Fittingly, my father was with us when I recited what was likely the first Kaddish ever recited at Mijocama about a decade ago, as it requires a quorum of 10 Jewish adults praying in unison.
God willing, I'll be reciting it there again for Him this summer.
I know that part of him will remain with me for the rest of my days, and every time I fish, he'll be there in spirit.
In the aftermath of my dad's passing, much of my fishing plans changed for the rest of the 2019 fishing season. Being that I needed to recite kaddish (prayer for the dead) 3 times a day (morning, afternoon, evening) with a quorum of 10 men, I refrained from putting myself in any situations where I would miss saying kaddish for a consecutive 11 months.
This meant that for the most part, I was unable to travel out of a 2 hour radius of Montreal to fish. I did go out of town on two occasions, once to Florida in April, and once to Mijocama in June. I was able to attend daily prayer services in Florida, and we had well over 10 adults on our Mijocama trip, to where we were able to do the services daily, 3 times a day.
I had to cancel various trips where I would not have this luxury, as well as many planned day outings that were too far from Montreal to be able to attend services.
Being left with little alternative, I was left with the option of "beating up" waterways and spots close to home, usually for a few hours at a time.
After the mandatory shiva (7 day mourning period) where we traditionally don't leave home all day, I was more than ready to get out on the ice. Knowing a spot that held some wintering bass, I decided to try my luck. Sure enough, I hit a home run on that outing, locating good numbers of mid to larger largemouth bass. Over the next few weeks, I returned often, making it by far the best bass fishing on ice I've ever experienced.
Having the spot to myself on most weekdays, I was able to mourn in solitude, interrupted only by the rush of catching big bass under ice on light ice tackle.
Truly a unique mourning experience, and in all honesty, much more inner healing than the prescribed motions dictated by religious law. All bass except for one were released in good condition, hope they come to play again next winter.
As summer came along and the water temp warmed up enough to produce a good topwater bite.
My dad first taught me how to use a topwater lure around the age of 5 or 6. It was a small wooden jitterbug, and I caught my first ever bass on it the first time I tried it. Ever since then, I've had a special love for fishing with topwater lures.
Having a big predator explode on a surface lure is just about the top of any lure fishing experience. As opposed to simply feeling a fish hitting your lure, a topwater hit provides both a visual of the attack, and audio of the explosion as well. If you happen to be in on a float tube when it happens, you than get to experience full body combat with the fish, as even a mid size bass can tow you around in a float tube.
I pretty much dedicated most of my solo outings all season to fishing with topwater lures, mainly for bass.
Our yearly trip to Mijocama was very nostalgic for me, as my dad came along with us on a dozen or so week long family fishing trips there, as my kids were growing up. We were very lucky to enjoy some of the best topwater fishing I've experienced on that lake of the past 17 years, and I was able to put my boys onto some great topwater fishing as well.
No doubt my dad would have enjoyed being there in person for the unbelievable action, but he was definitely there in spirit.
As the summer progressed, many of my solo outings were from my float tube. The action was pretty good for bass, ended up landing a few dozen of them up to 4+ lbs.
Pike were a big tougher, but I did land a couple very nice ones on buzzbaits and propbaits.
By far, the pinnacle of my topwater fishing success was a 42.5 inch musky I caught casting a big topwater lures from my float tube. Between the explosive surface attack, the intense full body battle, and then having to land the thrashing beast by hand (no room for net on float tube), I can safely say that moment was one of my fishing season's highlights in 2019.
Again, one of those moment's where I felt he was probably smiling down on me from up above.
I spent many nights out on the water for a few hours, again, enjoying the solitude, remembering my dad, while imagining what it would have been like for him to be with me when he was still able to do so. Unfortunately, we had very limited carping time together, as he wasn't in top shape by the time time I became proficient at carp fishing, and he had never targeted carp back in his heyday. In his prime, I'm sure he would have enjoyed battling with some of the big suckers I ran into this season.
Judaism believes that a person soul is in transition for a 12 month period after one's passing. As such, some sects (such as mine) avoid visiting the grave for the first year, except for the funeral and unveiling ceremonies.
Not being able to be physically present near my dad's final resting place, I was still able to connect with him on a spiritual level during prayer, and on an emotional level, through fishing, which was was one of the strongest bonds we shared.
I thought of him on every single one of over 100 outings, probably with almost every fish I caught. I often felt that he was now free of physical limitations that prevented him from fishing with me during his final years, and that he was there with me on some level every time I fished.