Fishing With My Dad

Frank Geremski and Dad fishingBy Frank Geremski

For as long as I can recall, my dad (BIG FRANK) was an expert fisherman. My first memories, which began my fishing obsession, were on Oneida Lake drifting homemade spinners for which my father became somewhat renowned around the Syracuse Fire Department and the City. We used to tie them all off-season, along with melting lead for special sinkers we molded that Big Frank said made a big difference on your drift. He used to crush the walleyes on Oneida, and it was commonplace for fisherman to follow our 20 ft. Penn Yan around and line up their drift with us. Often other boats would pull right up to us for fishing reports and/or to buy spinners from him. The generous soul that he was, he often simply gave these fishermen his special spinners. They had certain bead color patterns that had to be specifically sequenced.

While or after the transactions were occurring my dad would introduce me or explain to me that they were fellow firefighters or my Uncle Dicks neighbor, etc… You see, men did favors for each other every day. It was the way to get by, and I would later remember these fishermen returning favors to us. My Uncle was usually on the boat with us, and we often would get our limit early. Then, we would go and target perch, which somehow my dad knew were active around 121 or at a certain drop-off that at that time only were available through paper maps and charts.

Like it was yesterday, I recall my dear sisters Michele, Cheryl, and my thoughtful Mother getting him a “flasher-depth finder” for Christmas from Fredons when they were a luxury item. We couldn’t wait 12 more hours, so we gave it to him on Christmas eve at my Aunt Carm and Uncle Bob’s house party right after we fried up smelt that my dad netted, cleaned and prepared for a 100 at my Italian mothers extended family Christmas party. With that finder he got even more deadly. Augmenting his techniques of lining up islands and landmarks was now coupled with technology that we could now use to find schools.

I recall him targeting suspended fish that others new nothing about, and him adjusting his tactics to fish higher in the water column, landing trophies while others got skunked. He then decided to try a different fishery, completely changing tactics, purchasing and acquiring new gear to target Lake Trout on Seneca Lake.

A group of Syracuse friends and fishermen (Bob Carbone, barber Eddie Brown and Steve White and others) went west during one of Oneida Lakes downturns, and he started crushing them there. Fisherman always wanted to know what he was using or doing different. He taught me to know your spot and follow patterns, and to pay particular attention to subtle depth changes, where he would consistently see marks feeding from the bottom up 5-15 feet. He found old antique Victrola boxes and custom designed them to recoil wire, which we used to hand-line Christmas tree rigs and sawbellies (alewives). He spent the first hour on the water scouting with the flasher, and netting wounded baitfish, because he claimed a lot of the bait we could buy was from a different lake and it wasn’t a match. Plus, he said that he would notice patterns in the sizes of wounded bait and only use the popular size, and that was one of the differences he claimed why he was more successful than the other guys. THIS TRICK HE ONLY SHARED WITH ME, because he did not want competition taking his evidence.

As time went on, we bought a new boat together, the Alumacraft Trophy 185 that I still fish with now. He helped me, mostly he did it, rig up our new boat with downriggers and planers, and he would dedicate his time and effort in getting our boat ready all week for our next weekly trip. I was the rigger while he steered and guided us over his “honeyholes”.  He expertly would explain how to troll in S patterns and just intersect the bottom with our deepest rig prior to moving out deeper where he noticed suspended fish on the drop-off. Until writing this, I claimed responsibility for success by rigging us correctly, but I know now that we were a team and that the knowledge in me was acquired during his lifetime of fishing.

He was a great partner, because he was always willing to try new waters with me and we fished as many Upstate waters as possible in pursuit of trophy Salmon, Trout and Walleye. Though we had great success utilizing our techniques on many other Finger Lakes and Ontario, his true love was Seneca Lake. We always entered the annual Memorial Day Lake Trout Derby on Seneca and in his last 20 years we rented a camp on the lake for the whole week and made it our family vacation. He would gloat with pride when we showed up at the weigh station with a heavy cooler, him hearing the events staff telling the crowd, “Here comes a couple of ringers”. We won substantial prizes in 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, two separate placings in 2006, and in 2007, and the plagues still don the “wall of fame” in my parents Liverpool home.

I distinctly remember the last big trout that my father fought in his quest to win the derby and the many lessons that it taught me. On this trip his health and strength was failing and he mentioned he wasn’t certain that next year was an option. The derby was over in 2 hours and I wanted to get packed up and head in, since the fishing was slow. He said, he’d prefer to stay and make another pass, because he kept marking suspended fish offshore of Starkey Point while I was tending the rods and his instincts said we were going to connect with a big bow. We did, just minutes later, he hooked and fought a 10lb plus silver beast that would have taken first place, only to see that rainbow jump 4 feet out of the water and shake loose. I was so disappointed, but he wasn’t. He said he was happy the fish was free and pleased that he was right to continue.

He taught me through fishing to be creative and persistent. To trust my instincts, not just in fishing but also in life. His examples showed me that attention to details is an important aspect of success. Him taking me fishing made huge impacts on my life. If he didn’t, I certainly wouldn’t be writing this article today, and you wouldn’t be reading this right now. My loving father passed away 2 years ago, and I miss both him and fishing together, but his legacy lives on in the fishing tips he provided me that I share with you. THANKS DAD.