Thursday, May 8, 2014

Kids Fishing Classes

By Spider Rybaak

Marshall, an associate of McGrath's, holding a Lake Neatahwanta catfish as his student looks on.
New York is etched in a fabulous web of fishing hot spots. But even fantasies have highlights, and the most exciting fishing destination in the Empire State is Oswego County.

Not just for trophy seekers, either. Granted, catching a walleye or brown trout big enough to hang on the wall is a common goal; but it’s at the end of the line, one of the final tests of an angler’s skills. 

And expert anglers don’t just appear out of nowhere -- It takes years of patience and practice, even apprenticeship, to fully develop fishing skills. And although some learn the game as adults, most trace their interest back to when they were kids.

Mike McGrath is a good example. Packing almost two generations of angling expertise, the man is savvy in all things fishy: from tying flies and fly-fishing for trout, salmon, northern pike and black bass, to trolling for muskies, jigging for walleye and bottom fishing for monster catfish.

With all that knowledge under his cap, you’d expect to find him chiseling out a name for himself on the marble column of the world’s greatest anglers; or at least living high on the hog competing in the tournament circuit.

But that’ll probably never happen. You see, this mild mannered Central New Yorker is a husband and father.  And like the countless other unsung heroes throughout history, McGrath couldn’t live with himself without donating part of his life to giving back. He does it by instructing someone else’s kids in the secrets of carp fishing.

McGrath’s choice of the species is simple. He knows that youngsters have short attention spans. Although catching panfish is fun, the thrill is often fleeting. On the other hand, when children catch carp, the experience is so intense it’s burned into their fondest memories, often hopelessly hooking them for life to the character-building sport of angling.

Watching the master spin his magic, observers often ask: “But why carp?”

When you get to know him, the answer becomes clear: McGrath is a man of the times. An unabashed internationalist, he specializes in this fresh water behemoth because of its worldwide appeal; it’s the most popularly sought fish in the Old Country. (The fact that the Oswego River drainage boasts one of America’s greatest populations of huge carp doesn’t hurt, either.)

Having served apprenticeships under European and Asian masters, Mike knows his game. Like a turkey hunter, he draws his quarry in close. Instead of calling the fish vocally (he has trouble vocalizing the gurgles and grunts of carp speak), he lures them in with his “10 pack,” a gob of grain bound by sticky stuff like bismuth that he “packs” into clumps the size of softballs and heaves into the water. As the pack slowly dissolves, its flavors are released, drawing carp and catfish into the area.

He’s good enough at it to turn a profit running McGrath & Associates Carp Angling Services. But he always makes time to teach, and pairs up with this writer regularly to offer free classes on local waters.

To see how McGrath does it, or to learn how to fish with worms or lures in my section, you are invited to attend one of our classes. See the schedule below:

May 10:  Oneida Lake Hatchery, NYS Rte. 49, Constantia; 
11 a.m.-1 p.m.

May 17:  Lake Neatahwanta, NYS Rte. 3, Fulton; 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

June 14:  Lake Neatahwanta, NYS Rte. 3, Fulton; 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

June 28:  Oneida Lake Hatchery, State Rte. 49, Constantia; 
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

July 12:  Lake Neatahwanta, NYS Rte. 3, Fulton; 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

July 19.   May’s Point Fishing Access Site, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, NYS Rte. 89;  11 a.m. -1 p.m.

August 9:  Lake Neatahwanta, NYS Rte. 3, Fulton; 
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

August 16:  Great Swamp Conservancy, 8375 North Main Street, Canastota; 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

September 6: Lake Neatahwanta, NYS Rte. 3, Fulton; 
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

October 18:  Lake Neatahwanta, NYS Rte. 3, Fulton; 
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Mom and daughter admiring the child's first fish, caught during Spider's section of a kids fishing class on Lake Neatahwanta.

Mike McGrath unhooking an average-size Lake Neatahwanta carp.

Typical fishing class conducted by McGrath and Spider.

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