In nearby Watertown, New York, the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Brigade Light Infantry Division is stationed at Camp Drum. Many there have been to Kuwait, Iraq or Afghanistan, some have been to all three on war duty!
Many have been injured in battle, some have spent months and years healing. Not all were able
to get around exceptionally well, but they didn’t complain about much of anything. They called us sir with honest sincerity, they grinned and belly laughed after a good joke and they said “God
Bless You’ when somebody sneezed. It was such a pleasure to meet them, share life stories, toss a few casts, land some fish. Such a privilege!
Under the leadership of First Sergeant Carl Waltenburg (E-8), 26 year U.S. Army veteran from
Michigan, the wounded warrior heroes travelled to fish Western New York and Lake Erie.
They met Captain Fred at the air-conditioned Theatre Hotel lodging located on Route 20 in Westfield on Friday afternoon where they were escorted to Blue Water Campground.
Located right on Lake Erie, proprietor Brian Hayes provided golf cart rides to the sound of the surf and a walk in the warm, quiet, clean sand of his Lake Erie beach there. The vets enjoyed
a good old-fashioned corn roast from Chautauqua Lake Musky Guide, Larry Jones, and a mouthwatering Lake Erie walleye fish fry by Don Knappenberger.
Big fish story tales from colorful “Eerie Eyes” Charter Captain, Don Walter, keyed the fishing interests of the vets. They learned open water tackle tuning tricks from Dan Millen and Mel Butticci, both charter guide walleye experts that instilled instant confidence from fishing skills
they have honed over several decades.
Everyone laughed heartily at jokes shared by Grizzly Gary, outdoor broadcasting star of WBKX Jamestown based outdoor show "Grizzly Gary's Goin' Fishin' and Huntin' (www.grizzlygary.com/).
Breakfast at Jack’s Barcelona Drive-in at Barcelona Harbor was followed by a small craft advisory the next day. With wind velocity too high for Lake Erie fishing, Captain Walter and Captain Forsythe organized a backup plan and the group headed to do some inland bass fishing at Easton pond.
Sergeant Justin Creedon, from Wisconsin, took “most fish” catching honors with seven bass there, all caught using a Berkley Gulp smelt minnow rubber bait mounted on an Eagle Claw light wire hook. The “biggest fish”, a nice three pound plus bass, was caught by Gheorge Banaduc, from Antwerp, NY.
U.S. Army Specialist (E4) Joseph Heather, took top small fish honors, catching a three-inch fish on a four inch lure! Heather said, “my grandfather taught me when I was just little, fishing is not about how big the fish you catch is, it’s about the fun you have when you’re fishing. I’ve always remembered that! I’m having fun!”
With canes and some careful walking, these guys made their way around the pond perimeter, casting a variety of lures. They shared lots of stories with us, describing some of the battle zone
details of how they were injured. Discussions of roadside bombs, mortar attacks, jammed automatic weapons, grenades in close quarters and a host of other war tales, including most and least effective firearms details were shared.
The next day, weather was better and Lake Erie hosted a small flotilla of eager veterans in search of walleye and other species. Will Elliott, outdoor writer for the Buffalo News, first mated for Captain Forsythe, by noon, 13 glistening walleyes lined the ice-filled cooler.
Lead core line, Walker diving plans and downriggers were used to fool the cooperating fish.
Not all the veterans were able to easily handle the rods and reels, they had aches and pains on the mend, but they all did their best, gritting through the work of reeling in big Lake Erie fish.
They all said, “man, this is so much fun!”
The other two charter boats also landed 13 walleyes each. Lucky 13! The group tallied 39 walleyes and one lake trout in five hours of fishing. A great catch!
At Zebro’s Harbor House restaurant located right on Barcelona Harbor, awards were presented for various categories of fishing expertise achieved over the weekend. All of the war heroes received fishing lures from Northern King Lures, fishing line and Gulp plastic baits from Pure
Fishing (Berkley), hats from Toyota Trucks, “Lucky Fish Hooks”from Eagle Claw.
A deluxe rod/reel from the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen that was presented to Georghe Banaduc for the biggest bass on Saturday, and a ‘Biggest Fish” wall plaque was presented to Sergeant Rick Cain from Conneaut, Ohio, for his 9lb-9oz walleye monster catch of the day on
Every soldier on this trip enjoyed some great WNY fishing, great food, hearty laughs and honorable hero status from all volunteers present.
Ironically, several of the volunteers were Vietnam Era war veterans, sharing in fun and camaraderie. Senator Antoine Thompson, chairman of the New York State Conservation Committee sent his best wishes by telephone for asuccessful outing for these U.S. freedom fighting men.
Special Thanks to: Captain Fred Forsythe, Cast Away Charters: 716-560-9216; Captain Don Walter, Eerie Eyes Sportfishing Charters: 716-753-0784.
Sponsors and Volunteers: Capt. Fred Forsythe & Darlene (Cast Away Charters), Capt, Don Walter & Sally (Eerie Eyes Sport fishing Charters), ‘Grizzly’ Gary Wert, Jock Phillips, Carter Stetson, First Mate - Mel Buttici, First Mate - Dan Millen (and Joni), Bryan Hoffner, Dave Barus, Will Elliott, Capt. Larry Jones, Ken Johnston, Pete Norek, Al Easton, Don Knappenberger, Chuck Hazeltine, Marie Hazeltine, Potter County Fishing (Frank Empson), Allegany Community Federal Credit Union, Bison City Rod & Gun Club, Erie County Federation of Sportsmen, Silver Lake Marine, Blue Water Beach Campground (Brian and Donna Hayes), Kim & Jeff Carter, Barcelona Market, T W Biggins, Westfield Nursery, Hanna Holt Real Estate, Mason Funeral Home,
Southern Tier Spring Water, Quagliana’s Bark Grill, Jack’s Barcelona Drive In, Zebro’s Harbor House, Paul & Janet Odell, Whirley Drinkworks, Trophy Showcase, Northern King Lures, Pure Fishing, Eagle Claw, Toyota Trucks.
……by Dave Barus (aka Forrest Fisher)