Happy New Year! It’s been 20 Years of Fingerlakes Angling Zone – where does the time go?


I hope everybody checking out this website has a great New Year!

I thought it might be fun and entertaining to give a little bit of background on my guiding business, since 20 years is a pretty big milestone in any endeavor.

I was floundering a bit in the mid-1990s in Rochester NY – I wasn’t as thrilled with where I had grown up – in Penfield, as I had been when I was younger.  The development had gone hog-wild over there and the small farm town turned suburb was quickly morphing into Henrietta – which always reminded me a bit of suburban New Jersey (I had a friend that lived out there for a couple years) – i.e., endless shopping centers and congestion. (Our family had lived in Henrietta for a few years before moving to Penfield.)  A short trip to Wegmans used to take maybe 7 minutes by auto, now I’d be stuck in traffic for 25 minutes just trying to go a few miles away.  In terms of work, I had done temp work at places like Xerox, Mobile Chemical, JD Brush (one of the worst temp gigs I ever had…) and elsewhere for temporary agencies like Manpower, Tad and Kelly Services.  Those were all dead-end gigs and as temps, no matter what our background or brainpower, we were always the low end of the totem pole at work.  I worked at a medical billing office for a long time (since High School) off and on and that was a decent job but didn’t offer any advancement potential.  Medical Billing also looked like a huge headache, and my old boss eventually sold the business.  He was always complaining about it.  I wasn’t passionate about any of the jobs – but after all, it’s called “work,” so you do what you must do to earn money.  I sort-of liked carpentry and woodwork but again, I wasn’t super-hyped about it and never really got a break in it (I never met anyone that wanted to mentor me.)  Fishing was my favorite thing to do and my old-time favorite places to fish, like Irondequoit Creek and Genesee River (both mainly for steelhead) had slowed down notably since the 1980s and early-1990s. I was ready for a complete change of scenery.

I decided to move back home and save money for a year, and then move down to Trumansburg near Ithaca.  I had good memories of the area not just from boy scouts, but also from going smelt-dipping down at Taughannock in the mid-1980s and checking out music at the Rongovian Embassy with friends of mine.  My friend’s father moved to Lodi back in the 1970s and maintained a campground just south of the point (Eagle-Ridge Campgrounds – funny, back then there weren’t really any eagles around!)  Trout fishing and smelting there in the early 1980s left a big mark on me.  Long story short, I worked a bunch of odd jobs – primarily at restaurants, but also some temp-gigs at Cornell and elsewhere before the manager of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Fly-Shop, Tom, had seen some photos of nice lake trout we were catching fly-fishing from shore on Seneca Lake and asked me if I’d ever considered guiding.  That “ear-bug” was the genesis of my guide service.  Funny, I’d never considered guiding before.  What did I have to lose?  I went ahead and got my guide’s license and captain’s license.  At that same time, with total “synchronicity” my favorite Uncle (actually my great-uncle) had passed away and remarkably left me just enough money to purchase a boat package.  I would have bought something anyways, but it might have taken longer and I likely wouldn’t have been able to afford the 18’er I wound up getting.  This was in the fall of 2001.

Once I bought the 18′ Crestliner with 80 hp Yamaha, I was free to explore.   I had fished like a madman since about 1978 or ’79, slowing down occasionally here and there, and now was at it again, only this time in a boat.  I did quite a bit of boat angling and had experienced fishing most of the water bodies around central New York since the mid-1980s.  I had various fishing buddies and that helped a lot – having fishing mentors is invaluable to shortening the learning curve, although you still have to put the time in.

I was working in restaurants during the late-1990s and early-2000s.  This schedule was great for finding time to fish.  I started teaching a few Physical Education classes at Cornell starting around 2003 and my boss Phil, was a good angler and also a good influence towards pushing me to guide.  We started fishing some bass tournaments as a team for a couple of years, which really helped my bass fishing.  I spent about a year at Bass Pro Shops in Auburn as well.  Phil was a paramedic as well as Cornell’s Director of Safety.  He suggested a web designer that Bangs Ambulance had used.  This person was too busy, but recommended a friend to me, who wound up designing my website, which went live late in 2004.

First edition of the Website - I'm finally up and running!

Once I got into editing my home-page, I started adding a lot more content.  My web-designer Jason, did the little fish drawing on my early logo.  The logo was supposed to be tilted a bit counter-clockwise, but I didn’t like the optics of it, so you can see that the water-line isn’t horizontal.  Nobody cared!

A little later on...

I left my cheap little apartment in Trumansburg in 2012 and moved to Lansing.  Around this time I also hired a professional logo-designer to make my logo better and usable for various merchandise.

More detailed basic Fishing Reports on the home-page

Until maybe 10 years ago, I felt a need to continually check on pretty much all the lakes I guided regularly on a continual basis, so if I hadn’t been on Owasco or Keuka Lake in a while, it was time to head over there to update my reports.  That amount of driving and fishing wasn’t sustainable; it became draining physically and mentally and it took a toll on my equipment – i.e., my truck, boat, trailer and trolling motor.  And after a while, I felt like I had a pretty good feel of what to expect.  Conditions and fishing success became a bit more predictable.  Keeping detailed records helped a lot with this.  After a decade of full-time guiding, I also wound up with contacts – many of whom were very good anglers, on many of the lakes, so a quick text, phone call or email could provide me with the info I needed – which was generally water temperature, clarity and anything else of significance.

Clients also tended to favor certain types of fishing.  I thought when I started, that fly-fishing for landlocked Atlantic salmon would be my main draw.  Boy was I wrong!  Even when the fishing was top-notch, relatively few people were interested in taking a winter or cold-weather trip, and even fewer had experience fly-fishing out on the lakes.  I had no issues using spinning gear for them, but even on great years, the casting for them was never super-consistent.  Conditions had to be just right, and they rarely were for long.

With bass, most guys I’d guide from other parts of NY, PA and NJ would say – “I can catch all the bass I want back home.  What we can’t catch are lake trout.”  So, the bass guiding pretty much dwindled down rather quickly.  I had bass trips on Keuka and Cayuga Lakes where we’d get into some nice bass after jigging lake trout and the clients were asking, “hey, can we go back for lake trout?”  People like catching good numbers of BIG fish and there’s less effort involved angling-wise targeting lake trout.  You don’t have to make precision casts and learn to work numerous different lures.  There’s no getting around all those factors.  I was never a big fan of guiding bass on lakes like Cayuga anyways for a number of reasons – too many tournaments and practicing anglers, casting docks is tough for casual anglers, conditions change often, and it can be tough to stay focused and on bass consistently – to name a few reasons.  With pike, even with the spectacular pike fishing on Seneca Lake from 2006 – 2008, more people wanted lake trout overall, although I did quite a few pike trips back then.

My guiding “tree” has been pruned back quite a bit since I started.  Back when I started, the typical Finger Lakes guide/charter was a troller – for trout and salmon.  There were a few old-time guides that guided multi-species, but almost always on their respective home lakes.  Not many people were lake-hopping like I was for different species of fish, although I think multi-species/multi-lake fishing was getting on people’s radar.  A couple other guides started right around the time I did doing casting trips.  Nowadays, there are more guides and some specialists out there, so people can hire guides that are fanatics of certain species and are well dialed in.  When I started, I saw the need to be a bit of a “jack-of-all-trades” to provide services that nobody else was providing.

I’m averaging more trips now per year than before, but most tend towards lake-trout jigging and most are on Cayuga Lake, with Owasco Lake next, followed by Seneca Lake.  I rarely do gar trips anymore.  Pike trips have also been relegated to 5% of my guiding now.  I have a few dedicated fly-fishing clients, but that’s still maybe 5% to 15% of my annual trips depending on the year.

I will be updating the species and lake profiles shortly.  I may also write an article on how the fishing has changed since I started guiding.  My rates are staying the same in 2024, barring any crazy inflation.  For now, it’s full steam ahead and I’m hoping for another great year!