DICK PINNEY is the name and stripers are my game! We are so hooked into this great fishery that we've been part of for more than 60 years that we can't conceive living without striper fishing and eating.
How and why this happened has some ring of reason but the addiction is something that we can't explain. My dad, Perry, had a corner store with a pair of Esso gasoline pumps. The store was on Greenland Road on the most western part of Portsmouth, which then was also part of State Highway 101. The road led to Greenland and parts of Newington.
There was a group of farmers, navy yard workers and construction workers who befriended me as they were outdoorsmen and I had a burning desire to join them. An old timer, Chan Hodgdon, was a turkey farmer with his brothers and also worked at the navy yard. He was an accomplished waterfowler and striper fisherman. Three of the Garland brothers were also big into stripers and two of them also ran sculling boats for waterfowling.
And then there were the Pace brothers, who live up the street. Most of them would gas up their boat tanks and vehicles at dad's pumps and get their libations at the same time.
We lived in a home attached to the store. I can remember time after time that my dad would wake me up in the early morning to tell me that Chan or one of the Garlands had some fish to show me. I can remember Chan's Model A Ford pickup truck's bed about half full of huge stripers - fish in the 40- and 50-pound range! And Steve Vickery delighted in seeing me in awe, showing me his catch of the day. The Garland brothers were almost just as frequent with their delight in my attention to their big fish or load of Canada geese.
So the young Dickster had been inoculated with both waterfowl and striper fever at the tender age of about 10!
Bush supplied me with handmade wooden fishing rods, that I'm ashamed to admit that from lack of care, they got ruined. Old lures and even a small baseball bat to kill a fish with were also given to me by Bush and the other old timers.
So by the time I was old enough to drive and borrow somebody's boat, we were out there after 'em!
My first time out alone, when I got to where the boat launch that was in Newington, there were three boats out front that were into a bunch of big stripers that were breaking water and a couple of the people were fighting big fish. Quickly launching the boat and getting the borrowed motor roaring, we piled right into the action and soon the fish went down and it went quiet. Amid some stern stares from a couple of people that I knew, Ralph Garland motored over to me and told me to go back to the dock, tie up my boat and come with him.
"You damned fool," said Ralph. "You drove those big fish down by speeding right into the middle of them and you didn't make too many of your old friends happy. I know you're not going to get scared away so it's probably best we show you how to fish and not scare them off, than to just let you run wild."
We were so scared we barely said a dozen words for the whole hour or so that Ralph sternly showed me how to respect other boats and how to stay on the edges of feeding fish and not scare them. I suspect he could see the tears running down my face as he gave me a couple of lures to try and patted me on the shoulder when I left and told me that he knew that I was going to make "One helluva good striper fisherman."
How could you not take that mantle of support and not run with it? And that's why we've dreamed, lived, slept, imagined and spent half a fortune of time, energy and personal choices to supply the cure for my striper addiction.
And so it is.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.