More memories – some entertaining, others emotional

April 13, 2024

From what I have written in the past two weeks, you might think the New York Metropolitan Outdoor Press Association was a bunch of selfish writers who only spent their money on trips for themselves. While we did take some great trips, we also spent our club money on others.

One group that cost us a lot of money was a bunch of young folks from a halfway house in New York. They had all been convicted of some pretty serious crimes and had served their time in prison. They were now in a halfway house trying to adjust from the street life they had before prison and the life they had in prison to what they could have on the outside.

We entertained them at Eldred Preserve in the Catskill Mountains, which was a fantastic place. It had a couple of ponds overflowing with trout that you could catch on just about anything, and those you kept, you paid for by the pound.

Our guests arrived on a prison bus, which in itself was quite unusual at this exclusive resort.

Each club member took charge of two or three anglers, handing out spinning rods and reels that were donated by a tackle company. The outfits were already rigged with hooks and baited with worms. The rules at Eldred forbid using bait, but we had special dispensation.

The guests could not have been more polite and gracious. Everything was yes sir, no sir and thank you sir. That was just until they hooked the first fish. Then all those years of teaching went out the window and it was back to the streets of New York or Newark, or wherever they grew up. The air turned blue and we realized that none of our guests had ever seen a live fish before.

“You pick it up!”

“F#@u, I ain’t pickin’ up that mother $#&%er!”

And that was just the girls.

When we finally got our guests calmed down and showed them the fish did not have teeth and could not hurt them, everything went much better. In fact, they soon sounded more like fishermen.

“Mine was bigger than yours.”

“You a lyin’ mother...” I am sure I don’t have to finish that.

Glenn Sapir was my editor at Field & Stream, and the club president at the time. He arrived a bit late and asked if the guests were having a good time. I pointed to a 5-gallon bucket of trout and said they were all catching fish. He asked was that what everyone had caught. I said no, that’s just what those couple of girls have caught. Of course, we had to pay for every fish, and I thought Glenn would have a stroke. The fish went back to the facility, and everyone there had an excellent meal of fresh trout for dinner.

The club had brought along all the fixings for a cookout, so we had hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and soft drinks that we prepared on the grounds before we sent the good people on their way. I spoke with one of the guards, who said as hard as they work to teach them trades and how to get along on the outside, many will still go back to their old life as soon as they hit the streets.

The other thing we tried to do was help veterans. Many of our members were vets, and we wanted to do something for those who still suffered from their time in service.

There was a VA Hospital in New York on the banks of the Hudson River above New York City that had a large pond. It was not on the state’s list of stocking for trout season, but Ed Feldman, who worked for the state fish and wildlife section, convinced the people at the stocking program to put a few trout in for the vets.

When we got there and gave out rods and reels, once again already set up with hooks and worms, I noticed just about every man had a male nurse with him. We were told to help with the fishing and talk with those who wanted to talk. Some of the guys fished; some just sat and stared into space. I don’t think any of them will ever go home.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., has more than 59,000 names. I have been there. I have felt their presence. Where is the memorial wall for these guys?

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age. Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast. He has been the regional editor for several publications and was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine. Eric is the author of three books: Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits. He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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