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Rod, Gun and Game: Fishing with Heroes event honors veterans

GO FISH — United States Army veteran Pfc. Jamie Noyes of Jamestown is pictured with her Lake Erie lake trout, taken during last weekend’s fourth annual Fishing With Heroes event at Barcelona Harbor. She is joined by Charter Captain Fred Forsythe.
WESTFIELD — Although her fellow veteran friends joked that she was reeling in an old Army boot full of water, Army Pfc. Jamie Noyes of Jamestown battled a huge Lake Erie fish last weekend, during the Fishing with Heroes event at Barcelona Harbor in Westfield, N.Y.

The sunny, 85-degree weather left beads of sweat on Noyes’ forehead, but she was able to concentrate on reeling in her prize. The big fish was quickly taking out line.

The fish tired and finally came to net about 10 minutes later. The 31-inch lake trout tipped the scales at almost 12 pounds.

Noyes said that she plans to have this, the biggest fish of her life, mounted. The veteran lives near Jamestown and is now looking for a taxidermist.

Fishing with Heroes, which began last Friday, was created by Fred Forsythe, a charter captain at Barcelona Harbor in Westfield, N.Y. After Forsythe’s son Jake was wounded in Iraq, several years ago, the captain decided to do something special, for recovering military veterans.

Forsythe and his wife Darlene were worried about their son’s fate. They had received little information for many weeks and thought that Jake Forsythe might have been lost in action. They finally received word that their son was hurt, but was safe and would survive.

During the past four events, more than 60 recovering veterans have participated in the Fishing with Heroes weekend.

Attendees dined at the Bluewater Beach Campground, with hosts Brian and Donna Hayes. Pete Norek’s chicken barbecue was complemented by walleye fillets, cooked by Don Knappenberger.

The event volunteers coached the veterans, sharing tips to help the participants prepare for their Lake Erie fishing adventure.

The next morning, after breakfast at Jack’s Restaurant, located on the west shore of Barcelona Harbor, the veterans were paired up with charter captains and headed out on the water. Several of them were schooled by big fish, but Staff Sgt. Marcos Rodriguez, who served with the United States Marines and then the United States Army 1st Brigade, 71st Infantry, 10th Mountain Division in Iraq, kept hold of his 8-foot Shimano© fishing rod and Daiwa© 27LG fishing reel.

Rodriguez hooked up with a nice walleye, using a simple spinner/worm rig with a 3-ounce, clip-on weight, set halfway back to a lure sent 100 feet out, on the side-planer boards. Forsythe slipped the net under the 29-inch fish, Rodriguez’s first walleye.

The fish weighed 7.71 pounds, large enough to win the biggest walleye walnut wall plaque trophy.

Staff Sgt. Mel Kramer also claimed a brown trout that weighed 8.89 pounds, big enough to win a best catch wall plaque. He had been fishing with Captain Don Walters, aboard Eerie Eyes Sport Fishing Charters. This veteran formerly served with the 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry, during the Vietnam War.

Juxtaposed against the large fish awards were prizes for the smallest walleye. First place went for a 16-inch released fish, caught by Marine Pfc. Kyle James of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, 2nd Brigade. This Afghanistan veteran received a Penn® fishing reel and line. The second-smallest walleye, a 16 1/2-inch fish, was caught by Army Pfc. Cathy Eimers of the 5th Battalion. She received a freshwater Zebco® fishing reel.

While we ate dinner at ZeBro’s Harbor House restaurant in Barcelona, Army Sgt. Travis Harvey of the 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry, regaled us with stories of times past.

Each of the 15 war heroes was awarded with a fishing box, loaded with lures, lines, fishing maps and a thank you note. These veterans came from the United States Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force.

Fort Drum, the home of the United States Army 10th Mountain Division, is located in Northern New York. The 1st Battalion, 71st Cavalry Mountain Division deployed in 2005, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The squadron began combat operations throughout Western Baghdad as the military transition team, and was partnered with the 1st Brigade, 6th Division of the Iraqi Army.

The Mountain Division later deployed to the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In the spring of 2011, the division returned to Fort Drum.

Some of the veterans had delivered the American message of freedom to many other parts of the world, during the Vietnam War. Many still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and carry lingering combat wounds.

Other members of the group were part of the Veterans Outpatient Recovery group, which was treated at veteran’s administration hospitals near Barcelona Harbor. Some of the soldiers were transported from the Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Home near Erie, Pa.

Thank you, to the volunteers who worked to make sure that this Lake Erie fishing experience put a smile on these veterans’ faces.

Outdoor calendar
– July 22 and 27: New York trapping certification course, Elma Conservation Club, 600 Creek Road, Elma. The July 22 session will run from 6 – 10 p.m. The July 27 session will begin at 7 a.m. For more information, call 681-5690.

– July 27: New York state archery certification class, Southtowns Walleye, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. For more information, call 627-0147.

Send outdoor information for the Springville Journal’s Forrest Fisher column, 10 days in advance, to nugdor@yahoo.com.
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