Lamoka Lake Memories
"Look, Bobby, look right down there," my mother said, pointing a finger towards the underside of the boat. I gingerly peered over the edge of the little rowboat, staring down into the depths of what I thought was just dark water.
"See the sunfish and bluegills swimming about. They are so brightly colored that they look like jewels. They don't care that we are just overhead. "
Lo and behold! The water was crystal clear; the sunlight illuminated everything a couple feet below. Fascinated, I watched and watched, oblivious of any further of my mother's words. As my dad rowed the boat, we skimmed over more enchanting scenes, lily pads, old logs, stumps, deep holes where I couldn't see the bottom. Once I spotted a turtle, another time a frog jumped off a lily pad to disappear into the green carpet below. Once I saw a ripple on the water, the wake of a large fish plowing along just under the surface and eluding our eyes. The occasional glimpse of a fish of unusual shape or size or color kept me glued to my observation post at the front of the boat.
The warm sunshine, gentle waves, and beautiful scenery provided a backdrop for the intense business of spotting bluegills and other fish. At age three, I was being introduced by my parents to the pleasures of boating on Lamoka Lake.
Every summer thereafter, for the next decade, we took at least one trip to the lake. Lamoka is a small lake in Schuyler County near Tyrone, about 40 miles from our home, then in Elmira.
My father liked to fish and he taught me how to attach a worm to a hook, then dangle a line overboard. Within seconds a bluegill would latch on, and I would pull it aboard, gleeful and happy. My father would patiently unhook the fish, determine if it was a "keeper" and send it back if not.
My dad sometimes dropped my mom and my brother and me off on the island while he went off for some serious fishing. The black bass, pickerel, and I suspect, serenity, attracted him to fish alone. We would roam about, imagining we were natives. I recall seeing in shallow water near a spit of the island a shiny white rock. I picked it up and realized that it was an arrowhead. Sure enough, Mom confirmed that it was. Some 20 or 30 years later, an archaeological dig along the undeveloped side of the lake revealed that an Indian village had been there.
When Dad returned we would eat a picnic lunch of sandwiches and fruit. Then we paddled back to the quiet edges where I would dangle a worm while Dad plugged the shallows with a Jitterbug. Surface lures were essential, for seaweed abounded, and the lily pads, stumps and dead trees often entangled fishing lines.
Later Dad would let me row the boat and he would troll while I wandered about, up and down the lake. Erratic as my course was, Dad didn't complain; he said movement was good for fishing. We didn't have a motor and the boat rental was something like $3 or $4 dollars for a day. What a bargain it was! I liked most of all looking down into the clear water from the rowboat and watching the fish enjoy themselves.
© 1997, Robert J. Gregory