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The Fisherman’s Guide To Happiness


Chapter One: Select Early Works Of RJ Monroe

Chapter Two: Cape Cod Capers

Chapter Three: Florida Fish Tales

Chapter Four: Dominican Debacle

Chapter Five: Buc – A- Roo RJ



Select Early Works

Of RJ Monroe

“Highly Sophisticated”


Two Happy Fishermen

“RJ & Gramps”

Walleyed Pike

Guffin Bay, Lake Ontario


When RJ was two years old, he spent time fishing Guffin Bay, Lake Ontario, with his best friend; my Dad, his “Gramps”. Every so often, they even managed to catch fish. Upon return from a successful fishing venture, RJ enjoyed regaling us with tales of how he got the job done. His Gramps documented several. Here is one.


As related through Gramps


RJ Monroe


First, You have to put on Your life jacket

And your fishing hat.

Then, you have to climb down the ladder,

to get in Gramp’s boat.

Then you catch a BIG FISH!!


Two years later, when RJ was four, he once again went out fishing one morning with his Gramps. This time the scene was Bull Rush Bay, Middle Saranac Lake.   Gramps overheard RJ humming to himself, singing a little tune while they fished.  When they returned to camp, he repeated RJ’s lyrics to me. I jotted them down.


Original Lyrics

Sung by RJ on a boat

While out fishing with Gramps


 Water Brings Weeds

 Weeds bring Bugs

 Bugs bring Fish

Fish Bring Fishing

 Fishing Brings Happiness!

  And so, in all its various forms and formats, for our family, it has.



Cape Cod Capers:

When my brother Ray & I were boys growing up, my parents would take us camping every year on Cape Cod. My Dad would bring his boat. We would go out on the sandbars at low tide and dig clams. Dad also would take us out fishing for “Stripers” and “Blues.” It became a tradition. Our family returned to camp on Cape Cod every year until Ray & I were in college.

Flash Forward:

Robin & I married and had kids. Ray & Patty did too. We all agreed, once the kids were big enough to manage,we would return to Cape Cod. We finally did. We didn’t camp though, we rented a cottage. Our parents came too. Dad brought all his salt water fishing rods & reels, all his tackle & gear.

Our family made this trip this twice. We dug clams, ate lobsters, visited Provincetown, spent time on the beach went on whale watches. Gramps, Ray & I also took the boys charter boat fishing. A few of our more noteworthy Cape Cod adventures follow:


The Whale’s Tale:

Touring Company

Tour Boats Leave

6:00 AM Sharp

(Weather Permitting)



The Fisherman’s Blues:

We took the boys out fishing on a Cape Cod Bay party Fishing Boat.

The Captain addressed the crowd as we boarded: “Who here really knows how to fish? I need some expert fishermen to man spinning rods in the back of the boat!”

My brother Ray & I immediately volunteered. So did our boys. RJ was about 6 years old at the time.

Our party boat Captain steered away from the dock. He handed Ray & I each a spinning rod with a shiny silver spoon attached to each line.

“You two guys cast. Your job is to draw the bluefish schools towards the boat so that folks still fishing along the sides get some action.”

The Mate then pointed to our boys. “You get a fish on, let one of them reel.” Ray & I nodded.

We then headed out for bluefish on Cape Cod Bay. We hit paydirt immediately. School after school of hungry bluefish.

Ray & I cast our lines out off the back of the boat. The boys reeled in fish after fish. We quickly filled the party boat’s big fish box. Undeterred, the Captain had the mate get another.

The Mate remarked: “Man! The bluefish are HOT! I’m sure glad we’ve got such an experienced crew on board today!”

Ray & I continued casting. The bluefish kept striking. We were well on our way to filling box number two.

I cast out, got another bluefish on the line. I turned to hand the pole to RJ. He sat slumped against the rail.

“Dad, My Arms Are To Tired To Fish Any More!”

Mission Accomplished!

Our Party Boat Captain turned the boat towards the pier.

(photos to follow)


Dad’s Surf Casting Striper

One night on Cape Cod, obtained a permit and had a family bonfire on the beach. My Dad brought his surf casting rod & his tackle box. while the rest of us sat by the fire drinking hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows, Dad quietly walked down to the surf to cast for striped bass.

I don’t recall which one of us it was, either Ray, our Mom,or me,but one of us remarked: “Does anyone ever actually remember dad catching a striped bass in the surf?”

Right at that moment, a voice pierced the wind & waves crashing the beach. It was faint. At first we ignored it. The voice became persistently louder.

Someone commented: “Does anyone else hear a voice hollering? What’s it saying? Wait a Minute! Is that DAD?!”

We raced down towards the surf. Dad was waist deep in the water, rod tip doubled over. He’d just hooked a big striper!

“What’s he yelling? I can’t make it out over the surf.”

We got closer. Finally someone clearly heard him. Dad was fighting that fish through the waves yelling; “Get The Gaff!”

One of us raced back up by the bonfire to get it while Dad beached his striper. We all stared in awed disbelief. Dad had just caught a monster.

“Wow! That sure is a big fish, Dad! What are you going to do with it?”

Dad retorted; “What do you think?! I’m taking it back to our cottage to filet it.”

“How are you planning to do that?” Mom inquired. “There is now way a fish that big will ever fit in the ice chest we brought for the fire.”

At exactly that moment, I spotted something green bobbing on the surf. For some reason I felt compelled to walk down and retrieve it. It was a heavy duty green tote bin! Intact!

EXACTLY the right size to hold my father’s striped bass.

I still have it.

God DOES love fishermen!

(Photographic Evidence To Follow)



Florida Fish Tales

“Gulf Groupers”

When RJ was younger,our family drove to Florida every year for spring break. My parents owned a Gulf of Mexico Canal front home, with a dock and Gramp’s 27 ft. Grady White cabin cruiser, “High Hopes”.

RJ and I fished all day off the dock, catching crabs and small fish.


“Mr. Crab’s Got The Blues”

“Grandma Cooked Him


The fish we caught off the dock became bait.

“Which One’s The Bait?”

When the Gulf was calm, we would take Gramps’ boat out and fish together for grouper and mackerel. When RJ was very young, we caught quite a few fish on “High Hopes.”

“Holy Mackerel!”

“Nice Hat RJ!”

As RJ got older, and his Gramps did too, the Grady White got used less. RJ’s Gramps finally sold it. As a result, we began booking charter fishing trips instead.

“RJ’s 1st Shark”

RJ wanted very badly to catch a BIG shark.

“RJ’s Second Try”

FINALLY, one year, he did!

Below is his story.



A Picture Story

By RJ Monroe


“One Shark Bait”


“One Minnow”

(My catch, same trip)


One “Gramps”

RJ’s Fishing Mentor


“One Charter Fishing Captain “

Meet “Captain Keith”


It was our 3rd year out with “Captain Keith”. We caught a bunch of Spanish mackerel and sea trout. We were having a productive day. But RJ wasn’t satisifed. He wanted a really big shark. So Captain Keith put out several shark baits on long lines with floats.

Suddenly, one rod tip bent. The reel began singing. Line was zipping out.

Captain Keith Barked: Fish On!” He handed RJ the rod.

“KEEP THE ROD TIP UP!” RJ’s Gramp’s cautioned.

“It’s UP Gramps. I AM!” RJ got plenty of guidance.

“REEL RJ, REEL!” I offered.

“I AM Reeling Dad!” He responded.

“OOPS! There He Goes Again, Taking More Line!”

Captain Keith: “You’re doing fine RJ, let him run! I’ll get the gaff & a rope for his tail. You just keep reeling.”

RJ fought that big shark for over an hour. RJ reeled and reeled and reeled, non stop. He did everything Captain Keith instructed him to. That shark was a strong, experienced fighter. Every time it got within sight of the boat, it would make yet another run. RJ’s reel just kept whinin’.

Captain Keith maneuvered the boat, knifing through chop & swell. Expertly avoiding crab pots and buoys. We all kept a sharp eye out.

Watching RJ and Keith work in synchronized rhythm against that shark was fascinating to watch. Through it all, RJ just never quit reeling.

Finally, RJ’s Tiger Shark tired. He was able to bring it alongside the back of the boat. Captain Keith wrestled it over the gunwale with the gaff and a rope.

Captain Keith later told us it was officially the biggest Tiger Shark he had ever actually boated. Well over six feet long, the shark tipped the scales at over 120 pounds of pure muscle. It’s bite? Take a look for yourself.

The tiger shark had been previously tagged. It’s dorsal fin was outfitted with a radio transmitting device.

“One Big Tiger Shark”

Captain Keith gaffed, but did not club it. He secured the shark’s tail with a rope. RJ posed with his trophy for photos. Then we all pitched in to help Captain Keith successfully release it. It’s a small wonder no one got bit.

RJ’s Tiger Shark photo later appeared in the local Florida newspaper.

One Tiger Successfully Bagged

One Happiness RJ

“One Florida Tiger Shark Tale”



Dominican Debacle

In the spring of 2008, Robin’s Mom, Arlene, treated the whole family to a Dominican Republic vacation trip. Robin & I, our three kids, Robin’s brother Doug, his wife Robbie, and their three kids too.

I wanted to take RJ out deep sea charter fishing for blue marlin. He was nine years old at the time.


A Few Important Lessons RJ may have learned charter fishing with his Dad (Me) for Blue Marlin In The Dominican Republic:

#1 – Take the Resort Lobby warning sign against going off the resort seriously:

#2 – NEVER book charter fishing trips through a local guy named George that your father just met “off site” on the pier!

#3 – Don’t assume YOUR charter boat is the sleek cabin cruiser moored in plain view. The one you just booked may actually be the rickety old one George has hidden out of sight behind it!

#4 – Be suspicious when your “Charter Captain” doesn’t speak English, is missing his front teeth, and only brings five “baits”.

#5 – If your Charter Boat runs aground on a sand bar of sight of land – take that as a sign that your charter fishing trip is most likely over.

#6 – When the rescue boat arrives: Don’t Ask Questions! Get on it!

#7 – When you get back to the dock and see “George” and his friends waiting, carefully Follow These Instructions: Smile! Shake his hand. Thank “George” for booking your fantastic charter.

#8 – Most Importantly: Don’t forget to give “George” a big tip! “George” is a local. “George” has many Dominican friends. Never mind the brochures. You Don’t.

#9 – Safely enjoy the remainder of your Dominican vacation quietly sipping poolside cocktails in the sun

#10 – Once you have returned safely home to the States, check the Dominican Republic Fishing Regulations. You may discover:

“Blue Marlin Fishing Season”

Was In Actuality


(Photographs To Follow)



“Buc-A-Roo RJ”

Our family reached a time in life where there were no more Florida charters. RJ’s Gramps was no longer able. My parents sold their Florida house. We stopped making the trip.

RJ and I still had a fishing agenda. We had never undertaken any serious trout fishing together.

Enter the “PRO”. My best friend from shared college adventures at Cornell University. Our “Philo Road Outlaw” fall deer & spring turkey hunting Guide, “Chuck”.

Chuck and I reconnected after my kids secretly invited him to a surprise 50th birthday party they threw for me when I was battling cancer. We have stayed close ever since.

Chuck has become RJ’s hunting mentor. The two of them have become especially close.

As it turned out, Chuck has an elk hunting partner who happens to double as a Lake Ontario Charter Boat Captain.

“Captain Ron Penna”

“Captain Ron” operates his own boat on the southwest end of the lake.

“Buc-A-Roo Sportfishing Charters”

We booked a charter.

We went fishing with Captain Ron two years in a row. Once with Chuck & his friend Greg. Once with Chuck’s son Bill & my friend Chris. The second year it was windy & rough. I could no longer comfortably handle the chop. I got extremely sea sick. I really struggled.

As the day wore on, RJ & I both realized that this charter fishing trip would, in all likelihood, be my last.

Still, we worked hard to make the most of the day. We were fishing together with friends. We caught a boatload of big fish; steel head, lake trout and king salmon. Despite my difficulties weathering the waves on the lake, we had a good time.


The “Philo Road Outlaw”

Our PRO Hunting Guide’s Trophy Buck


Chuck’s Son Bill

Not Bad for A Rookie


My Best Friend Chris

Showin’ Off His Sea Legs


I Wasn’t Feelin’ Too Well That Day

But I Rallied


Last But Not Least

The Mighty Fisherman Himself!

“Yup! That’s My Son”


We Found Fishing Happiness Together

Just Like RJ’s Gramps Taught Us Both To Do



Until Our Trails Cross Again:

Go Fishing!

Catch Happiness!