A Great Fisherman's Story
Three years ago I didn't fish. It was sometime in the beginning of the summer 2010 when I was introduced to fishing, and much like everyone else reading this article, was immediately hooked. I met the people that started TheOnlineFisherman.com, and was immediately interested in working with them to help make the website better using my newfound love for fishing. Since then, meeting guys like Vance Tice, Gary Poyssick, Captain David Rieumont, and Larry Malinoski continue to make me a better fisherman. But this story's not about me. It's about the above-mentioned guy named Captain Larry Malinoski and his lifelong fishing adventures. If you do not know him as Captain Larry, you might recognize his screen name as FishHawk. Larry spent a lot of his life as a professional angler, and almost his whole entire life as a fisherman. The connection to people like Captain Larry -- and the stories that fishermen like him provide us all -- has continued to make me a better fisherman and better educator. It's hard to believe that I was in my thirties before I discovered fishing, and if fishing is new to you, guys like Captain Larry – and websites like this -- are truly what fishing is all about: meeting great people, catching great fish, and being a part of a community of people with like minds.
The Story of a Guy named Larry
When I was invited to go fishing with Larry, I was not only really excited to fish with one of Tampa Bay's legendary shallow-water grouper anglers, but I was really excited to interview him and hear his story about how he started fishing. It always intrigues me to hear stories about how people started fishing, and also makes me a little envious that I was never introduced to fishing early on. I missed out on all this for 30 years.
Read the caption under that guy holding the stringer of fish ... YES! It's Larry in 1966 on the front page of a Pittsburgh newspaper!
Larry lived in Pennsylvania as a kid and started fishing very early at pay lakes.
"I remember being 5 or 6 years old and walking down the hill about a mile and taking the Lincoln Coach Bus for a dime to a pay lake near Greensburg, PA.," said Larry.
Imagine that. Pay lakes were pretty popular back then, and still are in certain areas of the country. Pay lakes are stocked with bass and trout usually and you pay to fish them.
Larry recalled the good old days.
"I saved my money to fish and every day that I could, I rode that bus and went fishing," said Larry.
"It was 50 cents to fish there then. Now it's probably $20 dollars."
You could see him thinking way back and he goes on to say, "I remember one time I was on the steep bank of Hidden Valley Lake, and I had this little tackle box. It was filled with all my lures and it was my prized possession. I dropped the tackle box and all my tackle fell out. Some rolled down into the water and got lost. I cried."
"From that young age, fishing -- serious fishing -- was always part of my life. And I did it by myself, at a time when there was no cell phones, no crime. You could hitchhike and expect to be picked up safely."
It's interesting doing an interview like this. The passion Larry had as he pulled out those memories was pretty amazing to see. The one thing that we all have in common is the passion of having a fish on the other end of your rod ripping drag. I could hear it in his voice when I talked to him. And I could still hear it later when I listened to the recorded interview. As somebody that started fishing in my thirties, I don't have those memories, but I'm certainly looking forward to guiding my son towards becoming a fisherman and hope he catches that same bug I have. Who knows? Maybe he'll even be the next "face" of TheOnlineFisherman!
Becoming a professional guide
Larry doesn't guide professionally anymore, but in his day his reputation kept him on the water. I was interested in how he got into the business and where his knowledge came from, so I asked him about his first job.
"I was a vendor at Forbes Field as a kid ... maybe 14. Forbes Field was a famous baseball park that was in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1909 until it was torn down in 1971. I remember working there for a wrestling match when a famous wrestler called "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers got hurt really bad. It was a huge deal and they brought him in a stretcher to the vendor gate with a broken leg. All of a sudden he gets up and walks away."
Wait, professional wrestling isn't real?
Larry continued. "My first real 'guide' experience was in Ohio. I would take people on their boats and show them how to catch walleye on Lake Erie. I then got my license and became a professional fishing guide on the Chesapeake Bay. We used to use these lures called 'Dispy Divers.' I remember them well because when I first came here I discovered that kingfish absolutely loved them, but unfortunately I quickly lost all those lures to their sharp teeth."
Ten Percent More
The heart of Larry's story.
"I had enough time on my hands and decided to build a boat. So I bought a kit and built one in my spare time. The first time I put it on the water and ran it two miles, it shrunk. Literally. It shrunk. I got back and traded it. There was a guy I knew who had watched my custom-boat adventure. He told me next time to spend ten percent more and get a better boat. So I did. I spent ten percent more. I bought a boat and named it Ten Percent More. This boat lasted me 20 years! I bought my next boat and it was already named "FishHawk", which is where my nickname came from. You do not change the name of a boat, so this boat stayed FishHawk."
"Finally, I bought the boat I have now and guess what it's called? Ten Percent More. Yes, I spent ten percent more."
To round out the story, I asked Larry what his best memories and worst memories of fishing were.
"Surely the most memorable was two different kingfish. I've caught a 27-lb. keeper grouper at the marina, and a 100-pound halibut, but one fishing memory I can never forget is when I was chartering one day and was putting bait on a downrigger and had the rod between my legs. All of a sudden I looked up and saw a monster kingfish come up and grab the bait. I'm sure you can guess what happened with the rod? Yes, it came up and smashed me in the @#$# and put me on my knees. The clients were not aware it had happened, so I regained my composure and was actually able to have enough strength to hold the rod and pass it off to a client, but in pain."
"Another time a client had a huge kingfish on. The fish went on his first run and my client was reeling him in, and all of a sudden something happened with the reel and it bound up and broke. What are you gonna do? We're losing the fish. There's nothing you can do. So I went and pulled another rod out, cut the line off the broken reel, tied a double uni to the new rod, and put the gas on the fish and my anglers went crazy! So, we hooked that beast on one rod and landed it on another. It was nuts."
The last question I asked Larry was something my friend Gary Poyssick would love to sit down and talk with him about. The question was what he sees as the biggest threat to our sport and the answer he gave was probably the exact answer Gary would have gave me. Larry sees over-regulation and an out-of-control environmental movement as the biggest challenge facing our sport, an attitude he shares with a lot of people around here. But politics and how Larry feels about them is for another story, and I am sure I can find someone to write it. Gary?
The opportunity to fish and learn how to troll for grouper inside Tampa Bay with a legend like Larry goes without saying. This is a picture of the beautiful grouper that Larry put me on last week INSIDE Tampa Bay, which was actually my biggest gag grouper I have ever caught, offshore or inshore.
I'd like to thank Captain Larry for the story. There is certainly a variety of anglers in this world that anyone would be lucky to know and learn from, and Captain Larry is surely one of them.