1000 Islands/St. Lawrence River, New York (1970)

My father would take the family up to this area every summer to camp (at Wellesley Island State Park) and fish. He is told by friends that it is a fabulous fishing area. This turns out to be true. Over the years, the family catches what seems like 10,000 large perch and bass along the river. The forests along the river are filled with the ruins of old castles and military outposts. Once, while we are fishing near a lily-pad filled area, I hook a huge five-pound bass that I see when it leaps out of the water upon being hooked. I'm beside myself with excitement. Unfortunately, that is the last I see of him, since his leap snaps the fishing line (the drag on my reel was not set properly). Another time, my uncle is out fishing with my father and brothers in rough waters. So rough, in fact, that the boat is rapidly filling with water. I'm told that my brother watches as my uncle, who sits in the back with the boat motor, seemingly unconcerned, starts sinking lower and lower as the boat begins to sink. Eventually, the boat sank, and my brothers and father and uncle need to scramble to save reels and whatever else can be grabbed (they lose a tackle box, despite such heroic efforts).

Often, as we watch from the shore, a huge tanker ship would pass by on the horizon (the St. Lawrence is a critical link between the industrial Great Lakes cities and the Atlantic Ocean). The photo shows my father, me, my brothers Anthony and Nino, and my sisters Bernadette and Valerie sitting on a dock on the Seaway as an oil tanker passes by.

Because my father is an environmentalist, we almost always use a very slow electric "sea" motor on our many fishing excursions. As a result, it would take us FOREVER to reach our favorite fishing spots.

My mother would specialize in filleting the fish we catch, and I remember eating a large amount of very tasty filet of perch that was spiced with black pepper. Once, after one of us caught a bullhead, my mother cut his head off and we watched in amazement as the head continued to swim around, apparently unaware that it had been decapitated.

1000 Islands is actually about 1,800 islands that range in size from a few square inches to several miles in length. The islands extend 52 miles from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean along the Saint Lawrence Seaway on the eastern U.S.-Canadian border. Just over half of the islands are in Canada. Many of the islands were settled during the early 1900's by American millionaires, which explains the many castle ruins.


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