Lansing at Large: Fishermen persist despite snowy opening day


Some fishermen had built a small campfire under the Dug Road bridge over Salmon Creek, and the smoke coming up through the bridge mingled with the snowflakes coming down on it in the early morning light of Opening Day.
Zach Merritt and Daryl Lebaron stood under the bridge alternately warming their hands and their boots, and tying on their fishing rig as the morning turned toward sunrise.

Merritt has been fishing Opening Day since he was 9 years old, a 17-year-old tradition handed down to him by his dad and grandpa.

He and Lebaron had driven from Endicott and Owego to arrive on-site at 3:40 that morning to make sure that they got the good spot on the north side of the creek in the middle of the big pool under the bridge.

To their right, Ethan Burnett had decided to fish the creek over the lake this year, as the lake level is still low.

He and Randy Burnett arrived five minutes after Zach and Daryl did – Opening Day for them is a 20-year-old habit involving their entire family.

Fenton Marshall is a self-proclaimed Opening Day “die-hard,” having hit the creek every year for the past 40.

“Last year, everybody caught fish,” Marshall announced. “This year, we’ll see.”
Sunrise came at 6:48 a.m. and the snowflakes got bigger as the fishermen waded into the creek.

Luke Harding had the first fish just minutes into the new season. He reeled it to shore where his fiancé Laura netted it.

“I’m probably crazy to be out here with him,” she said. “But I’m learning to fish. I’d be up this early anyway – I have a newborn.”

There was a splash from across the creek as a fisherman staggered in the fast-flowing water and sort of half fell in, the water sloshing over the tops of his waders.

His fellows tossed their rods on to the bank and came to his aid as he floundered in the cold water. They helped him to the bank where he took a moment before wading (more carefully) back in.

On the bridge, one man said to another “there were three-four inches of snow on I-81. Cortland was bad; really slippery.”

There were about 20 cars parked around the bend at the big, long pool downstream where the fishermen were more spread out and quiet.

His rod tip bent, and Chris Tinder worked a nice rainbow toward the shore. The line snapped, the fish thought for second too long, and Chris splashed into the creek to pin it against the muddy bank. He fumbled the slippery thing up on to the shore and knelt over it, panting a little, and admiring his second trout of the morning.

Paul Sienkiewicz drove three and a half hours from Poughkeepsie the night before. He’d started with kayaks, then fishing from kayaks, and now he’s driving a half day to just go fishing. He lifted a nice rainbow trout, silver and pink, and a little snowy.

“Here’s the reason we’re here,” he said.

A woman and a man lifted their gear from the back of a snow-filled pickup truck.

“There are five or six inches of snow in Locke,” she said.

“Ten years ago, there was a foot of snow on Opening Day,” boasted an older member of the Lansing Rod and Gun Club at the clubhouse breakfast.

Otherwise, the crowd was talking about making maple syrup when Gary Bortz and his brother sat down with their pancakes, eggs, and sausages.

“We were down in Myers Park fishing in the creek with minnows,” Bortz said. “Pretty windy and cold, coming off the lake. Nobody was catching anything and it was cold as...”

It was Bortz’s first Opening Day in a while – his brother had dragged him from his warm bed that morning to go fishing with him.

And, if you walked a half mile downstream from the Ludlowville Road bridge that morning, to where the creek runs down a riffle to empty into a long pool marked by a ridge of flat rocks down the middle, you would have found 11-year-old Michael Crowley and his best friend, 13-year-old Cabott Derleth, taking a day off from school to stand in the creek in the snow.

The two boys had arrived at 5 a.m. to await the sunrise. Crowley’s mom Kari Sawran was mentally composing the 100 percent honest excuse note she’d write for her son.

“They’ll say ‘it’s not a valid excuse.’ But there are some things kids can learn in a creek that you can’t teach them in school.”

The snow was done by mid-morning – it must have come down just for Opening Day.

In Brief:

Blood Drive
There will be a Red Cross blood drive from 1 to 6 p.m. on April 26 at the Shops at Ithaca Mall. New and veteran donors can learn more about this life-giving service and sign up for an appointment at

Seniors to meet, lunch
The Lansing Senior Citizens group will meet on April 10 at All Saints Community Room, 347 Ridge Road, Lansing, New York at 12 noon. A dish-to-pass lunch begins at 12 noon, with entertainment and a business meeting to follow. Members and guests are reminded to bring their own table service. Coffee, tea and ice water are provided.

The guest speaker this month will be Seth Dennis, Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist from Tompkins County Recycling and Materials Management Department, to explain local regulations and procedures regarding food compost, recycling, electronic disposal, yard waste and other recycling options available in Tompkins County.

For more information please contact Carol Halseth (607) 533-7725 or Pat Sawyer (607) 272-5349.

Lansing Rec sign-ups
The Lansing Parks and Recreation program sign-ups are available online at or at the Town Hall for LBP/LSP baseball and softball (Pre-K to sixth grade), Spring Break Rock Climbing, Jump Around, Gymnastics, Saturday Soccer, and Spring Training Clinics. Summer Camps sign-ups are coming soon.


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