Sportsman’s Corner: El Tigre!

  • MIKE ROCHE

  • The columnist’s prized tiger trout, caught with an Al’s Goldfish lure. Photo/MIKE ROCHE

Published: 4/10/2020 5:06:48 PM
Modified: 4/10/2020 5:06:32 PM

You can scratch “catch a tiger trout” off my bucket list. Wednesday afternoon, a brilliantly colored tiger trout, one of the many beautiful trout stocked thus far at Lake Mattawa, grabbed a gold-finish Al’s Goldfish spoon and became the first of the hybrid species this angler has landed. They are bright colored and have unique markings that reflect that they are a cross created in the hatchery. Tiger trout can be produced reliably in hatcheries. This is done by fertilizing brown trout eggs with brook trout milt and heat shocking, causing the creation of an extra set of chromosomes and increasing survival rates from 5 percent to 85 percent. Tiger trout have been reported to grow faster than natural species and they have been widely stocked for sport fishing.

Open a tackle box of any angler over 40 years old — this writer is absolutely no exception — and the odds are high you’ll find an Al’s Goldfish, a great spoon with its roots right here in Western Massachusetts. The pioneering spoon has been a go-to lure since Al Stuart developed it in 1952.

The spoon was first launched through Stuart’s Sports Shop in Indian Orchard. Stuart later added a distribution network along with a consumer-direct catalog. He continued to make lures, expand his product design and promote his products until his passing in 1984.

Al’s Goldfish remained a family-owned company run by Al’s daughter, Joan, and her husband, Fay. The couple focused their attention on the promotional end of the business. As the late ’70s through mid-’90s saw a change in customer tastes and preferences, Al’s Goldfish lost its brand appeal. Ultimately, Joan and Fay retired and sold the business to John Occhialini.

The Massachusetts native was the first non-family member to own the company, and Occhialini brought Al’s Goldfish into the new millennium. The 1950s stamping machinery, which was state-of-the-art at the time, was replaced with better methods that improved lure quality; 22-karat gold plating added a brighter finish, and higher-quality components like Worth split rings and industry-best VMC hooks were incorporated. Occhialini computerized all business operations while expanding catalog and marketing efforts. Sales and profitability returned.

Upon Occhialini’s 2015 retirement, Maine’s Mike Lee became the fourth owner of Al’s Goldfish. His objective was to expand the manufacturing of American-made lures. In 2016, Lee added the Living Lure Collection, which features vibrant fish images over a chip-resistant finish. Next, he added the Bob Christopher Series, a combination of attractor and imitator spoons that mimic common bait fish. And most recently he introduced the one-ounce Saltwater Goldfish series that, during field testing, accounted for significant catches of striped bass and bluefish.

In 2018, Jeff and Mandy DeBuigne, who have lived on both the West and East coasts, acquired Al’s with the ambition of expanding Al’s presence geographically and sharing the American-made versatile Goldfish with anglers across the United States and abroad. One thing that has remained consistent over all the years: Al’s Goldfish catches fish!

Now comes the real story! Since yours truly, like nearly everybody these crazy days, has time on his hands for the first time ever, Monday it was time to get the boat ready. That means charging the starting battery and the two marine deep-cell batteries and getting everything hooked up and working. The Motorguide Xi3 pinpoint purchased last year was all set and then it was time to check the trailer lights. #%^&#& (cuss words deleted) as the lights never work right!

Rather than trouble shoot, I decided to install a spare set of lights and totally ran new wire. Remarkably, everything works! Without an excuse, it was off to Mattawa for the first time in years. There were plenty of shore fishermen as Mattawa provides great shore fishing and has natural handicapped-access fishing as anyone can cast to the deeper colder water that trout prefer from the considerable road frontage. There was plenty of open water for the half-dozen boats, canoes and kayaks.

A couple of the canoe and kayak fishermen were not wearing PFDs (personal flotation devices) and that can mean a ticket and fine if an EPO notices. Everyone in a canoe or kayak is required by law to wear a PFD until May 15 in Massachusetts. When they challenged the regulation, one kayaker was told last year that it was not entirely about the boater’s safety so much as it was making it easy for first responders to recover the body, as hypothermia works very fast in the water temperatures that follow ice-out.

Time is marching on and there is sign that the widespread acceptance of taking measures to protect your health and that of others is making a difference. There will be an end and we will be able to get our lives back. Be safe!


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