The Great New Hampshire
Salmon Angler, Mario Decarolis
(57 years as a Lake Winni salmon angler)
"Most anglers spend their lives in making rules for trout, and trout spend theirs in breaking them."
The New Hampshire Salmon Angler
For many years, I heard a man with the call sign “Angler” on the CB radio. He seemed to always be catching salmon when I wasn't!
One day in 1990, I was trolling in front of my New Hampshire cottage on the east side of Bear Island for salmon. I was with a Russian scientist friend, Andrei Naumov, a solid state physicist who loved to fish, whom I had sponsored and brought to Dartmouth College.
The “Angler” called for “Aardvark,” and when I answered the CB radio, he asked me if my boat was blue and white. When I responded affirmatively, he said that he was following me. I saw a funny old aluminum boat with a big American flag on the bow several hundred yards behind me and waved to him.
Impulsively, I suggested that he join us for lunch. I told him to follow me to my East Bear Island dock, which he did. We three enjoyed a great lunch of Lasagna, washed down with ample glasses of red wine and stimulating fellowship. We toasted the sport of angling in Russian, Italian, and English that day, and have been good fishing buddies ever since.
Mario is one of the most generous and humorous New Hampshire anglers I have ever met, ready to teach or give salmon angler tips to good people any time. I feel compelled to tell a story or two about him. Turkey Hunting
I once took this salmon angler turkey hunting. I told him to go out that evening before the opening of the spring gobbler season, since I was busy, and listen for gobblers going to roost to help us get to them the next morning.
He took his nearly blind then 88 year old friend, Ed Meyerhoffer, with him. He told Ed to wait by the car and hiked out into the woods to listen for turkeys, but Mario fell asleep somewhere in the forest.
While snoring, he somehow expelled his teeth without realizing it. When he awoke, it was dark and he hurried back to the truck where poor Ed had been waiting, holding on to the truck for hours dutifully listening for turkeys as the salmon angler, Mario, had instructed, since he couldn't see them.
I arrived just before Mario returned and found Ed anxiously waiting for Mario. He was very concerned, as Mario had been gone for such a long time. When the New Hampshire salmon angler, Mario, got back to the truck, he realized he had lost his teeth and was panicked. “Battle Ax” (his wife, Ann's radio call sign), "…will have my hide! That's $2000 worth of teeth," he said.
The next day, while joking about finding a turkey with a set of teeth in its mouth, a small miracle occurred. Mario, not knowing exactly where he had fallen asleep the night before, disappeared into the woods to look for his teeth. Miraculously, he emerged 10 minutes later with a big toothy smile. The salmon angler had, against all probability, found them on the ground!Without A Net!
I cannot resist another Salmon Angler story. During the fall New Hampshire Salmon Derby a few years ago, Mario and I were fishing together. Now, Mario does not like to net fish, as he hates to get the hooks tangled in the net.
I caught a nice 4 3/4-pound laker which Mario refused to net. (Since then, I always bring my own net along when I fish with him just in case I catch a trophy fish.)
I lifted the laker by the jaw into the boat and we weighed it: 4 3/4 pounds. Mario, the salmon angler, who also doesn't care for lakers, said, much to my protest, "Release it! It isn't big enough to win the derby." I argued for putting it onto a stringer, but Mario insisted on releasing it, and I was a guest on his boat. An hour later, I caught its twin; but back in the water it went…against my better judgment again.
That afternoon, Mario had to leave 3 hours before the derby was over for an appointment. As he drove past Silver Sands Marina in Gilford, New Hampshire, he decided to stop and see what fish were hanging on the board as potential winners of the boat and motor prize. The biggest laker on the boards was 4 1/2 pounds!
I also stopped in, an hour later. When I saw that my laker, the one Mario had released, would have won the boat and motor, it is an understatement to say that I was one very frustrated angler! There was one hour left before the Derby was over and I raced back to my boat and started trolling furiously in an attempt to catch another winner, to no avail.
We now joke about my Laker, which would have won the Derby if Mario had not released it. And he knows that he owes me! In spite of this, Mario is, in my opinion, the best salmon angler on Lake Winni in New Hampshire. And he always has good Italian food aboard for those who are fortunate enough to spend a day angling with him.
He has been a salmon angler in Lake Winni for 57 years since he was 18 years old. He is also an excellent ice fisherman, fly fisherman, and good all around sport! Here he is in his bob house which he and his friend, Ed, drug onto the ice as soon as it is at least 4" thick. Bio-sketch of New Hampshire Master Salmon Angler Mario DeCarolis
- Number of years angling in Lake Winni?
57. I started fishing when I was 18 years old.
- Who taught you to fish here?
I did not have an instructor. I just had to try it because of the many fishing tales. I used our proven methods from Massachusetts on rivers and ponds. where we were spin and fly fishermen.
- Who is your fishing hero/mentor that taught you to be a master salmon angler?
There are quite a few people who were mentors for me. At age 12 my oldest brother Rocky -- we were 2 of 8 boys and 2 girls (10 in our Italian family!) I was the 4th son. We had 7 boys first before the 1st girl was born.
Rocky was 6 years older and taught me hunting & fishing. The first shot I fired was with a 16 gauge double barrel at a black bird on the ground; needless to say, nothing went to waste. What was left of the black bird, ended up in the tomato sauce. With 10 kids the more protein the better! Rocky had a tremendous influence on me in work, hunting and fishing.
The next mentor was Rocky's best friend, Frank Trotto, whom he met in the navy during WWII. He was from Medford, Massachusetts. They maintained their friendship all of their lives and both were hunters and fishermen. He was a graduate of NE University as a civil engineer.
Frank made his own homemade brass wobblers and handed them out readily. If there were 5 fishermen fishing and 20 fish were caught, Frank would catch 50% of them on his homemade lure, even though all of us were using the same lure! This happened repeatedly on Walled Pond in Massachusetts.
Frank is now in St. Petersburg Florida and he wades in Tampa Bay still spinning fishing for anything he can catch at age 76. Sometimes he wades all night into early morning.
His favorite answer to the question of why he catches so many more than others is, "It's all in the presentation, boys." He would wade far off shore in Tampa Bay at night and had many a shark circle him in the shallow water. I am surprised one hasn't got him yet!
- What were the principal things to be a salmon angler you learned from him/her?
A good friend and neighbor who was 20 years my senior also had an influence on my hunting and fishing. Ray was a trapper and he traveled all over Maine with my brothers and me. Ray got his deer every year.
On occasions we would stay in Canaan, New Hampshire, on Canaan Lake at Roberts Camp for 2-4 day hunts. On one Saturday morning, Ray was hit with 4 out of 5 bullets fired from a 30-06 rifle shot by an irresponsible hunter from Connecticut.
The first shot grazed his stomach, the next 2 grazed his thigh, and the 4th was the worst of all, hitting Ray in the kneecap, rolling around his kneecap and exiting where it had entered! The shooter was a "sound shooter," and, believe it or not, he was a NRA Safety instructor! He later had a nervous breakdown. Thank God he was a lousy shot.
After these three mentors, I took over on my own to learn my own way with my brothers, Joe (who I believe is a better all-round fisherman, who ties his own flies which we all use) and Phil. I taught them some things about being a salmon angler on Lake Winni.
For the next 25 years I was on my own. Then I met my neighbor, Paul Philippe, another fine salmon angler. For nearly 2 years, we never spoke, other than a wave in passing boats. Then one morning Paul traded his 20-foot bass boat for a 23-foot open console Well Craft boat.
Paul (known to many of us as "Bean Counter" on the CB, as he was an accountant) asked me if I would join him on his shakedown fishing cruise. I parked my old 1968 I/O at his dock across Fish cove from me, and we started fishing at the Post Office at the north end of Bear Island heading south on the east side toward Ozone Island.
We each had a leadcore and a fly line out. About a half-hour later, Paul's leadcore line reel started screaming. He told me to take his rod. I looked at him as if to say, "You gotta be kidding?" I replied, "Paul, this is your first fish on your new boat! You catch it yourself!"
He hollered for me to "Take it!" I replied, "Paul, he can run all your line out and I WILL NOT take it!" Remember that this was the first half-hour of our first meeting and here we were having our first argument already! He finally grabbed his rod just before the line ran out and fought and released a nice 3 pound salmon.
About 10 years ago Paul caught a 16.5-pound lake trout at that time. I believe that this was the record laker at that time, though bigger ones were caught before. He kept this monster and had it mounted by a taxidermist from Tilton, New Hampshire.
It is the finest mounting I have ever seen. The same taxidermist mounted a 7-pound salmon I caught in Lake Winni a few years later and did a perfect job at a reasonable price.
When Paul passed away in October 2002 of cancer, we held a fitting memorial ceremony to him at the same spot off Timber where he caught his big laker.
Paul and I fished many days together. Though we still argued often, we always parted in laughter. I believe we helped each other learn many of the finer points of trolling, ice fishing and being a good salmon angler.
Paul's garage was a show place, loaded with rods & reels of all sizes, varieties, and prices. He had hundreds of small drawers filled with antique lures, flies, jigs and curiosity pieces. To this salmon angler, the door was always open, and he told his friends to help themselves anytime.
His final Lake Winni boat was a 28 foot Wellcraft Coastal with twin V8 inboards and a 25 HP Evinrude trolling kicker. He had mounted 4 Cannon electric downriggers with two 4 foot and two 6 foot booms.
In the summer months if 3 were in the boat fishing, they could use 6 lines out, with 4 down riggers, and 2 leadcore lines. If a leadcore line hung up on bottom, he would not change course or speed. You either got the line off or broke it.
I would always go back and try to release it in my boat, being the frugal Italian I am …and then usually end up hanging up another line, or getting lines caught in the prop. I learned from Paul to change my ways as a salmon angler.
To this day, I do not turn and go back to try to save the line, unless it is the only one out. For some reason, Paul's 6 lines rarely tangled with one another.
I know that Hal had planned for Paul to be one of the Master Anglers in this book, but he left us for happier fishing grounds before that could happen. Paul, or Bean Counter as so many others in the angling community of Lake Winni knew him, we anglers salute you! You were, indeed, a Master Angler!
- What is your favorite Lake Winni game fish?
As a salmon angler, open water trolling for salmon. Pound for pound the landlocked salmon is the best fighter. I love its aerial acrobatics!
- Which do you prefer, lead core, fly rod, or downrigger fishing for salmon and trout? On which do you catch the most fish?
- A fly rod with sinking fly line.
- Downrigger: In spring the fly rod is best. After June, I prefer first, leadcore then downriggers. I use a spinning rod on downriggers. They are more comfortable to catch salmon with than lead core. As a salmon angler, there is no greater fly-fishing than in spring and this is absolutely my favorite, to have a salmon strike my fly line while working the rod in your hand is a great thrill.
- Favorite fishing months to fish as a salmon angler?
April to the end of May. August is next best month. September is not usually good.
Early AM - 9 AM to 12 noon, (I am not a happy early riser in spite of Hal trying to get me up for early angling!) and 2 hours before dark.
Chart of Fishing Depths/Colors of Lead Core (Pound Test) and Best Lures
|Month ||Salmon |
(depth & lure)
(depth & lure)
(depth & lure)
|May ||3' deep - Streamer flies ||15' deep - Streamer flies ||3' deep - Streamer flies |
|June ||15-25' - flies, Suttons, Top Guns ||15-25' - flies, Suttons, Top Guns ||15-25' - flies, Suttons, Top Guns |
|July ||Same as June ||Same as June ||Same as June |
|August ||Best month for size and #s of salmon caught. 25-40' down on Suttons. Rarely ever fish below 40'. Lakers are not my favorite. I never take one home! |
|September ||Will bring out fly-rods mid-September just to end the season. Rarely catch salmon. Though, largest salmon I ever caught in Lake Winni was September 10th (7.96 lbs.) mounted. |
- Largest salmon, laker, rainbow and bass you have ever caught in Lake Winni in inches and pounds?
Salmon: 7.96 lbs in September using a gold & silver Sutton at 20'
Laker:7.5 lbs while ice fishing jigging with a Swedish Pimple at 45'
Rainbow: 5 lbs on a live smelt through the ice at 10'
Other large fish: White perch with night crawler on a jig: 2-3 pounds, through ice with 3-4' light rod. Lots of fun! Excellent eating fish!
- Stories about these monsters?
Paul Philippe and I were fishing around Buoy 80 trolling 1 fly and one leadcore each with 5 colors out on September 10. I said to Paul, "It looks like I am hung up." Paul said, "NO way! That's a fish!" But my rod was not moving.
I said, "The only thing I have is New Hampshire real-estate." Then all hell broke loose. The salmon came out of the Lake about 3 feet in a jump. Then the fun began on my 6-pound test line, which made me treat him tenderly. He was out of the water as much as he was in. As a salmon angler this was my largest -- a nearly 8 pound salmon.
- Have you passed on to others your skills as a salmon angler?
I have passed them on to just about everyone I know. If you ever want to keep anything a secret, like salmon angler secrets, do not tell Mario, as everyone knows. What fun is it to have something nice, if you don't share it? That's my philosophy.
If you ever get into my boat, you will see and experience all my secrets as a salmon angler! I have also passed this to my children and grandchildren as well as good friends.Just ask, Hal (Aardvark) if you don't believe me!
- Your top five tips for salmon, lakers, and rainbows?
- Troll at the right speed: 1-1.5 MPH with either fly or lure fishing.
- If fishing a lure, make sure it is not spinning, but wobbling. To adjust this, change your speed with lure in water watching it to see if it has proper action.
- Troll slower with a smaller fly.
- Salmon and rainbows like a little red on the lure.
- Use brass colors after June. (I am never without at least one brass and silver Sutton on one rod. "Top Guns" have also recently proven very effective.
- Your top five ice fishing tips?
- Make sure you have plenty of libations.
- Make sure you have plenty of propane for your heater.
- Make sure you leave your bob house unlocked in case someone wants to use it.
- Make sure you have enough ice to fish (minimum of 4") when bringing out your bob house.
- Make sure you have extra food in case unexpected hungry company shows up.
- As a New Hampshire salmon angler, do you practice Catch & Release?
All the time…unless "Battle Axe", (my wife's CB Handle) and I want fish for dinner. It will always be a freshly caught salmon and under 18" I keep no fish in freezer except for someone very special.
- What do you think has happened to the Lake Winni yellow perch?
They used to be a nuisance when trolling. I am glad to see them gone away.
- As a New Hampshire salmon angler, what do you think has happened to the Lake Winni whitefish (“shad”)?
I have never caught one on Lake Winni. For many years I saw the term "White fish" and never realized it was what I call shad.
About 7 years ago, I was fishing with my good buddy and neighbor, Ed Meyerhoffer. I have been fishing our Fish Cove with him longer than with anyone else. He bought his lot in the 1940s for $750, set up a tent in March, and would go down Old Hubbard Rd. on the path to fish Fish Cove with a sled and toboggan.
No roads were maintained and the paths were rough. Ed & his late wife, Ruth, spent their honeymoon in that tent just after WWII when Ed got out of the Army after serving in Europe and then the Pacific.
Ed & I spent a lot of fishing time together. When we were fishing out of Browns 7 years ago, I asked Ed what year he had stopped catching shad. He said it had to be over 20 years ago.
While we trolled along talking about shad, Ed had a strike from a good fish. He played it for 10 minutes and brought it to the net. Once in the boat, it looked initially like a salmon, but Ed went nuts! It was a 5-pound shad, the biggest of his lifetime!
In the 1950s and 1960s when Ed & his brother wanted to catch shad, they always fished in their favorite shad hole off Brown's marina. And we were together when he caught his largest in 20 years in the same spot … and this was his last.
- If you were New Hampshire Commissioner of Fish & Game, what initiatives would you take to improve Lake Winnie angling for everyone that is a salmon angler?
I am not a marine biologist. But I do not like to see salmon caught through the ice. And I believe 40-50% of the salmon caught die after being caught because of internal injuries.
I am also against introducing other species. There are enough species to satisfy all types of anglers now. Do not fool with Mother Nature!
My wife, Anne, squeezes lemon over salmon filets, lets them sit for10 minutes, and then puts on Italian seasoned bread crumbs and salt & pepper. She drizzles on melted butter, sprinkles with thyme, and bakes in an oven at 350° F for 25-30 minutes. This is my favorite!
And my wife, Anne is the, "Best catch of my life," as this sign in my home proudly proclaims. My fish personal recipe is simpler. I wrap it in aluminum foil and put on a grill for 20 minutes.
- Are you concerned about mercury levels in Lake Winni fish to the degree that you restrict your fish intake?
Yes, my wife and I (children and grandchildren as well) have only 2 meals/month average. I prefer salmon over rainbow and white perch. I do not eat lakers, like the author of this book!
To order the complete award-winning book, Angling in the Smile of the Great Spirit
, or its accompanying DVDs featuring live interviews with the Master Anglers of Lake Winni, please go to: www.deepwaterspress.com