Combining Opera and Fishing Offers a Memorable Experience

by Ralph Martone
September 2006

On a small rocky island lost among hundreds of similar islands scattered throughout Ontario's Georgian Bay, a large black bear huddles among a cluster of pines. Head cocked to one side, it listens to the strange sounds penetrating the dark night. From somewhere across the ink-colored waters comes the sound of human voices as bear has never heard them before. Surprisingly, the far away sounds serve to sooth and comfort the bear, until eventually, drawing itself into a tight ball, it falls asleep beneath the dark pines.

As a guest of the Pennsylvania Club, I am just as astonished as the black bear by the sounds. Here on an island in the middle of Georgian Bay, a duo of professional opera singers raise their voices as they perform songs from classic operas.

Samuel and Bonita DePalma, guests of Pennsylvania Club members Jim, Karen and Alexandra Haas, brought opera to the remote waters of Georgian Bay. My wife, Denise, son, Michael and family friend, Jarrod Stewart, and I were fortunate to be part of the audience for the DePalma's remarkable recital. Also part of the audience was club member Bill Devido, his wife Paula, son Christopher and nephew Jordan Devido.

For two incredible evenings our small group sat in the Pennsylvania Club's main lodge, steeped in the sounds of traditional Italian opera as well as such songs as Climb Every Mountain and Ave Maria. Samuel DePalma's impressive baritone completely filled the lodge before spilling out into the blackness of the bay. Add to that Bonita's lilting refrains and the evening's performance turned from music to magic.

Fortunately, the music and fellowship of good friends more than made up for the week's fishing, which turned out to be a disappointment. A combination of hot weather and low water conditions caused the fish to avoid all but the most determined efforts. Although some smallmouth bass were caught, the week's only two northern pike fell to Jim Haas and Michael Martone. New Castle resident, Cory McClenahan, whose family's camp lies just around the bend from the Pennsylvania Club, produced an amazing catch by bringing in an alligator gar. This prehistoric fish has the body of a pike with the head and jaws similar to an alligator. With an elongated snout filled with hundreds of razor sharp teeth, this fish is a living remnant of the age of dinosaurs.

This outing, which took place in early August, was actually my second visit to the Pennsylvania Club. In mid-July, New Castle resident and dedicated pike fisherman Karl Menges and I made the trip north. On that trip, almost perfect fishing weather and cool water temperatures combined to yield a week of exceptional fishing.

When a muskellunge hit my lure on the very first morning, I thought I was in for a great week of musky fishing. But that fish turned out to be the only musky caught during the entire week. On the other hand, the northern pike, small and largemouth bass fishing were first-rate, including a nearly six-pound smallie and an equally hefty largemouth bass.

I felt fortunate to be partnered for the week with Karl. In addition, to an extensive knowledge of techniques for catching northern pike, Karl has written several books on fly-fishing for trout. With Karl's knowledge of the waters around Pennsylvania Island we were able to land several large fish. From shallow weed beds to deep water breaks, we found fish on many different feeding patterns.

While I consider myself to be truly fortunate for any invitation to Pennsylvania Club, the addition of world-class opera, wonderful friends and excellent fishing made our trips to the Pennsylvania Club difficult to top.