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Angler attracts unwanted attention

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Thursday, November 06, 2008 By David Figura



Outdoors editor


All Jeffrey Howe wanted to do was take advantage of the evening walleye bite on Owasco Lake and maybe get a few tasty fillets.


The 32-year-old town of Ira resident ended up getting skunked on Saturday - but he did catch the attention of Cayuga County 911, three volunteer fire companies and the Air One helicopter from Syracuse.


It all started with Howe wanting to try Owasco Lake for walleyes after reading about anglers who have been having luck on that lake. This is the time of year when walleyes come close to shore after dark in a number of local lakes - most notably on Oneida Lake - to feed and bulk up on bait fish to get ready for winter.


Unfamiliar with Owasco Lake or where the walleyes were being caught, Howe parked in a pull-off by the traffic circle near Emerson Park. With waders on and pole in hand, he walked out about 300 yards from shore over the silty, sandy bottom to the right of the swimming area off Deauville Island.


"It was just before sunset," said Howe who wrote Tuesday about his experience in the Fishing Forum under his nickname, MeatHunter30. "I wasn't feeling good about finding fish there, but figured I would try it anyway."


As darkness fell, Howe was nearly chest deep and didn't bother to put his head lamp on.


At about 6:30 p.m., Cayuga County 911 got a call from an unidentified person on the western side of the lake, noting there was a man in the water and that he possibly needed help.


At about 7 p.m., Howe said he heard "the fire whistle, and suddenly police, ambulances and fire trucks were pulling into the parking area where my car was." The two fire companies from Owasco and one from Fleming answered the call.


Travis Poole, Owasco's assistant fire chief, said they could see Howe with binoculars, and firefighters unsuccessfully tried to signal him with lights and horns. He said Howe didn't have any reflective clothing or light on. Poole didn't want to take any chances as Howe disappeared from sight in the darkness.


Howe figured the sudden gathering of emergency vehicles and ensuing ruckus was "odd." But he figured he'd keep on fishing since it was "just getting to be prime time for the 'eyes." He said he kept casting for about 20 minutes.


Suddenly, Howe heard a helicopter flying nearby. Then he noticed a rubber boat with several men in wetsuits coming toward him.


"I turned on my hat light, and the 'copter puts the spotlight on me," he said. "Now I thought I was in trouble or mistaken for someone else."


"So the guys in the boat come over to me, and I'm waving 'Hi' to the 'copter. They ask me what I was doing and I said, 'I'm trying to catch some walleyes.' "


The firefighters told him how they had received a 911 report of a man in the lake.


"Comically, I said, 'I didn't realize there was a curfew on this lake, since I've never fished it before,' " he said, heading toward shore.


Howe said when he reached shore, there were a few firemen left and they kidded him that nobody catches anything where he was fishing. He said he told them every bay on Oneida Lake has people wading this time of year for walleyes and he just wanted to try his luck here.


"To make a long story short, I will never fish Owasco again . . . and no, I wasn't issued any tickets," he said.

Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference. ~Author unknown, attributed to Mark Twain
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