BY DOYLE DIETZ
HARRISBURG — Tucked away in a corner of the fishing hall of the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Building every February at the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg is the familiar display of Catfish Creek Fishing Camp and Flying Fish Charters.
Manning the booth are Captain Wally Kimmel and his wife, Cheryl, who find the nine-day length of the world’s largest consumer outdoors show of its kind anything but drudgery. That is because for the Kimmels, who operate their camp and charter fishing service out of New Haven, New York, between the Salmon and Oswego rivers along the Eastern Basin of Lake Ontario, the show provides them the opportunity to renew acquaintances with longtime friends and clients from their native Schuylkill County.
This year the Kimmels are celebrating — if celebrating can be used to describe any aspect of this year because COVID-19 restrictions had delayed the beginning of their guiding and lodging services by nearly eight weeks — their 20th year in business. And other than continuing to provide his clients with a quality fishing experience, today Flying Fish Charters in no way resembles the business when trips were on a 16-foot boat docked out of a marina that is no longer in existence.
Flying Fish Charters provides a fishing experience aboard a 30-foot Sportcraft that is fully equipped with all of the tackle and electronics needed for clients to have the fishing adventure of their life. Kimmel and his mate are on the water full-time and know where the fish are hitting. Depending on the time of the year, they target trophy lake trout, brown trout, king salmon or steelhead.
“I first came up here to fish with a friend in 1986, and soon after bought a 16-foot boat to come up every weekend with Cheryl or some guy,” Kimmel said. “Back then I was working full-time installing windows, and I continued to do that until the camp came up for sale in 2000.
“That’s when we decided it was time to make a change, but for the next three years I was still working four days a week. Then, as our business grew from referrals and return clients as much as new bookings at shows, we knew this was going to work and we made improvements to the camp by building new cabins.”
Today, the lone remaining original cabin at Catfish Creek now serves as the office that sells fishing licenses and home to the Kimmels. Cabin and trailer lodging is available for single individuals to groups of 10 anglers and provides comfortable, affordable lodging for a one-night stay or fishing vacation for groups and families.
There are multiple restaurant choices in the nearby countryside, and there is the option of driving to Oswego or Pulaski. For those cooking in they can choose between a fully equipped kitchen with a microwave oven and full-size stove, but the best option is a cookout on the gas grill or over wood in the fire ring.
“Guests need only to bring their personal toiletry items, as bed linens, blankets, pillows and towels are provided with all cabin rentals, but not with trailer rentals,” Cheryl Kimmel said. “We want them to feel this is their home away from home with kitchens equipped with refrigerators that have large freezer space for fish, coffee makers, toasters, cooking utensils and dishes and living rooms are furnished with a couch or futon, DirecTV, A/C and alarm clock.
“Easily the biggest change we’ve seen over the years is that more women are coming to fish or just to relax and visit the attractions in the area or shop. We have lake access for jet skis and other water sports including scuba diving on area ship wrecks.
“Several golf courses and antique shops are nearby, and Oswego has super-modified races Saturday nights, its famous Harborfest the last weekend in July, museums and a waterfront fort that saw action in the War of 1812. Some people enjoy bringing their own boat and go fishing for smallmouth bass, perch and walleye in Catfish Creek or the mouth of Lake Ontario.”
Fish cleaning is included with all charters, and there is a fish-cleaning station on the dock for those fishing on their own. Those booking a charter receive reduced rates on lodging at Catfish Creek Fishing Camp.
New York State reopening charters comes just in time for what are normally excellent fishing conditions for brown trout and steelhead, as well as the occasional king salmon. Slammer salmon usually begin to arrive in early August, with 30-pounders common and the occasional 40-pounder possible, and lake trout can be found throughout the season.
Dietz is parliamentarian of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association. Contact the writer: email@example.com