Nate Kennedy special for the citizen
When I think of someone who puts in 110% effort to be successful in fishing, my old friend Joe Sicherman of Pulaski-based Sich’s Guide Service comes to mind. Joe is a USCG Master Captain, New York State Guide, and one hell of a fisherman. At 27, he is one of the youngest in his group, punching well above his weight class. That old and tired cliche of living the dream isn’t so old and tired when applied to Joe.
I first met Joe in a dorm hallway at SUNY Potsdam in the fall of 2013. He was a freshman and I was a sophomore. He moved into the hallway, and it didn’t take long before we started having fun. Joe and I didn’t fish much in Potsdam, but we talked about it a lot. He was a trout fisherman from central New York and I was an avid fisherman with almost no trout experience which made for great conversation.
A few years passed and I moved to Syracuse for my graduate studies. Before long, Joe convinced me to join him on a trout fishing trip. He showed me around the creeks of central New York and introduced me to trout fishing. It was immediately apparent that he had a love for teaching and guiding, and I was proud to see him dove deep into the life of a full-time fishing guide. Joe’s story of hard work, dedication and utter obsession is a good one. One that I am happy to share.
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NK: How did you start fishing?
JS: As far as I can remember, I had a real passion for fishing. Most people call it an obsession, and I agree with them. I started fishing for stocked trout in my grandfather’s pond near Morrisville. I must have been 4 or 5 when my dad first took me there and we kept a rainbow trout to take home. I have a vivid memory of the fish on a loam, glistening in the sun. It is one of my oldest and most cherished memories. Throughout my youth, I practiced various types of fishing, but trout became my main target. My dad knew the basics and always took me fishing. A friend of his took me too and taught me how to bounce bait, work the tracks and trout holes in the little streams. I became fascinated with trout, how pretty they are, how elusive they can be and where they live. This is where my real obsession started. I was always teaching my friends fishing or showing them something new. I knew at an early age that I had a knack for teaching people how to fish, and watching my friends and family catch fish was almost as good as catching them myself.
NK: When did you decide to try guiding?
JS: When I got out of college and realized I didn’t know what else to do with my life. I had earned a degree in environmental studies from SUNY Potsdam and was pursuing a career in fishing, hatcheries or whatever. I’ve always been a big proponent of doing something I love for work, although I never really thought that would be a guide. That summer I came across my first mating job on Lake Ontario. The following fall, I got my guiding license so I could do shore excursions on the Salmon River while working at a tackle store in Pulaski. I was completely immersed in fishing. I had been fishing the Salmon River for a while and was excited to test my skills and start my own business. I was also nervous. Guiding/Chartering is a tough industry, and a lot of people seem to want to see you fail. Luckily I had a pretty good support system and knew a bunch of older guys who had been guiding on the river for 15, 20, maybe 30+ years. It gave me the confidence to keep moving forward and pursuing my goals. Deep down I knew I had the skills and the network to build a business. The job just had to be done.
NK: When did you make it a full-time job? How many days do you spend fishing/guiding each year?
JS: I’m starting my fifth year as a full-time guide. The last two seasons I’ve done about 140 outings a year on the Salmon River between September 15th and May 1st. We target salmon in the fall, then rainbow trout. These highly sought after sport fish are targeted from November to May. Yes, all winter! The best days of the year are always between December and early March. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s one of the most rewarding peaches you can find anywhere! The sheer beauty and combat of Rainbow Trout makes for some truly amazing experiences with friends and clients.
The rest of the year (May-September) I do charters on the Finger Lakes and elsewhere in CNY. Cayuga and Owasco lakes for trout, Lake Ontario for trout and salmon, and Oneida Lake for walleye. This is my first summer as USCG Senior Captain, so running my own charters and not strictly mating is new, but it’s a great addition to my business and I’m enjoying it a lot. In total, I will spend around 250 days working on the water this year.
NK: When you take a day off and fish for your own pleasure, which species do you prefer?
JS: Clients, family and friends often ask me what I do on my days off. Many of those days are spent fishing, and many are spent with my wonderful girlfriend who supports the immense amount of fishing I do. People think it’s crazy that captains and guides fish on their days off. I just feel like it’s part of me. I don’t know what else to do! When it’s cold, windy and snowy, I like to hibernate indoors. However, a slightly warmer winter day will have me out on the water in no time.
I don’t know if I have a favorite fish these days. I like to alternate between streams and lakes, trolling, jigging, lakes, walleye, brown trout, etc. It depends on my mood at this time of year. I like to enjoy the best fishing in every season. It’s more the moment of relaxation on the water without the pressure of performing and catching fish. Although the pressure never really goes away. A good captain will always feel the need to produce whatever the conditions. Always improving. Daily fishing is another learning experience.
NK: Can you tell me about a favorite moment you had as a guide?
JS: One day in February, we were fishing in really extreme conditions. It was a day that I would normally put off, but the guys were coming anyway. The day started cold, but otherwise normal. We knew the weather was nice. We had already had a great day and I got a text from a friend in town. It happens! Snow, wind and cold. Gloomy weather. As the blinding snow rolled in our float went down and we hooked a solid fish. After a long battle, we got him in the net. Shortly after, another, followed by others. The day went pretty much like this at every stop all the way up the river until it snowed and was so cold that our gear jammed and became unfishable. It was just one of those days when everything you thought you knew about fishing went out the window, and the fish taught you something new.
That’s the best part of guiding, I think. Pisces proves you wrong or shows you that they don’t always follow the “book”. The days when it looks like they won’t bite or shouldn’t bite well, that’s when you learn the most, I think. To date, it was the most absurd weather I have ever fished in, and some of the most absurd rainbow trout fishing I have ever seen.
NK: What are your plans for the future?
JS: In the future, I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than guiding and chartering as long as I was physically able. I think the more you fish, the younger you stay. That’s what I hope anyway. I have truly found my charter and guiding home in CNY. The options we have here are pretty hard to beat. There are not many places where you can fish every day of the year. It’s really special, and I love going to work every day. I feel very lucky.
NK: How can people reach you to book a trip or find out more about what you do?
JS: Starting in the fall, we see a phenomenal king salmon fishery that attracts anglers from all over the country. I implore everyone to see it or try it once. The fight is unmatched. If you don’t like the crowds of the river, the fishing in the lake is excellent all summer. Rainbow trout fishing during the fall, winter and spring is one of the main attractions of our region. I make more trips for rainbow trout than any other species. Fishing from my drift boat allows us to cover a lot of the river to get on the fish. This can be a huge advantage for shore fishing, and also much easier on the body than walking on banks and across rocks.
I specialize in spin, fly, centerpin and plug fishing, so whatever your preference, we can accommodate it on your trip. Details, information, rates, reviews and photos can be found on my website, www.joesichguideservice.com. You can also contact me directly at (315) 399-8030 to inquire about a trip.
Nate Kennedy is a resident of New York’s North Country who enjoys hunting and fishing in the Finger Lakes. A native of Ogdensburg, he is a lifelong hunter and fisherman who holds a master’s degree in environmental communication from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and is the Northeast Regional Engagement Coordinator with the Ruffed Grouse Society. and the American Woodcock Society. Kennedy enjoys writing and sharing her outdoor pursuits and her column appears monthly in The Citizen.