Casting line with heroes

Captain Fred Forsythe of Castaway Charters recently retired from his full-time job, and turned his charter fishing business on Lake Erie into his new full-time job.

It’s full-time except for one day every week in the summer and a three-day weekend in July which he devotes to Fishing With Heroes for combat-injured veterans.

Forsythe said he has two Electramate Reel systems, donated by the Greensboro, N. C., company that when used with his Penn Reels allow veterans with hand and arm injuries to fish.

The program has many sponsors, including the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 75 in Warren County. This year, “Grizzly” Gary Wert, chapter spokesman and a co-sponsor, presented Forsythe with a check for $1,500 from the proceeds of the DAV fish fry earlier this year.

Wert said, “When Charlie Brant of the local DAV and Doug Yohe, both of whom fish for Team Zippo, were so moved by the joy and fun the veterans had and got their mind off their troubles, they donated the use of their boat for a day, and the DAV became a major sponsor.”

In his flyer, Forsythe states, “My wife and I are the proud parents of a son who is a combat-injured veteran, a Purple Heart recipient for his service in Iraq. We saw first-hand the struggles he and many of his soldier friends have lived through.”

“The phrase ‘Support our Troops’ seemed very hollow, and we looked for a practical way to show our appreciation,” he said. “Since fishing is my passion and what I do, operating a charter on Lake Erie, we decided to seek out combat-injured soldiers that we could offer a complimentary day of fishing.”

“(I) found out soon that there were more soldiers than I could take by myself. We enlisted more charters to help, and our annual Hero Weekend was born,” he said. He added that he had offered other charter boat owners cash to help with expenses, but most refused.

“In July, we bring in up to about 16 soldiers, and with four other boats that give a day to help, we take them fishing,” he added. The weekend includes a chicken barbeque and fish fry, a banquet with awards for biggest fish and best catch.

He said it is held over the weekend in case of inclement conditions on Lake Erie, and that the expeditions are launched from the harbor in Barcelona.

“When we first started, we thought that the hardest part would be the financing, but we have lots of sponsors,” he said. “The hardest part is getting soldiers. They think other people need it more than they do. We still have openings for this year.”

The program first started with soldiers from Ft. Drum in upstate New York. Last year, four veterans from Warren and two from Jamestown, N.Y., participated, along with some from the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Erie, and some through the VA in Syracuse, N.Y.

He said that area businesses also help out, providing the veterans with free meals and lodging.

Forsythe said the majority of the catch on Lake Erie are walleye, but also some brown trout and steelhead.

To participate or donate, contact Forsythe at ffcastaway@gmail.com, or call the charter at 1-716-560-9216 or his home at 814-274-7465.