LEWISTON — Reeling in the biggest and the baddest has been a life-long part of life for Gasport's Morgan Fonzi, a former all-star football player and wrestler at Royalton-Hartland High School and avid outdoorsman.
Fonzi, 28, the son of tournament pro Capt. Joe Fonzi of Thumbs Up Guide Service, recently caught two huge white bass in the Lower Niagara River that both broke existing state records for the species.
Best of all, the father and son duo were fishing together back on May 6 when Morgan caught the record-setting fish.
The pair said they don't normally don’t get to fish together much, but with both of them off of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve been out together fishing almost every day. They often fish the Lake Erie and the Upper Niagara River area, but as a result of strong northwestern winds on that day, they decided to fish the Lower Niagara River, looking for lake trout, steelhead and bass — specifically white bass,
According to the newyorkupstate.com, White bass, also called silver bass, resemble a small, striped bass and can be found in abundance each spring swimming “up” the Niagara River from Lake Ontario.
“We were letting everything go except the white bass,” Capt. Joe said. “We have some Amish friends who like to eat them so we kept them.”
The day before Morgan caught his record fish, he was fishing with his father on the Lower Niagara, keeping 25 white bass, including one that weighed 3 pounds, 10 ounces, according to a scale on Capt. Joe’s boat. At that time, both were unaware that the 28-year-old state record for the biggest species of that fish caught, which was 3-pounds, 6-ounces by Robert Hilton in Westchester County. It measured 18.5 inches in length.
“We googled the record the next day while out fishing and found out we could have beaten it,” Capt. Joe said.
So the next day, the two once again targeted white bass on the Lower Niagara. Morgan was using a 5/8-ounce, gold Steelshad blade bait.
“We were using our electric motor, fishing a back eddy and slowly bouncing the blade bait off the bottom,” said Morgan, a 2009 graduate at Roy-Hart.
This time the son caught two that were again potential record breakers, according to two different scales on the father’s boat.
“We were out afterward for pizza,” Morgan said, saying he and his father tried to think of a place where they could get the fish officially weighed since most places were closed.
Morgan then remembered that he once worked at a nearby Tops, so he called and found out that his old manager was still working there. They brought the fish over and had the fish weighed on the super market’s scale. One fish weighed 3 pounds 8 ounces, the other, 3 pounds, 7 ½ ounces — both state records.
They then put the fish on ice at their house. A state Department of Environmental Conservation fisheries biologist visited their home to verify the fish species and the weight.
“(Morgan) just got an email from the DEC — it’s now officially a state record,” the Capt. Joe said last week.
“I’m still in shock,” added Morgan, who said he plans to mount both fish at his home. The larger one, weighing 3 pounds, 8 ounces, is now the official state record. It measured 18 inches in length.