HOCKEY AND FISHING

By
Mike Peluso

To most people these two sports have nothing in common. To me, they fit like hand in glove. I grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota. A great place for a young person like myself to become attached to the open water in the summer and the frozen stuff in the winter. My parents both worked for the city at the local ice arenas and swimming pools. It was a kids  paradise! I was able to skate and swim just about any time I wanted too. My love for the sport of hockey, was something I knew I had at a very young age. I can remember wanting to be at the rink all the time, and whenever a hockey came on television, I would last about a minute, before I was playing in my own game. My love for fishing was just as strong. My father introduced me to fishing at the age of three. We didn't have a boat at the time, and we would head to the banks of the Missouri River in search of walleyes. It didn't take my dad long, before he decided to buy a boat, and learn the Big Muddy. He was hooked just as much as I was! My poor mother was usually left at home, to do some of the house chores, so my dad could take me fishing. I owe both of my parents alot for what they did, so I could both fish and play hockey. My mom always told her friends that as long as Jim (my dad) was taking me out to spend time together, it was OK. People still think she's a saint for what she put up with.

My goal in life was always to become a professional hockey player, and a professional walleye fisherman. I remember asking questions about someday doing both, and the answer was always the same. You can do anything you put your mind to. I always believed I would do both, and now I am.

Playing hockey in Bismarck wasn't exactly what you would call ideal. The program was just starting off, when my father moved there in 1975. My mom recalls saying to herself, while watching the caliber of my play, that I probably didn't have a very good chance at making it in hockey. The best thing about being young is, you don't know any better. I truly believed that I was the best player that ever lived to play the game. Little did I know, that they played hockey all over the world, and Bismarck wasn't the only place. Somehow, with some luck, and the big guy upstairs, I have been able to reach my dream, and play hockey for a living.

With hockey taking up most of my time in the winter, that left me with the summers to do whatever I wanted to. I loved baseball, and played until high school. I decided to quit baseball, so I could attend different USA Select Hockey Camps, but I will look back on it now, and say, I gave it up, so I could fish more. That is exactly what I did! When I was 10 years old, I purchased my first boat for $100 dollars at a rummage sale. It was a little 10 foot sail boat without the sail. My dad wasn't all that excited, when I told him that he had to help me bring it home. When I finally got this heavy thing back to the house, I called my best friend Ryan Thompson over to see it. His first reaction was laughter, then I think he figured out that this thing would offer us countless hour of entertainment. We must have stayed up all night fixing that old boat up. We cleaned it, painted it, and even put carpet in it! To us this was the ultimate fishing machine. We had a backwater channel pretty close to our houses, that was full of bullheads and carp, with an occasional "good" fish, as we called them. When we finally got this boat in the water, we paddled it to a guys house, that let us fish on his rocks in his backyard. Much of the channel had cattail along the edge, so we found an area off to the side of his house and made a boat ramp out of a piece of plywood. To this day, I wonder if the guy that lived in that house, knew we had this boat ramp, and boat parked there.

My father realized I had a talent for fishing. I have the uncanny ability to remember everything that has happened to me on the water. I can recall details of fishing trips as far back as five years old. My dad will quiz me once in awhile, to see if I can remember a trip. It blows his mind, when I give him all the details. It actually scares me sometimes, how I can remember the things I do, when I'm fishing. I was never all that great in school, but when it came to remembering events on the water, I could do it, and still can! This has always given me an edge when it comes to fishing walleyes. If I saw something happen in a boat ten years ago, in a certain spot, I could remember what they were doing, and how they did it. I will even recall things like, what the weather was doing, or what color boat they were in. Believe me, this is like having your own personal fishing computer built into your head. I used to get frustrated with Ryan, when we would see a boat on the water, and I would ask him if he knew where we saw that boat, how they were doing, what they were using, and how they did a couple years earlier.

Anyway, it came time for my father to trust me on the water, by myself, with his boat. We had an Alumacraft Backtroller 17 with a 40 horse Suzuki tiller on it at the time. I was only 13 years old when he dropped me off at the boat ramp with Ryan, who was also 13. We didn't have driver licenses yet, so he had to take us to the ramps and drop us off. He would back the boat into the water and lock the trailer up to a tree, and head into town for work. We would always agree on a time to meet back at the ramp. Most people thought he was crazy, for letting us go out, all by ourselves, on the Missouri River. He always made us wear our life jackets, and we promised to be responsible. Fishing was a pretty serious thing for us! We were out there to "out fish" all the boats on the water. It was a challenge for us everyday. We would usually do pretty good. Always keeping our catch to show dad. Then we would release the fish back in the water, so we didn't have to clean them.

The years wore on, and we were finally in High School. Both having jobs, and drivers licenses, gave us the green light when it came to fishing. The guys back at school thought we were strange for wanting to fish all the time. I use to pull my boat to school, so that we could get out on the water even earlier. I remember getting teased about having jig parties on Friday nights. That never really use to happen, but fishing did keep us out of trouble. Now all the guys that said we were wasting our time say, they wish they would have done the same. It's pretty cool to hear some of my friends finally say sorry for giving us a hard time about fishing back in High School. My love for fishing has increased even more since that time. I find myself day dreaming about fishing all the time. With my job of playing hockey, I have a lot of free time on my hands. I try to find ways to utilize this time, and keep myself busy. Pages like this one, is one of the ways I do this. I spend a lot of time meeting new people, and getting young people involved in fishing. When I say that my friends used to pick on me in school, it was always in a good way. They always respected what I did, and still do to this day.

Hockey has given me so many opportunities in life, that I will never realize them, until I am done playing. You meet so many people, and get to travel all over the world. This has schooled me in so may ways, when it comes to fishing. Nothing that I do, outside hockey, will ever come close to the demand that is put on me every time I lace up my skates. A big Pro Walleye tournament seems like a walk in the park. Seminars are as easy as putting on my jersey! As for performing under pressure, well, outside hockey I wouldn't know what pressure is. All of that, I owe to the game of hockey. So when I say that hockey has made me a better person, I mean just that. Pro Hockey is a very demanding job! We are only actually employed for 8 months out of the year, but it is a 12 month job. We are always in the public eye, and we have to stay in shape. That is why fishing tournaments in the summer is so rewarding to me. I can stay competitive, without beating up my body. I stay mentally competitive. That is something that has helped me both on, and off the water. That is why I love to do both of these sports. I feel they feed off of each other, and help me with both of them. It's the best job a person could ever ask for! Would I trade in my skates, and fishing rods for a billion dollars?  No way!!

Keep your stick in the passing lanes on the penalty kill! 

Mike Peluso

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