You might think that when I first took a job with The Fisherman Magazine back in August of 2007, a striper-crazed surfcaster and writer fighting to rise through the ranks that I would have been in awe of Fred Golofaro, but I barely knew who he was. I’m embarrassed to admit that.
In my defense, the world seemed impossibly large back then, YouTube was still just a place to watch funny videos, Facebook was still mostly for keeping in touch with friends and family, Instagram wasn’t even a thing! In the fishing world, even just the surfcasting world, Long Island and Massachusetts might as well have been on opposite sides of the Milky Way. I remember writing an article about geographically unique tactics in the surf, back then the DARTER was not something you’d find in every surfcaster’s bag outside of Long Island! I interviewed Fred, as a matter of fact, for the darter segment of that piece.
When I drove to Long Island on a hot day in August – my beautiful girlfriend riding shotgun – and accepted the editing job, I was introduced to Fred Golofaro, meeting him for the first time. He was sitting at his desk, papers piled all over the place, he stood and looked at me and said, “Oh, hi Dave! Welcome aboard.” Now that might seem like a perfectly mundane greeting, but it was the way he said it that really stuck me. He didn’t just say it because he had to say something. He looked at me and spoke to me like he already knew me. It was almost like hearing an unexpectedly hilarious punchline to a joke, my reaction was involuntary. I felt so flattered that he felt like he already knew me, and it immediately endeared me to this man—I instantly liked the guy.
Regrettably, I’m a pretty reserved and quiet guy, I don’t like to bother people; I like to get my work done and let my work speak for itself. I don’t like to pile my problems on other people’s plates and so I didn’t forge the kind of friendship with Fred that my unique position would have made easy. But this didn’t matter. Every time I needed something, if I called Fred he would calmly and easily listen, consider and ultimately solve the problem. I remember calling him out of the blue, in between my two stints as editor to ask him about striper conservation and where he felt the stocks were in relation to the big collapse of the 1980s. That was a call to ask one or two questions. I was driving home from a fishing show near Boston and we talked so long, I almost ran out of gas and I got off the highway and nearly got lost in southeastern Massachusetts—all that time Fred and I were just talking about fishing and life and all kinds of other stuff. And again, I felt so flattered that this guy felt so comfortable with me that we could have a standalone conversation, years removed from our last, and it would last three hours!
I do feel very lucky to have fished with Fred one time. I had to travel to Long Island for a meeting, it was September and Fred asked me if I would like to fish the beach with him and Tom Melton that night—that was one of the easier questions I’ve ever had to answer. I remember Tom was such a chatterbox, and another warm soul, I felt so welcomed by these two legends of the surf. We were driving on a beach road headed toward the west side of Moriches Inlet, if my memory serves, the area was called Great Gun Beach. The road was a disaster, ruts and heaves and gullies, an endless violently bumpy ride. I joked to Fred that I felt like I was on a crab fishing boat in Alaska. He looked back and said, “I’ve seen a few guys actually get seasick from rides like this.” Then he rolled my window down! I still don’t know if he was serious.
In these past five months I’ve put more time into creating a friendship with Fred. Again, the word that keeps coming to me is ‘warm’ he was such a warm and welcoming person. One afternoon we talked for over an hour about the jigs his friend John Paduano makes and how they are the perfect design for snap-jigging. He was going to send me some, but then he came down with COVID. We made open-ended plans to fish ‘sometime soon’ so he could show me the snap-jigging method he was so enamored with. Another day we spoke because a conflict needed to be resolved—not between us, just something that comes up when you work a public job—and that’s where I learned the most from Fred. He approached a conflict from perfectly level ground, considering the possibilities of both sides without bias and completely devoid of emotion. Looking at any situation from this standpoint casts it in a very revealing light; not only can you find the right and wrong in both arguments, but you can objectively identify your own faults and find exactly where things went sideways. The resolution came easily after that—Fred was a wise and patient teacher and I gained something in that short conversation that I will carry with me forever. I truly believe that I became a better person in that moment.
To those that are hurting, his friends, family and fans. I will leave you with a concept that brought me great comfort when I lost my hero and grandfather in 2015. On the night of his passing, I went fishing and stood alone on a rock in the inky darkness. One of my biggest regrets with ‘Gramp’ is that I couldn’t put him on a striper from the surf; we tried a few times, but his time had passed. We caught a few from a boat but the surf was just not going to happen. As I stood there, casting into fishless water, I looked around and saw all the things that he instilled in me. My instincts, my demeanor, my love of the outdoors… it stemmed from him. I looked into the sky and immediately felt like I could speak with him. I could hear his voice in my mind, I could see an image of him when he was healthy and I came to realize that he was still there and his love and spirit were still there too. I could summon them whenever I wanted or whenever I needed. I believe that the spirit of every person lives on in the examples set by those that love and remember them. And as long their memory is alive, so too is their spirit.
We can all feel Fred’s spirit in the things he taught us, or simply when looking out over the ocean, planning the next cast. When you remember something Fred wrote or told you, that’s his spirit, a tiny piece that lives on inside you, inside us all. Take comfort in that fact, take comfort in that when you lose a loved one; a piece of their spirit stays with you always and can be called upon whenever you long for their guidance, long for their love or just need a good laugh. The people we care about are never gone.
Fred will be missed and remembered by so many and for that, he is eternally lucky.
Rest in peace, friend.