Somewhere over the course of our lifetimes, we all have someone who influences our life’s path. Family members, friends, teachers, fellow workers and sometimes even strangers. I’ve been fortunate to have more than a few steer me through the years. One of them was Blair Moger. You see, he was my guidance counselor at East Islip High School and probably saw better than I where I was headed in my adult life. He was a fisherman and we spent many nights shoulder to shoulder hauling stripers from the surf in Montauk and Cedar Beach inside Fire Island Inlet. Once I could drive, he counted on me to report on the previous night’s results when his responsibilities as a guidance counselor and head of the New York State Guidance Counselors Association prevented him from getting on the beach. Trigonometry and calculus were two of my least favorite classes and Blair knew that. Too many times to count, “Fred Golofaro please report to the guidance office” would blare over the PA system during math class. That was my call to sit down and discuss the previous night’s fishing. High school days also involved taking my football and baseball coaches fishing before practice instead of sitting in end of the day study halls my senior year.
Blair knew how much I loved fishing and enjoyed writing about fishing. I began writing a fishing column for a local community newspaper, The Vanguard, at age 10 and began writing articles for The Fisherman while in high school. So while others tried to steer me in the direction of other majors, Mr. Moger thought a major in communications was better suited to a career in journalism – aka writing about fishing. It turned out to be a 45-year career with The Fisherman, and Blair was in a large way responsible for that.
Blair, along with Bob Rance and Fred Schwab, were the moving force behind SOS (Save Our Stripers) and led the fight for gamefish status in the late 1960s. During my junior year in high school I joined them and other members on a bus trip up to Albany where we sat in on an assembly hearing that included making striped bass a gamefish. Speaker after speaker declared their support for the bill before Perry B. Duryea, Speaker of the Assembly at the time, and whose family owned a fish company on the East End, appeared and issued a tongue lashing to his fellow legislators who suddenly had a change of heart. The bill was voted down and to this day was probably as close as we have ever come to attaining gamefish status. That, for a naïve high schooler, was a sobering lesson on the workings of our political system.
Blair had long since moved south to Spring Hill, Florida but we kept in touch over the phone until a March email from his daughter, Michelle Merrill, informed me that Blair had passed away unexpectedly and peacefully at home on 2/20/20, three days after having successful bladder surgery. He was 83 and unable to fish the last few years but he still loved to talk fishing and reminisce about past trips. He will be missed by the many anglers who knew and fished alongside him. For myself, I will be forever grateful for his friendship and “guidance.”