Utica-area man catches two river monsters in three days. How it's changing his life

·4 min read

Chad Jackson from New Hartford normally spends five to eight hours a day fishing — or waiting for the fish to bite the bait.

But patience proved key for the 23-year-old when, on June 29, he says he caught the biggest fish he had ever reeled in: a 36-inch tiger muskie on the shores of the Mohawk River in Utica.

Just a few days before, Jackson noticed the fish near the surface. At one point, the angler had the tiger muskie hooked, but it released itself before he could snag it, Jackson said. On the third day at dusk, the fish bit a big shiner, allowing Jackson to pull and catch it.

The tiger muskie measured 36 inches and weighed between 10 and 12 pounds, Jackson said.

"When I first got the tiger muskee it was so bizarre to me because I had never caught anything like this," he said. "I know people who have been trying to catch that type of fish for their whole life and I literally caught that. I didn’t really understand how rare of a catch it was until people started telling me."

But then, three days later, Jackson caught another even larger fish: a 45-inch northern pike in the same location, after a two-minute tussle.

Fishing:Changes made at this popular Oneida County fishing spot

Things to do:Food trucks, cultural festivals, ice cream spots to try this summer

Jackson said he only had a 10-pound line on and no leader line, so he had to fight the fish before it snapped his line. The northern pike was so big, he said, it didn't fit in the net. His friend who was with him had to grab it and bring it up to shore.

"I didn’t know if I was dreaming or not," Jackson son, "because that pike was huge."

By Jackson's estimate, the northern pike weighed between 18 and 20 pounds.

Both fish were released back into the water after Jackson snapped photos of the epic catch.

During pandemic boredom, Chad Jackson turned to fishing

Jackson said he started fishing as a hobby two years ago when the COVID-19 pandemic put his life on hold. One day, his girlfriend, who was eight months pregnant at the time, suggested fishing as something to do for fun. Jackson went into his mother's garage where she kept some fishing poles.

They went out fishing and fell in love with it "from the jump," he said.

"When I first started fishing, I used to catch mini fish and I used to think they were monsters," he said. "Then six months into fishing, I started catching big bass and I thought, 'This is a big difference.' It’s fun catching small fish, but when you catch the big ones, it’s a whole different thing."

Now, Jackson spends several hours fishing. He buys live bait from Fite da Bite in New Hartford and heads out to the water early in the morning and late at night, sometimes twice a day, working his job in construction the rest of the time. Recently, the self-professed bass fisherman started sharing his fishing adventures on Facebook and Tik Tok.

"Honestly, it’s not even really about catching the fish because I put a lot of hours. I’ve been out there for like eight-hour days and not catching anything," Jackson said. "It’s really about being out there." Jackson says he loves to see the sunset and sunrise while outdoors.

Fishing, family and a lesson in patience

Jackson wasn't into fishing "at all" growing up. He said he used to get in trouble as a kid and wishes he had picked up fishing sooner. He'd like to see programming for kids now to get them into fishing.

"If somebody would've pushed me to get into fishing, I would've loved it," he said. "I feel like it really changed me once I started fishing. It helped me a lot. It’s just really peaceful."

Jackson's love for fishing goes beyond the rush of catching river monsters. It's taught him about patience and to never give up.

Now, he wants to share his passion with someone else: his 2 year-old daughter Laia.

"I’m literally buying her fishing stuff for her birthday," he said. "As soon as she can, we’re out there."

Maria M. Silva covers food, drink and culture in the Mohawk Valley for the Observer-Dispatch. Email her at mariamsilva@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Observer-Dispatch: New Hartford man catches two giant fish in three days in Mohawk River