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A shared passion for chasing fish

Husband and wife spend most of their free time fishing from their 25-foot center console

Husband and wife spend most of their free time fishing from their 25-foot center console

There are people serious about the sport of fishing and then there’s the next level up: the Golinskis, Al and Emme of South Hadley, Mass., a husband and wife team passionate about fishing and boating, devoting almost of their free time to both pursuits. Along the way they’ve posted a long string of accomplishments.

Al and Emme have been married for 24 years, both attracted to each other through their love of the water and what swims in it. Like all of us, though, they had to put food on the table while perfecting their skills at getting fish out of the water. In 1977 Al started Old Hadleigh Hearth in South Hadley, a fireplace and furniture store, scraping together enough seed money to hold on during those hard years when it seemed the world conspired with one thought: to stop this enterprise Al wanted to get off the ground.

Two years later he married Emme who joined him in the business, combining their talents to build what today is a very successful operation. Along the way they had numerous boats and fished in various parts of the country. They decided they wanted to concentrate on southern New England, spring through late fall and then Key West, January to April. This took some roll-up-your sleeves type of work and investment, but today they are close to their goal of turning the business over to their employees and concentrating on sportfishing 12 months per year.

At first they acquired a beautiful home right on the Connecticut River, then a summer home in Misquamicut, R.I. In time they will sell the former, reside in the latter during the Northeast boating season, then trailer their boat to Key West to spend the cold months chasing a variety of finny creatures off the Southernmost City.

During the couple’s long marriage they’ve fished out of a variety of vessels. Their present boat is a 25-foot Sea-Vee, a poster child for taking an older boat, stripping it to the bone and rebuilding it into something eye-catching. Built in 1983 in Miami, it was first owned by Capt. Wally Albrecht, who used it in his charter business in Key West. It was there that Al and Emme met Wally, started chartering with him, learning about fishing down south, many of the tips and tricks exported back to New England during the summer.

Al was impressed by the boat’s ride, cutting through sloppy winter seas both in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic, getting caught out in some nasty fronts or coming back from some long-range runs to far wrecks or the 70-mile trip to the Dry Tortugas — done in a single day, not overnight.

In time Wally turned to a 27-foot Conch for his business, selling the Sea-Vee to eager buyer Al. The truck that brought the new boat to Key West brought the old boat back to Massachusetts where Al embarked on a multiyear restoration plan. That was 1998 after changing the name from Debbie Lou (Wally’s now deceased wife) to Emme Lou, Al’s first love, followed closely by being on the water.

At first he used the boat for striper fishing but made plans for a complete restoration.

In the winter of 2001 he stripped the boat bare — every length of wire, all electronics, hardware, etc. It was then delivered to Jay Johnston — (860) 399-9440 — at his shop in Old Saybrook, Conn. Jay specializes in restoring old boats, especially vintage, center console fishing machines.

Over a period of four months Jay cut out the deck, installed a new fuel tank, added two stringers, reinstalled a new deck, refinished the hull both inside and out, then painted the hull a beautiful sea-foam green. The boat was then turned back over to Al who worked on it on and off inside a heated building through the winter. Al and friend Paul Kjoller rewired the whole boat, installed new pumps, put a coffin box in the bow, repowered it and rebuilt the Float-On trailer with new wiring and brakes.

It was an eye-catching job admired by boating pros like Capt. Wally Albrecht himself, who saw the finished product on a summer trip to New England to get away from the Key West summer heat and do a little striper fishing on the Watch Hill reefs.

Al credits Wally and others like Sherwood Lincoln of East Lyme, Conn. — a master angler who landed upwards of 60 stripers over 50 pounds in his long angling career — with giving him help or guidance to land the fish he and his wife have. To date they’ve set 23 records with the International Game Fish Association in Dania, Fla., the nation’s record keeper. Among their accomplishments are a 58-pound bass caught on 8-pound line; 47-pound striper on 6; and a 41-pounder on 8 — the first two by Emme, the last by Al. The 41-pound record fish was beaten recently, prompting the two to set their sights on reclaiming it. They also have several records set in Key West waters thanks to the expertise of Capt. Wally. They include a 15-pound kingfish on 4-pound fly tippet, 21-pound kingfish on 6-pound tippet, 22-pound kingfish on 8-pound tippet and 24-pound blackfin tuna on 16-pound tippet.

Their joint plan for the near future is to both continue working at the business part-time, then retire in the winter of 2006-’07. With the aid of their Ford F-250 truck, they plan to leave the cold winter of the Northeast behind, tow the Emme Lou via Interstate 95, following in the wake of many snow birds, arriving at Key West to store the boat in a stack rack at Oceanside Marina until April, a dream shared by thousands of boaters.

You may find them along the Outer Reef at Watch Hill in the summer or maybe enjoying shrimp at the Rusty Anchor restaurant in the winter, checking the weather for the next time the Emme Lou will go hunting in the fish-rich, warm waters of Key West. Theirs will be a grand, great adventure.

I have no doubt more records will fall to the Golinskis. They are good at what they do, in love with each other, and the world just beyond the bow of the “new” Sea-Vee — headed off to enjoy all the good things life along the ocean offers.

Tim Coleman has been fishing New England waters for more than 30 years. He was managing editor of The Fisherman magazine's New England edition until 2001, and is now a freelance writer based in Rhode Island.