As it happens from time to time, our area was visited by schools of very large bluefish in the fall of 2016. These gators are not only fun to catch as they explode on your lure and will chase down almost anything you throw at them, but will give you a real tussle when bringing them in. One morning during this run, I arrived at the beach before sunrise and parked next to the only other vehicle in the lot, a beautiful, shiny Silverado. Leaning on his open tailgate was a fisherman just pulling on his waders. I said hi and did the same on my tailgate, but having the more basic equipment, I hit the surf first. I waded out a good way, fished for a while, and as the sun rose, I spotted the splash of pencil popper off to my left. Looking back over my shoulder, I saw the gentleman from the parking lot knee deep in the surf, not as far out as I was.
I hooked several of those monster blues. Each time I walked them back to shore, I got an acknowledgment from my new “friend”. Some time later – now with the sun being well up – and the bite subsiding, I returned to the beach and chatted with my fellow surf caster as he rested by the seawall. We introduced ourselves, swapped a few stories, and walked back to our trucks, having spent a good morning in the surf.
Just before I left, Dick Mandeville came around my side of the truck and handed me the most beautifully crafted top-water lure I had ever seen. He said he enjoyed watching me catch those big blues and said he wanted me to try one of his lures.
We stayed in touch since that day in October, even when Dick was hospitalized with a serious bacterial infection this past year. He even bought a new, longer Airwave Elite rod to cast farther to hit those bluefish I was locked into that day.
After a lengthy recuperation, Dick recovered from his illness enough to attend our annual club Christmas banquet. And I’ll never forget the sight of him walking up to the raffle table with a handful of his amazing plugs to drop off for the raffle. No one asked him to do so – that was characteristically FishDoc. He was always willing to give, to donate to a cause, to be just one of the guys. But behind the scenes he worked tirelessly procuring the finest wood, turning it on his lathe, spraying and blending the paint, through-wiring the hardware, attaching triple split rings, and the best hooks to his unique and marvelous plugs.
Dick Mandeville lost his brave battle against that pernicious bug and left us on January 17th, 2018.
To those of us fortunate enough to still have his lures or have caught fish with them, he lives on and will be fondly remembered whenever one is clipped to our line.
Fish on, FishDoc!