Before Mickey Melchiondo Jr. became Dean Ween, one half of the eclectic experimental rock band Ween, he had a wholesome, Leave It To Beaver-style hobby: fishing. He began fishing as a kid in Yardley, PA, the town he lived in before moving to New Hope, PA, the birthplace of his band. Dean would fish at a big pond in the center of town, using worms and corn as bait, and when he got a bit older, he moved on to ocean fishing with his dad. “I was always really, really into it,” he says.
Dean kept his hobby alive through his decades with Ween, but he says he became more passionate about it in the last five or 10 years, passionate enough to start Mickey’s Guide Service. The Red Cross-certified, licensed Pennsylvania fishing guide Capt. Mickey Melchiondo, along with his first mate Randy, leads people on freshwater and saltwater fishing trips out of New Hope, PA, and Belmar, NJ, whenever he’s not busy touring with Ween. When Dean spoke with CMJ, he was preparing for a 4 a.m. fishing trip the next morning, followed by the start of a Ween tour a day later. “The band is a completely different set of hours,” he says. How does he cope? “I take a lot of naps, let’s put it that way. I wake up completely disoriented … I can take a four-hour nap and have a horrible nightmare, wake up not know whether it’s day or night.”
The captain has shared some advice for fishing newbies below. And although we asked, he would not divulge whether it was Gene Ween or another band member who has been blacklisted from fishing trips.
Tips For Amateur Anglers
by Dean Ween
Fishing has been a huge passion of mine that pre-dates Ween back to when I was around 8 years old. A lot of hobbies have come and gone for me throughout the years, but that’s not the case with me when it comes to fishing. It is a constant learning process, and different techniques must be applied depending on where, when and what you’re going after. For anyone looking to get into the sport, here are five basic tips to get you started.
1. Put In Your Time.
I can’t stress this enough. You can’t catch fish from your sofa. It requires sacrifice of time and sleep and comfort. Fish like to feed at first light, and in a lot of cases they prefer lousy weather because it affords them security. If you can see the fish they can see you too—low light conditions, overcast skies and cloud cover usually make for a better bite. When the alarm clock goes off at 4:30 and it’s freezing cold and drizzling outside, get dressed anyway and start the coffee machine. One of my bandmates loves to fish, but he cancels on me 85 percent of the time we’re scheduled to go. Now he doesn’t get as many invites from me.
2. Steady As She Goes.
Let the rod and the reel fight the fish. A lot of novice fishermen get on my boat, and when they hook into their first trophy fish they absolutely freak out and start horsing the fish around violently. Stay tight to the fish, keep your rod tip high, relax and apply steady pressure. Most fish will tire out eventually after a few runs, and then they end up coming to the net in a timely manner where they can be
released unharmed. Yes, you wanna take the fight to the fish but not like some goddamned animal.
3. Match The Hatch.
The fish are feeding on something, whether it’s insects, smaller baitfish, crayfish, whatever. Figure out what it is, and then give them that or a reasonable imitation, whether it’s a lure, soft plastic, fly, whatever.
Learn three or four good knots that you can tie in the dark quickly without being able to see. Practice them and master them. Losing a fish due to gear failure or angler error is completely unacceptable, especially if the next fish happens to be your fish of a lifetime. Shit happens sometimes, but don’t let it be your fault. I don’t trust anyone’s knots on my boat unless they were tied by me or my first mate, Randy. Look these knots up online, and they will work for most fishing applications: improved clinch knot, Palomar knot, perfection loop, double uni-knot.
5. Look For Good Or Abnormal Structure.
Many freshwater and saltwater fish will congregate around structure and use it either as habitat or as an ambush point for feeding. Some examples of this in a river would be docks, stumps, fallen timber, rock points or submerged rock piles. In the ocean it could be a reef, a wreck, a cut in a sandbar, a current line or the tip of a jetty. This is true in everything from largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing in a pond or river to striped bass or bottom fishing in the ocean.
Lastly, you get what you pay for in a rod and reel. There is no need to go crazy, but spending $150 should get you a reliable setup that will last you a lifetime and come through for you if and when you tie into a monster. I’ve seen many monster bluefish and striped bass lost in the suds because the angler was using a rod-and-reel combo purchased at Wal-Mart for $30.