Ralph Knisell, 83, of Wenonah, a former outdoors writer who built custom fishing rods, died Friday at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital after suffering a massive stroke.

Mr. Knisell wrote columns on fishing and hunting for the Gloucester County Times and filed weekly for Fisherman magazine. He also broadcast reports every Saturday on WSNJ-AM (1240) in Bridgeton, N.J.

"For the past 28 years or so, I don't think he ever missed a program unless he was in the hospital or something was wrong," said George Moore, host of the station's

Sportsman's Hotline

show.

The Delaware Bay fishing expert was a popular figure in the sports community, Moore said.

Known as "the Reel Doctor," Mr. Knisell built rods and repaired fishing equipment in his spare time. He kept up on fishing news by making regular calls to local fishing captains and bait shops, and by attending boating and fishing conventions.

Just before he died, family members took his favorite rod to the hospital and put it in his hands, said Mr. Knisell's wife of 52 years, Rachel.

"He used to go out in his fishing boat every Saturday," she said. "And in the last year or so, when he wasn't well and couldn't go out in his boat, he'd surf-fish from the beach at Fortescue."

Mr. Knisell graduated from Collingswood High School, then worked as a machinist at Curtis Publishing Co. in Philadelphia from about 1957 to 1969. After that, he launched his career writing outdoors columns and doing radio shows.

He and his wife lived all of their married life in Wenonah, where they devised the popular "Kent Island Killer" fishing lure. They sang in the choir at Wenonah Methodist Church, and Mr. Knisell served as music director for several years.

Moore said Mr. Knisell helped him organize the annual Cumberland County Weakfish Tournament, now in its 26th year. His death is "a big loss to the fishing community," Moore said.

In additon to his wife, Mr. Knisell is survived by his sons, Harry and Richard; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Friends may visit at 10 a.m. today at Wenonah United Methodist Church, 105 E. Willow St. Services will be at 11 a.m.

Contact staff writer Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or jhefler@phillynews.com.