NO DEDICATED local angler would dream of heading for the Jersey Shore to test his or her skills in the roiling Atlantic without checking out Lou Rodia's fishing column in the Daily News.
"Stormy weather halted fishing for a couple of days this past week, but the bay is alive with a variety of fish, such as fluke, weakfish, croakers, kingfish, spot, blue and blowfish," Lou wrote in his last column for the Daily News on June 20. "Most of them are small but taking baits."
Lou wrote his fishing column for the Daily News for 34 years. In saying goodbye to him, the paper wrote, "Our readers and advertisers have utilized Lou's reports for many years, weeks upon weeks, in planning their fishing parties as well as charting their fishing territory and waters.
"His expertise was unquestioned and his loyalty in providing accurate and current information proved to be a vital read each week."
Lou Rodia, retired public-affairs director for Cape May County, former newspaper reporter and photographer, respected instructor at fishing clinics in the Philadelphia area and an Army veteran of World War II, died Aug. 14. He was 88 and lived in Cape May Court House.
Lou not only told his readers what edible creatures were swimming in the sea, he also reported on what boats would be going out, who caught the most fish in previous outings, and any news about upcoming fishing events.
"Over the years, he probably turned out more amount of writing than any of us," Ben Callaway, Daily News sports editor in the 1960s and longtime outdoor writer, told the Press of Atlantic City.
Callaway, 86, called Rodia and himself the "Last of the Mohicans."
Callaway, who succeeded Larry Merchant as sports editor of the Daily News in 1961 and later wrote an outdoor column for the Inquirer, told of how grateful he was when he ran into Lou and learned about saltwater fishing.
"Coming from Colorado, except for trout fishing with a fly rod, I knew nothing about it," Callaway said. "So my first encounter with saltwater fishing at the Shore was when I met Lou at a tackle shop in Wildwood, and he was very, very helpful."
He said Lou was a "do-it-all kind of guy. He could rig baits, fight fish, work on the engines of boats — he could do everything. And he fished everything from sea bass to white marlin."
Lou's longtime companion, Eileen Abadie, said that despite growing up on the Jersey Shore, Lou never learned to swim. "Because when he saw saltwater, he put a fishing pole in it."
Before the advent of text messages and emails, Lou would dictate his columns over the phone. One of those who took on this chore in the early '80s was Barnett Wright, a former Daily News sports clerk and now a senior reporter for the Birmingham News.
"I looked forward to those Wednesday evenings when Lou would call on the telephone and the time we spent talking not only about his work, but events in the news," Wright said.
"During those conversations, I got to know an avid outdoorsman and wonderful person who was as passionate about his family and friends as he was about his work."
Wright and Daily News sports colleague Tom Mahon spent a day fishing with Lou. "Even though that was nearly 30 years ago, it is an experience I will forever treasure," Wright said.
In addition to writing about fishing, Lou relished in teaching others. He was an instructor at such events as the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series at the old Garden State Park, a Saltwater Fishing Workshop at Bucks County Community College and many others.
He also oversaw the annual Cape May County fishing contest, which featured prizes for the rarest fish caught. They included the African pompano, needlefish, cow-nosed ray, cusk and porcupine among other exotic species.
As a public-affairs official with Cape May County, Lou would travel widely to encourage tourists and sports people to come to the Jersey Shore. He retired in 1988 after 25 years.
Lou grew up in Cape May County. He served in the Army in the European Theater in World War II. He then attended Temple University.
He was a reporter, photographer and columnist for the weekly Wildwood Leader in 1952. He also worked for the Cape May County Gazette for five years before taking the county job.
"Our department of tourism was really created by Lou Rodia," said Gerald Thornton, Cape May County's freeholder director. "He was such a driving force behind tourism in the county of Cape May."
Lou is survived by two sons, William and Louie. His wife, the former Ines Bada, died in 1982.