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Fishing Becomes His Life's Work

November 13, 1996|PETE THOMAS

Larry Burgess, a lifelong fisherman from Hemet, says he will never again take the sport for granted.

No longer will he use the excuses all fishermen use from time to time--it's too early, I don't have the time, the right tackle, the money--to get out of a trip.

"When I worked full-time prior to the diagnosis, too much work and lack of time were my favorite cop-outs," he says.

The diagnosis, in 1991, changed Burgess' life, and his attitude. It gave him the ultimate excuse: "I have a brain tumor."

An inoperable one at that. One that left him with periodic seizures and unable to work.

One that made him realize how special his infrequent fishing trips with his sons had been.

After a lengthy rehabilitation period, Burgess, 50, is finally back on his feet. And he goes fishing whenever he gets the chance.

"If it wasn't for fishing, I don't think he would be alive now, I really don't," says his wife, Kathy. "For one thing, it gives him something to look forward to, and he has this wonderful array of friends who know and understand what he has been going through."

Burgess gives a first-hand account of his ordeal in a recent issue of "Let's Talk Hook-up," a fishing publication put out by the XTRA Sports radio show of the same name.

While recovering from four operations--before the determination was made that the tumor was inoperable--and the radiation treatments that followed, Burgess tuned into fishing programs whenever he could, enjoying the sport vicariously through others.

He dreamed of being able to get out again, to get his hooks into something lively again. Then he stopped dreaming.

"I wised up a little," he says. "I vowed it would take a reason to keep me from fishing!"

The brain tumor was no longer reason enough. Nor was the fact that his family's income had been reduced by 70%.

With some assistance, he began to make trips to easily accessible portions of local trout streams.

"Even when I didn't go fishing, I started doing fishing stuff," he says. "I built fishing rods for the veterans at the VA hospital; I helped out at the local fishing shops; I saved all my change, collected aluminum cans and prowled garage sales for repairable tackle to sell for fishing money. . . . These things have helped me to fish more this year than at any time in my life."

As word spread of Burgess' plight, offers of support began to come from others in the fishing community.

Tackle store owners chipped in with equipment. "Let's Talk Hook-up" listeners offered to take him fishing. Pete Gray and Marty Milner, the show's hosts, introduced Burgess to people in the industry, who offered to take him on trips he otherwise could not have afforded.

One of them was Ben Griffith of Morning Star Charters in San Diego, who invited Burgess and his 14-year-old son, Eddy, on a three-day trip off Baja, during which Burgess caught his first dorado--a 23-pounder that won him the jackpot.

He stashed that money for another trip he hopes to make in the near future.

"One last thing," he points out. "For the first time since the tumor was discovered in '91, my July MRI found no new growth--not a millimeter! And, after my last field of vision exam, the doctor used the word 'miraculous' to describe my near-fully restored visual field. I will see Eddy graduate. I will catch a 100-pound tuna!

"What about you? Are you really too work-ridden, too busy, too broke, too unfit to go fishing? I doubt it."


LAKE PERRIS--First trout plant of season has ignited the largemouth bass bite. Trout-like lures getting the bigger fish. Unconfirmed reports of a 15-pounder. Trout escaping hungry bass are being hooked by anglers using Power Bait and trolled lures at Sail Cove and outside marina. Bluegills biting on mealworms in marina.

CORONA LAKE--Warm weather made trout sluggish for last Friday's opener, and they will stay that way until the temperature drops. Largest so far, a 12-pound 6-ounce rainbow by Vince Argento, Anaheim, on a night crawler at dam.

SANTA ANA RIVER LAKES--Trout opener is Saturday and more than 10,000 pounds of fish--some in the 20-pound range--will be stocked beforehand. Three tagged fish will be worth $100 apiece Saturday, increasing by $25 each day they are not caught until Nov. 24. Anglers must have Power Bait in possession to be eligible for derby. Night fishing--from 5:30-11:30--will be offered on Saturdays.

ANAHEIM LAKE--Water level is receding and lake will close Friday. Meanwhile, kids 12 and under fish free and there is no limit on the number of trout and catfish that can be caught.

LAGUNA NIGUEL LAKE--Catfish biting on shrimp, chicken livers and mackerel. Lots of limits. Tom Myers, Garden Grove, and Bob Lackey, San Pedro, 20 catfish in four hours. Bass active during day, sluggish in mornings and afternoons. Crankbaits getting most.

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