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Anyone who ever subscribed to Field & Stream Magazine in the past is familiar with the name Ed Zern (1910-1994). Zern wrote a score of books including “To Hell with Fishing” (1945), “To Hell with Hunting” (1946), “How to Tell Fish from Fishermen: Or, A Plague on Both Your Houses” (1947), “How to Catch Fishermen” (1951), “Zane Grey’s Adventures in Fishing” (Editor, 1952), “Are Fishermen People?” (1955), “A Fine Kettle of Fish Stories” (1972) and “Hunting and Fishing from A to Zern” (1985). But he is probably best known for his zany column, “Exit Laughing.”
Zern was an advertising man and always had one of his cartoons complementing his column at the back of the magazine. He got a chuckle out of my story that when I was a youngster I read his column before I could read. I used to look at his cartoon first (even though it was the last page in the magazine), and then I tried to read the story, sounding out all those words that I did not know, as my dear mother had taught me. I think that is the way I learned to read (and perhaps why I still scan a magazine from back to front). This was all back in the early 1950s.
By the time I graduated college, I actually could read. On a flight to Buffalo, I read an Ed Zern story in an airline publication. In the story, Zern recalled that the most interesting question he was sometimes asked was, “If you had to fish only one body of water, which one would it be?” The answer, he wrote, was an easy one: “It would be the Upper Delaware River.”
Zern’s reasoning was that on the Upper Delaware, you could catch a greater variety of fresh-water game fish than in any single place (and his readers knew he had traveled and fished far and wide.) Before his move to the Florida Keys, he purchased a home on the Big Eddy in Narrowsburg, NY. Gib McKean and I happen to have assisted him in that transaction. I told him I had been so impressed with his story about the Upper Delaware River that in the early ‘70s I made a point to permanently locate in the Upper Delaware River corridor. Then I, too, would enjoy its many fishing opportunities.
It was with his signature grin that Zern told me that he had written a lot of stories, but did not remember the one that influenced me so greatly. Then with a wink, he confided to me that it sounded like a “darn good story,” and he was happy to have written it and glad I enjoyed it so much. He liked that I remembered it—and with typical Ed Zern humor—even if he didn’t.
The fish population of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River has been sampled numerous times through efforts of the National Park Service. Results of those surveys can be found online. The bottom line is that scores of game fish and non-game fish have been documented as being in our home waters. The box below gives you a list of the game fish.