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Freshwater Faces: The Propeller Man

FF - Prop ManA resident of Lake Hopatcong for the last 13 years, Tom Milicia may best be known as the propeller man. He owns The Propeller Shop, located on Bertrand Island and specializes in new, used and the repair of, aluminum, stainless and bronze propellers. “I fix and sell propellers and winterize and shrink wrap boats in the fall,” he said.

Milicia worked in the field of electronics for 35 years and planned to retire on the lake. But when the PCs (personal computers) took over his field of expertise—the mini-computer—he packed up and left his Jersey Shore home and headed to the lake, where he opened his own business after training at a school in Naples, Florida, specializing in propeller work.

“Although I didn’t plan to be on the lake full time, living and working, I feel fortunate to be able to do it earlier than expected. I feel like I’m on a vacation every day,” Milicia said.

A single dad, Milicia raised his two boys to love and appreciate the lake and all that living in this area offers. When not working, he’s fishing or hunting…other areas he specializes in.

In the 1970s, Milicia participated in tournament fishing, and served as Tournament Director of the New Jersey Bass Federation in the 1980s. He has fished all over the North East and Canada and although Lake Hopatcong is by no means the biggest lake he has seen or fished, he said he has reeled in some good catches here on the lake.

“The fishing in this lake is not only good but is also edible. The fishermen are catching largemouth bass, walleye, and hybrid striped bass,” he said. “There are musky fish in this lake up to four feet long. Often they are seen dead floating in the water after they’ve been caught. Although the fishermen release them, the fish has exhausted itself and has no energy left to swim to deep water.”

Milicia believes fishing is a bit of a science, which is why tournament fishing is a money-making sport. He has used his own scientist hat to begin his latest endeavor, Bertrand Island Guide Service, www.BertrandIslandGuideService.com, helping all levels of fishermen and women to have a successful day of fishing on the lake.

“People leave the lake wondering why they didn’t catch anything. The problem isn’t the fish, but knowing how to catch the fish in the lake. The lake changes, and so do the fishing spots. What was a great spot in the summer isn’t in the fall. The water changes, too, and so do the needs of the fish. My guide service helps people catch the species they want to catch,” said Tom

According to Milicia, understanding the lake and necessary equipment needed is the key to successful fishing. Lake Hopatcong has rock bottoms, muddy bottoms, weed bottoms, and drop-off bottoms—all home to different species of fish, and often at different times of the year. Fish move to feed and to be cool. Ever wonder why the fishermen hover around docks? Fish hang out where it’s safe and dark so they can ambush prey…the fishing hook is mistaken as a meal to a fish. Full blooded, fish are sensitive to water changes such as temperatures and conditions. When either is not good, they move on.

Milicia prefers warm-weather fishing, but has caught some nice perch, pickerel, and wall-eye fish when the lake is frozen. He uses the same fishing guidelines for guided hunting excursions as well. He plans to expand the guide service to include step-by-step lessons in fishing to groups of would-be future fisher boys and girls of Lake Hopatcong.

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