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A Fisherman's Spirit´┐Ż
By Rich Johnson

The day starts with good-natured kidding of friends on the Great South Bay. Fun and laughs, some fishing, swimming, diving and within seconds one’s entire life changed. How about a senior in high school out for a night of fun and within seconds a DWI accident changed his life forever? Both young men end up in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives. What does this have to do to with fishing?

I took a trip last week on the Oakdale based charter boat Hydro Therapy, owned by Mike Cirovolo. Mike was the first young man in this story injured in the diving accident. An avid fisherman who loved the water all his life, after his accident he felt the need to get back on the water to help his rehab, his spirit and get back whatever normalcy he could recover after the shocking accident six years ago…fishing was the main ingredient.

Once back into fishing, it was scary being lifted over the gunwales of charter boats or his friends’ private boats, so he researched and asked boat manufacturers to custom build him a boat for his wheelchair specific needs. He found such a manufacturer in Parker Boats. It was on this boat I had one of the most interesting trips and conversations of my life.

Joining me on the trip was good friend and retired high school principal, Robin Calitri and a good friend of his Peter Hawkins, the young man injured in the car crash 19 years ago as a senior in high school. Mike Cirovolo stayed at the tackle shop to tend to business while his brother Anthony was at the helm for our trip. Tony is a licensed captain running the boat on a full time basis with first mate Travis. All of this was being filmed for my television show to be seen this Father’s Day weekend.

We spoke of the circumstances leading to both men’s new lives, the high school fishing club Robin started eight years ago for physically and emotionally challenged students to mingle with able bodied kids and the love of fishing all we all shared, no matter where we were in our lives. While Peter is not as fanatical about fishing as the rest of us, he thoroughly enjoyed the day and camaraderie of his fellow fishermen. By the way, Peter is a celebrity in his own right having won 10 of the last 11 Long Island marathons! We shared laughs, stories and went through the day catching a variety of fish with sea robins, sundials, fluke, bluefish and shad all sharing in our day.

It was an eye opening experience for me and will be for anyone who watches the show. It was obvious after meeting Mike and fishing with Peter, it’s the character and mettle inside that makes a fisherperson and not the size or numbers of the fish caught. Contact the Hydro Therapy charter boat at 631-981-0095 or on the web at You can see a clip from this TV show or buy the tape by going to the 2001 Video Clips page in the site.


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