When she talks about the smallmouth bass in Candlewood Lake, Connecticut, Andrea Nivolo (@TheBlondeAngler on Instagram) gets wistful. It’s been a long (long!) winter in New England.
“I’m an all-weather, all-year-long angler,” she says. “Nothing is really off limits. I was out in 20-degree-below-zero weather.”
Even so, Andrea is getting ready for open-water fishing.
“We were ice fishing before Christmas,” says the Connecticut native. “We got in six good weeks of ice fishing, caught some nice trout and largemouth. But then some weird 60-degree days in February melted the edges.”
Now Andrea — along with her closest fishing buddies, her husband (a game warden!) and brother — is chomping at the bit to get back out on Candlewood.
“It’s an incredible smallmouth fishery,” she says. “We got a nice day last week and were out catching four and five-pound smallies. The average on Candlewood is probably four or five pounds.”
Andrea is a big believer in fishing as a way of creating family bonds. She and her brother spent many childhood summer days on their parents’ 30-foot fishing boat. It was slipped in Snug Harbor, Rhode Island, from where the family fished saltwater tournaments on weekends.
After her parents sold the boat and built a new house, Andrea made the switch to freshwater. Even then, the family fished together.
Eventually, Andrea became an EMT, and then a paramedic. She spent sixteen years serving communities in emergency services. During that time, she relied on fishing to relieve some of the stress inherent in her line of work.
A few years ago, she and her brother started fishing together in a canoe that he’d recently purchased. Not only did fishing together make their sister-brother bond even stronger, it also fanned the flames of Andrea’s angling passion.
Meeting her husband, Jesse, an avid angler as well (they met at a Bass Pro Shop), also expanded Andrea’s fishing horizons. He’s an avid trout angler and she’s all about that bass (see what I did there?). She put him on his first smallmouth, and they chased cutthroat trout on their honeymoon last year.
But the stretch of the Snake River — near Jackson, Wyoming — that they wanted to fish was fly-only. Andrea had never fly-fished before. So, she got her first fly rod and reel on her honeymoon.
Andrea also managed to net a 20-inch cutthroat on the fly. As incredible as she found the experience to be, trout aren’t going to put her off smallmouth anytime soon.
“We have some amazing trout fisheries in Connecticut, as well,” she says. “But I’m passionate about smallmouth. Pound-for-pound, you won’t get a harder fighting freshwater fish. I love trout fishing for its simplicity. It’s relaxing. But nothing gets my blood rushing like bass.”
Andrea’s passion for fishing extends beyond recreational angling. She’s also quite active in the local fishing community.
A few years ago, Andrea was featured on the cover of the state fishing guide, which “opened up a lot of opportunities” for her. She is a brand amabassador for Pure Fishing and works with Berkley and Abu Garcia.
Andrea is also a C.A.R.E. (Connecticut Aquatic Resources Education) instructor. She visits classrooms and museums, and works at events like trout stocking programs, to get kids excited about fishing and connecting with nature.
“It’s important to get kids fishing at a young age,” she says. “It helps them get away from the TVs and video games and bring families together.”
She is also interested in getting more women involved in fishing.
“I want to help them feel important and less intimidated when they fish,” she says.
But still, fishing is a deeply personal experience for Andrea.
“Fishing is my church. It’s where I’m most happy,” she says. “I’m surrounded by the people closest to me — my husband, my brother — and sharing the experience of fishing with people I love and who also love the experience. It’s the most fulfilling thing.”
As important as the bonds that fishing builds are to her, Andrea also appreciates the serenity it offers — like a church.
“When I’m out on the water, focused on catching fish, everything falls away, and nothing else matters.”