Carmen George

‘Captain Danny’ surprises families with Shaver Lake fishing trips

On the shores of Shaver Lake there lives a fishing angel.

And every so often, from the perch of his mountain home overlooking the water, “Captain Danny” Waters swoops down to bestow blessings of unsolicited boat rides as a jolly fishing guide who will make you laugh and send you home with a free bucket of cleaned, iced fish.

There was a Captain Danny sighting a little over a week ago by Steve Franco of Clovis, sons Jacob and Jordan, and Jacob’s friend, Andres Lopez.

The four had just finished breakfast Aug. 21 after a morning of scouting for deer on a hunting trip when they decided to do a little fishing. They parked alongside the road below Waters’ home and were putting hooks on their lines when a voice emerged from the trees behind them.

“Hey, I’m going to take you guys fishing.”

The 71-year-old fisherman was an instant favorite with the boys.

“He said, ‘You want to go fishing, you want to catch fish?’ And my boys said, ‘Yes!’” Franco recalls. “And he said, ‘You see that white boat? Meet me down there. Don’t bring poles, don’t bring nothing.’”

Within minutes, they were in Waters’ pontoon boat. He let them use his fishing poles and bait, gave them iced drinks and drove them around his cove for five hours. They caught 17 fish.

He showed 14-year-olds Jacob and Andres how to thread a worm, use a downrigger and jerk the line just right to hook the fish. One of the fish they caught was 17 inches long.

Jacob says Captain Danny inspired him.

“He was courteous to others. … He had a big heart,” Jacob says. “Because if I had a boat, I probably never would have thought to ask people to go fishing. He treated others really good.”

The compassion is matched with an easy confidence. Waters says fish literally “jump” into his boat.

“I never ask them to go fishing,” he says. “I always ask them if you want to go catch fish.”

For the past 10 to 15 years, he’s taken around 15 families fishing on his boat every summer.

Putting words to why he fishes isn’t easy.

“I have no idea,” Waters says cheerfully. “I caught so many.”

But what motivates him to take people out to catch fish is more clear.

He likes watching fathers “happy as a lark” as their children reel in fish. (Or watching the younger ones, like 6-year-old Jordan, watching gleefully and touching fish as they swim around Waters’ live well, a tank built into his boat.)

His boat rides are about helping people create happy memories.

Waters didn’t get into fishing until he was an adult. The retired train conductor grew up in Calwa in southeast Fresno. His family didn’t have a boat. He knows how it feels to fish only from the shore.

He and his wife split their time between Shaver Lake and a home in Fresno. Waters descends to the flatlands each week to go golfing, then heads back up to his mountain paradise.

“Hey, lucky to be here,” Waters says of his lakeside home. “Somebody else could have had this house. Somebody else could have had my boat dock.”

When asked if he’ll ferry families around the lake indefinitely, Waters chokes up.

“I really like it,” he says tearfully.

In a world where so many people are preoccupied with the stress of their own lives, Franco says, Waters’ generosity is a breath of fresh air.

“He makes anyone’s day a great day.”

Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge