Column: A fishy tale from vacationI caught the biggest fish of my life five times last week. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t by skill, either. More pure dumb luck, I think.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
I caught the biggest fish of my life five times last week. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t by skill, either. More pure dumb luck, I think.
The Beau and I took our vacations last week. In the past, we’d headed up to my parents’ cabin on Staples Lake in Wisconsin for a week of fishing, campfires and sun, but they sold the place over the winter.
But I have this friend, Roger. He’s a retired linotype machinist and his wife, Kathy, is a retired nurse. They have a lovely home on Island Lake near Northome. and Rog has been asking us to come up and go fishing for a couple of years. This year, we took him up on his offer.
Staples Lake is a smaller lake. We didn’t drop the anchor much, but instead we moved to one side of the lake and floated happily along with the current, catching whatever came along. Mostly, that meant we were pulling in crappies, largemouth bass and sunfish. I was okay with that. For the most part, we were happy to bring in a stringer of panfish.
What’s more, I didn’t have to touch the leeches. And I could use my closed-face reel.
Apparently, everything I had ever learned about fishing is null and void on bigger lakes, especially where bigger fish reside. As we headed down to the fishing boat — a real fishing boat, not a pontoon — The Beau informed Roger that I didn’t touch leeches. I can’t repeat what Roger said.
When we got to the boat Rog had his fishing poles all lined up, ready to go. Not a single closed reel in sight. Huh. I have to touch leeches and use one of these open-spooled reels? It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.
The Beau caught two walleye that first outing, one of which was 24 inches long. I succeeded in losing about a dozen leeches because I couldn’t figure out how to gracefully cast and not throw the whole rod into the lake.
And so it went. I caught a few perch here and there on Tuesday. It made me feel good to catch something, though watching The Beau and Rog pull in the smallmouth bass and walleye, I did start to wonder what it was like to catch something that big.
I found out Tuesday evening. We weren’t having much luck where we were, so we were going to move. I started reeling in, and something on the other end pulled back, and hard. All of a sudden, I had my reel close up to my chest and was trying to keep the tip of the rod up in the air. It was bent over. When I had a second, I looked into the lake. Sure enough, there was a fish, and it wasn’t just a perch.
My first smallmouth bass wasn’t any record-breaker. But it was the biggest fish I’d ever caught, and it was a keeper. Game on.
I caught a few more perch, and a few more bass. It wasn’t until Thursday, though, when I caught my first walleye. Somehow, I managed to snag that one much the same way I had my first smallmouth bass: reeling in so we could move. By this time, I was getting the hang of this new fishing style. I managed to snag a 15-inch walleye, which is a keeper on Island Lake.
Not long after, I pulled in a 21-inch walleye. Then Roger hooked into something that was putting up a heck of a fight. He handed me the rod and told me to reel in.
So there I was. I was standing up. I had this rod in my hands, elbows tight against my body, and I was holding on for dear life. Rog and The Beau were both shouting something about “Extend your arms!” All I could yell back was “I can’t!” because I was certain this thing was going to pull me into the water and I’d be water skiing within seconds. I expected the line to snap at any minute. I realized the insane giggle I heard was coming from me, and me alone.
And then I was lifting a gargantuan smallmouth bass from the lake. The Beau got the net under the fish. It was 19 inches long, but I have no idea how much it weighed. Rog just kept calling it “a hog”. We took a couple pictures and released it. Eegads.
I know my biggest catches aren’t as big as a lot of other folks have had. Still, I’m pretty proud of myself.
I’ll tell you what I do have down, though — fryin’ those fillets up.