Monday, August 27, 2012

Salmon of the "Michi gami"

 "Soon after I embraced the sport of angling I became convinced that I should never be able to enjoy it if I had to rely on the cooperation of the fish."  Sparse Grey Hackle


Although I’ve spent a fair amount of time wetting a line in Lake Michi gami (Michigan) and a few of it’s tributaries in pursuit of King Salmon, I finally had a chance recently to get out in the open waters and really fish them.  Not that shore fishing isn’t real, as noted in earlier posts, I love the fall run, but something about being out, way out in the big water makes it feel more like big game fishing.  Good friend Kris Davis and I had been playing messaging tag all spring and summer it seemed in order to get me out on his beautiful boat in Kewaunee.  I cringed every time he’d contact me and tell me of the banner catches they’d had and for some reason or another I couldn’t take advantage of his invitations.

Finally the stars aligned and I could make it over while he spent a couple days on the water vacationing with his young kids (who are following in dads footsteps as skilled fishers it seems).  A quick trip To White Lake on the way over for an excellent mountain bike ride, then onto Kewaunee very early to make the 4 mile cruise out into the lake.  I know nothing of this deep water fishing, so Kris kindly started working on setting poles out at varying depths with all sorts of glowy lures and flashers. Me?  I just stayed out of the way and followed his directions of how to get line out without creating a tangled mess.  It’s a pretty amazing thing to see the rods out and somehow it all works to keep everything from criss-crossing and hopefully attractive to hungry fish.  The amount of gear this fishing requires is pretty staggering, but like all fishermen, it’s sometimes about just the name of the lure or superstitions of color, pattern or just the teeth marks of old battered baits.  Kris had no shortage of any of those.

Boats joining us out in the water looked like little red, green and white fireflies marching in the dark up and down a ridge of 150 foot water, averaging 45 to 55 degrees.  Apparently, everyone felt some fish may be lurking at those depths, while some could be shallow, while yet others in medium waters looking for food.  It didn’t make a lot of sense to me (yet) but Kris had all the bases covered.  Action was slow and soon the sunrise over the lake, (which I never tire of seeing) gave way to full daylight and a complete change-over of gear to new flashy lures.  Lines are pulled in, baits quickly changed (some “sure killers”) and set back out-a seemless system it seemed.  A bobbing planer board soon signaled “FISH ON!” which I learned causes all kinds of commotion in the boat and is about as exciting as it can be.  Hours watching the arching poles do nothing is quickly forgotten as Kris hands me the rod.  He had warned me about this pole, and I love his quote: “Ten yds per color x 6 colors = 60 yds plus 100' of leader 180' + 15 lbs of angry chinook salmon = sore arms every time!”  True words….I wondered if that fish would ever make it to the boat or if my arms would hold up.  He coached me on how to bring the fish up the “alley” formed by all the other lines and hopefully keep this determined fish from tangling gear.  It worked and soon the silver fish was home in the cooler.

It seems that when there is a lull in the action, (and this day the fish seemed to be on vacation), lures and presentations are at some point changed in that search for the perfect bait or set up.  Roasted garlic tuna placed into a bait to provide stink-um, was worth a try.  Yep it worked, and soon another very large fish was on-providing some huge runs of line, worrying me that the reel just might run out!  Sadly, after a long battle and about to be netted, the bruiser flipped his head at the start of another run and the bait landed empty beside the boat.  Dang!

We had noticed that the number of boats patrolling the waters had dwindled and most of the commercial charters long gone.  We kept at it for a while longer with the kids on board providing “entertainment.”  At some point we started bringing in lines and stowing gear and began the trek back to the harbor in the distance.  We had taken another fish during the day, so salmon filets would return home with me, one of my favorite fish to cook.  Kris was perhaps disappointed with the action this day, but I was just happy to be out on the water, and as he commented, fishing takes ones mind off work and all the other worries that seem to be left onshore when lowering the lures into the depths.  I found that to be very true and can’t wait for the next chance to feel the burn in the arms hear the call of “Fish on!”

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