“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles.” - Doug Larson
“Bike or fish? After a week of rain, storms and flash flooding, I decided the fatbike could stay in the stable and trails have a chance to dry out. Singletrack would have to wait. An invitation to ride the rollers on Lake Michigan in search of coho salmon just could not be turned down. Long time friend Kris Davis and I met many years ago when we shared the same mountain bike trails. While he still has a passion for bikes, the desire to pull up big fish from the depths seems to have become his calling in life. “Captain” Kris had the good fortune to find a great boat a year or so ago-one capable of handling the deep waters of Superior and Lake Michigan. Although he’d fished the Great Lakes in a smaller craft, the Bayliner, loaded with fishing gear, (Kris began to collect in earnest) was perfect for the task and a beauty to fish from.
Raised on small lakes and small fish of northern Wisconsin, tackling immense bodies of deep water with tons of gear is a new thing for me. I enjoy river fishing salmon on the east coast of Wisconsin in the fall, but it’s a whole other thing to be miles off shore at great depths coaxing fish to bite. Luckily, Kris has the experience, knowledge and gear enough to take me under his wing from time to time to share his passion.
Not having a home slip on Lake Michigan, a trip to fish for Kris involves trailering the 5000 pound boat 140+ miles from Loganville Wisconsin -no easy task, and then finding a suitable harbor and launch. Trusting in his ability, we headed to Milwaukee, where Kris felt the coho fishing may be decent as water temps warmed. The previous week in Kenosha, he and his angling kids limited out in a few hours. He does his homework, scouting water temps off shore, checking fishing reports and finally, just jumping in and motoring out a mile or two, following his intuition. It usually is spot on.
I’m a rookie, along for the ride for the most part and just nod in agreement as he talks about water depth, surface temps, wind direction, sun or clouds and the color of his latest fly and treble hood “coho candy” lure. I have no idea what will work. It takes a good half hour to get all the gear in the water and he has a system for it- Downriggers first (for Kings, of course), then close in Dipsy dos and lastly shallow running planer boards. By days end, I did okay at rigging the Dipsys and planer boards, but there seems to be more of an art to setting downriggers just so.
It all worked and we limited out in an hour. Not really, and as Kris commented it would have been a bummer to work so hard to be on the water and done so quickly. In actuality, we worked hard to get the ten fish, all beautiful chunky cohos and the first King (Chinook) of the year-a beast that beat my arms up pretty good! Six hours later the increasing rollers and skiddish movement of one the planer boards made it hard to tell we had a fish on, but something didn’t look right and on checking, sure enough, the final fish was brought in and we started stowing gear.
The entire trip then reverses itself-the boat is loaded, poles secured below and tackle packed back up. The extra step this time was cleaning fish and the bright pink filets were just beautiful. The drive halfway across the state back home is always longer, but there was a good sense of satisfaction knowing it was worth it. A successful day on the big water. As Kris put it when we were first cruising out of the MKE harbor, “Ahhhhh, this is where it’s at and so good to be out here. Fish or not, it’s going to be a great day.” I couldn’t have agreed more.