“Wow, that’s 3 fish in less than an hour and all different species. Now we need a lake trout and we’ll have four!” I shouted as Jeff landed a 6 lb brown trout. The first fish was a Coho, then a King (Chinook) Salmon. I could hardly believe our luck, especially since we started fishing at 2 pm and this was around 3 in the afternoon, and the general belief is mornings are always better fishing.
The morning before was similar, as we had literally bobbed around on bumpy waters for 5 hours with experienced retired charter captains Bob and his 90 year old dad, captain Bob. They ended their 2nd day on the water with a grand total of 16 fish – 5 species over the course of 2 days.
Now, this afternoon, was shaping up to be even better with 3 fish in the box in a short time – AND they were all different. I had a party of 6 on-board, (Kate, Nate, Jeff, Chris, Todd and Dave along with my deck-hand son Andy. They had wanted to fish at Stannard Rock, but our schedules didn’t work out, so here we were close to the Keweenaw Peninsula, in a secret spot, with highly classified baits, catching fish.
“Fish on,” I shouted, as my port-side down rigger rod straightened up. Chris was up next, and he was ready on the deck, but didn’t see anything that looked like a strike. Strikes on a downrigger do the opposite of what most people expect – instead of a bouncing rod, it goes from bent over pretty hard to a straighter position. Andy springs to action and grabs the rod right in front of Chris, winds in some slack line, then hands it over for him to fight the fish. I stand by with this stupid pleased grin on may face because I just know it’s a lake trout – our 4th fish and 4 different species.
After netting the trout, I think to myself, we’ve had a few four-species days out here on Superior, but we never had the first four fish as different species. My thoughts go to “what other species have we been catching that we didn’t get yet today?” All I can think of at that moment is a steelhead and a pink salmon and the day before we had caught both. I decide to speed up our troll, just slightly, since steelhead bite better at a little faster troll.
A period of in-activity follows and the crew settles in for a bite to eat. I get out my coffee, then there’s a fish pulling on the starboard lead-core planer board. Before anyone can get to it, the fish gets off. “Better reel it in to check the lure, and maybe sharpen the hooks” I say to Andy as he looks at me. Soon he has the line re-set, 30 feet off to the side and 150 feet behind the board. After another lull, we take out some smoked fish to pass around, then the dypsy diver starts making noise as a fish pulls out line. Once again he’s gone as quickly as he hit, so we re-set the diver after checking the lure. Four fish caught and a couple misses tells us the fish are actively feeding, and my hope is they keep it up. Even if they don’t, I can relax now since the day is already a success, but I’m still hoping for that steelhead to round out the five species.
Soon we are rewarded with a steelhead doing acrobats at our stern, as he’s hooked and trying to shake it out. “Often,” I say “The first thing you notice when a steelhead hits, is the fish jumping out of the water. He’s got a hook in his mouth and he’s trying to shake it out.” Just as suddenly, a down-rigger rod straightens up (which nobody notices, except me, because they are all watching the steelhead fight) and, after I set the hook on him, we have a double header going.
Shortly, Kate has the net ready to land the steelhead and she scoops him up just seconds in front of a second lake trout from the downrigger. “There’s our 5th species as the steelhead hit the net before the lake trout!” I shout. What a day so far and we aren’t done yet.
Things slowed down a little for the rest of the trip, but we added 4 more fish to the mix to make a total of 10. With an hour left Jeff says “It would be nice to get 2 more fish, then we’d have 2 each, but even if we didn’t, it was a great day!” The weather was warm, maybe even on the hot side, the lake was calm. Everyone was in a good mood and we caught another fish, but we still didn’t have Jeff’s goal of 2 each. Finally, we brought in all the lines, one or two at time, but left the downriggers until last. As I pulled the last downrigger line and began to wind in, I discovered there was a fish on it, so I shouted “Fish ON” as loudly as I could. I looked over my shoulder at everyone sheltered from the sun under the canvass top. They all looked at me, but everyone thought I was just joking… I’m not sure why, as I’m a serious kind of guy and never crack a joke (sort of like the little boy crying wolf) “Ok, whatever,” I said, “if you don’t believe me, I’m not offended.” A few seconds later… “Who wants to net the fish?” Then, when the net was taken down and the fish was in it, they believed me. Our 12th fish. Good day!