Anticipating a lake trout charter fishing trip to Stannard Rock with nurses Mike and Becky, I sent text and Facebook messages, called, and talked to my kids, relatives and fishing buddies about coming along on a trip to help out as my deckhand. Even though I was offering to pay someone for this day job (read between the lines – fishing trip), I found no takers. Sure, this fishing trip was to be on a Monday, and no, I wasn’t offering to pay as much as their regular day job pays, but understand that this was a trip that people PAY BIG BUCKS to experience.
These clients, and many others, come from far and wide to get to the “Rock” so they can have a chance to see the lighthouse, fish there, and have a good chance of landing a big lake trout. The numbers and size of the native trout are among the best in the world, with fish above 20 lbs a fairly common occurrence. They are native fish – not planted – and have the most awesome orange colors on the fins and dark skinned sides. Suffice it to say some fishermen dream of making this trip for years for the chances it offers.
Stannard Rock is about 38 miles off shore from Bete Gris and it’s a reef marked by a lighthouse that was built in the mid 1800’s. From Marquette, it’s 50 miles north into Lake Superior. There is one rock that breaks the surface, only 20 feet long and a few feet above the lake surface. The rest of the reef is underwater and runs 4 miles in a Northeast to Southwest direction. Because of the distance, there is no commercial fishing there – it’s only fished by sport fishermen, so the fish are more abundant and grow larger.
Back to my story: On Saturday night, I looked at the weather forecast for Monday and it was looking to be to windy for the long trip. However, Sunday’s weather was looking good according to the weathermen, so I was lucky enough to reschedule with my vacationing clients, but I still needed a deckhand. Thanks to Sunday being a non-work day for most people, and modern technology (being connected with a smart phone) I soon had a deckhand.
Fast forward to the next morning: The weather forecast for the “Rock” was still really good and the boat was ready to go. Bill, my hired hand, showed up promptly at 6:21 am and before 7, we were underway with Mike and Becky. As we idled away from the the dock toward the channel, I had to navigate with radar (my eyes in the fog), since Lac La Belle was completely enveloped in fog. Shortly afterward, on Lake Superior, the fog completely lifted, to expose a flat lake.
“It’s a nice day to be on the Big Lake,” I commented to the crew, “Not too cold and waves of 1 to 2 feet in the forecast.” I set my course at 98 degrees and hammered down.
Twenty two minutes later, as we passed the 10 mile mark of our trip and got out into open water, the wind wasn’t looking too friendly anymore. We were bouncing along on 3 to 4 foot waves off our starboard stern. I quietly told Bill, who was riding next to me, “We aren’t going to the Rock, but there’s a good fishing spot a mile from here.”
“You’re right, it’s not a good day to get to Stannard Rock,” he replied.
Less than a minute later, I idled down to let my clients know our change of plans. I’m sure they were wondering at that point anyway, so I think they were more relieved than disappointed that we wouldn’t make it to the “Rock”. “We’ll set a few lines and troll over a spot that I have marked just ahead, then we’ll go back toward shore to fish calmer waters.”
The deck of the boat was pitching so much that we had to hang on just to move about, but soon we had 2 lake trout in the cooler from that spot.
It was too rough to stay here and fish effectively any longer, so we pulled our lines and went to the next closer “spot” of mine. Fourteen minutes later, we were trolling through my other secret spot. Bill was able to steer us through it several times, each time picking up trout, before we pulled our lines with a total of 11 lake trout landed, after which, we tried trolling for salmon nearer shore. Total catch for the day, when were were done – 13 lake trout and 1 salmon – not too bad for a day that didn’t go as we had planned. Thanks to Mike and Becky for not insisting on going all the way and thanks for Bill for his services.