Killing and Gutting the Fish

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Dad (David) and Ellie with her steel head that she didn’t want to touch

On Monday morning my lake trout fishing charter client Garth and his wife, along with their 7 year old bull-dog, showed up for a morning of trolling on Lake Superior. As we set some lures out for salmon and steel head, I got a call from a Maryland family who wanted to get out for some trout that very same afternoon. Lucky for them, I had the afternoon un-scheduled, so I said “Sure, I can take you out, but I can’t talk to you now, I’ll have to call you back later.” “How much later do you think?” He asked. “Give me an hour or so,” I answered.

Later, I called him back… I think it turned out to be more than an hour, but he was patiently waiting for my call. “I won’t have a deck-hand, with the short notice, but I’d be happy to take you out anyway and maybe you can help out where needed,” I suggested to David. “Sure, no problem, just let me know what to do.”

I’m sure there are many you former clients and friends who would be happy to come along for an evening on the water, but how do I find you at a time like this… it was Monday morning at about 9 am, I had fish underneath me that had to be caught (which had my focus at the moment). “SORRY DAVE, I can’t talk now, gotta go, we have a double header right now!” I hung up, dropped my phone, almost overboard and grabbed the net.

“Slow down, don’t horse them in, you have to play them out!” I reminded Garth and his wife. (gosh, my mind is failing me on names.) We quickly landed the 2 lake trout, took some pictures and got them on ice in the cooler. Later, I’m not sure how long, I remembered that I left David hanging out there somewhere between a couple of trout. I called him back to give directions and establish an afternoon departure time. The morning charter with the 3 trolls (from below the big Mac…no offense, David, but the bull-dog could pass as a real troll) ended at 1:05 pm with only 4 lake trout and some misses. I guess we wasted too much time going after surface fish like coho salmon and steel head before we went to deeper waters after the trout.

After a quick fillet job and well-wishes to the bow hunter and his vegetarian wife, I had only 12 minutes to make some p & j’s. As I gulped down some Gevalia coffee with a single bite of my sandwich, I grabbed a few rods to head over to my other boat down the road – the “Fishin’ Mission”. (my morning charter was on the smaller “Helm-n-Buoys” and the Maryland family wanted the BIG boat.)


Mom and Ellie with a double header lake trout
She won’t touch these either!


David, the carpenter, beat me there by 22 seconds, and not seeing anyone there, wondered if they had the wrong place – my sign had been blown down. After abbreviated introductions, I proceeded to prepare my baby for departure. Eight minutes later, as she backed away from the dock, I remembered that the young ladies (girls of 17, 12 and 11) needed life jackets. Lucky for me, the coasties (United States Coast Guard) were nowhere in sight, because I was briefly in violation of section 6 article 2. The coasties show no mercy for forgetfulness – they’d write me up a ticket in a heartbeat. “Here, please put these on… I hope they fit ok,” I said, as I handed the 3 girls life jackets.

Soon, young Julia landed a nice little (good “eater size” as we say) lake trout and older sis, Ellie asked, rather suggested, that we release it. She was feeling sorry for the poor fish. “No, we have to keep some for grandpa,” dad says.

“So I’ll have to tell my friends that we killed the fish!?” Ellie states (more of a statement, than a question.)

“Well, if the next one is small, we’ll let it go,” he replies.

I proceed to put it to sleep with a good knock between the eyes with a 24 inch maple baseball bat. “Oh, gross,” says Ellie, “I’m going downstairs so I don’t have to watch you clean it.”

The next lake trout was small, so we release it, but the next 5 are nice “keepers.” Among them is a really nice fighting steel head, and we loose a couple of coho.

The tender hearted Ellie is excitedly involved in catching every fish, but as soon as it comes time to “clunk” it on the head or gut it out, she’s scooting down to the cuddy cabin so she doesn’t have to watch. “Are you done yet?” she hollers from below.

So it went… Ellie would catch another fish and her dad, mom or sister would net it, then she’d go into the cabin to get away from the “gross” activity.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall when she tells her friends all about it.


Ellie and Family with the “Keepers,” all “Good Eaters!”
NOBODY wanted to get their hands slimy for photos, but they’re all happy!


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About Brian Helminen

Brian is the owner and Captain of Sand Point Charters, LLC. He also owns and operates Designotype Printers, Inc. with his wife, Margaret. They have a cottage on Lac La Belle that can be rented by the week in the summertime.

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