Skunks? No, but Learning How to Troll With Down-Riggers

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Author Bill and Fishing Buddy Phil


Mike, from Poland, Not in my story, but fished with him the next day.

Author of university improvement books, Bill, contacted me recently about trolling for Lake Trout. He had never fished on Lake Superior before, so he and his life-long buddy, Phil made the drive from Rhinelander, WI (after flying from Massachusetts) and got dropped off at the Lac la Belle marina for a day on the water.

Expecting to find some salmon close by the channel, I set lines and trolled the drop-off, which proved to be un-productive, so we pulled our lines to go out deeper for trout. We picked up a couple on some structure, but really didn’t find much until fishing near Bare Bluff in 120 feet of water where we caught a king salmon and a bunch of lake trout.

“You can net this fish,” I said to Bill as his partner brought in the third lake trout. I always net the first fish or two, so that we can “get the skunk out.” If we loose the first fish in the netting process, I can only blame myself for the loss. On the other hand, if I allowed my clients to try netting it, and knocked it off then I’d feel bad if it was our only fish of the day. (I did have a “one fish day” a few years ago, but we have not been skunked on a charter on Lake Superior)

Bill learned how to set his own down-riggers with much practice and a few common mistakes, which, I assured him, is a requirement to learning how to do it right. I always offer to teach my clients how to set lines on my boat, if they are willing, and to do as much as they desire, or feel comfortable doing. Later, I offered to teach them how to “gut” a fish, but they both declined, so I gladly did them all myself. Some people want to get totally immersed in the whole fishing, line-setting, netting and gutting processes, so I show them how I do it all, or as much as they want.

We finished the day by catching 13 lake trout and 1 king salmon, much more than they wanted to keep for eating.

P.S. By the way, I have been skunked many times, by myself and with some friends, but never yet on a Lake Superior charter. I know it’s coming, though, and when it does, I’ll offer it for free… who wants to pay for fishing trip that doesn’t produce any fish?

P.P.S. I was skunked on a Lac la Belle charter, where we didn’t land any fish, but had several fish on, but due to in-experienced clients, they lost the fish before I could net them.

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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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