Thursday, September 8, 2011

Holloway Reservoir, Michigan

This will be the third consecutive year my family has gone on a Labor Day weekend fishing trip, a new tradition that came from my sudden obsession with fishing. My dad grew up fishing, but didn't do it much as an adult. Our fishing trips consisted of renting a pontoon boat on Lake Nepessing in Lapeer, Michigan, bringing mass quantities of snacks and beverages, and generally having a great time.

This year one of our family friends and angler extraordinaire Mike Muston invited my dad and me out on his boat for some morning fishing. I'd been salivating over his facebook pictures of beautiful trout, plentiful bass, and amazing looking walleye. Although I catch fish fairly regularly, there are gaping holes in my "species scoreboard," like smallies, walleye, and pike. Mike had been having good luck with walleye at Holloway Reservoir near Flint, so we planned the trip.

The day before, on Saturday, the family took a trip to Gander Mountain for gear and fishing licenses. This was one of the first times I'd gone to a store for fishing gear and had a really clear idea of what I was going to get. Tubes, of course, in a few more colors and sizes; a crankbait or two, I had only caught one fish (a bluegill) on a crankbait; some senko-style worms; some more fake minnows (I'd had lots of luck for bass - and gobies- with them); and some salmon spoons! I grabbed a basket and quickly proceeded to fill it up with goodies. As I put a 3/4oz moonshine glow spoon into the basket, I wondered if this was the lure that would catch me my first salmon. Or if I would lose it on my first cast.

5:30am, Holloway Reservoir

The next day, I woke up at 4am (which of course is 3am central time, but I tried not to think about that), got some coffee and donuts at Tim Horton's, and returned home. Mike was picking us up at 5am sharp, and I didn't want to keep him waiting! It was generous of him to take us along fishing with him, and even more generous to pick us up. I hoped he liked donuts!

My dad and I hopped in his truck, and set off on our pitch-black journey. It was so freaking dark. I guess it makes sense- Chicago is so close to the time change, that 5:30am in Chicago is really not too different from 4:30am eastern time; I'd been waking up at 4am central time, and it was basically light by 5:45... But not today!

Mike unloaded the boat into the water, my dad and I helping the best we could (I'm not very experienced getting normal boats into and out of the water). Headlamps on, spotlight shining, we set off into the dark. As we were headed toward a good spot at a point across the lake, the spotlight illuminated hundreds of seagulls (?) that proceeded to fly away. It was a very erie sight, seeing so many birds fly silently in the dark.

We got to the point, and began casting crankbaits, texas rigged worms, and tube jigs. Nothing was interested. Mike made me the trolling motor pilot, as I was at the front of the boat where the motor was. It was one of those cool foot-controlled ones, where the pedal controls direction and a little button runs the motor. After almost jerking myself into the water multiple times, I mostly got the hang of it. We went in circles a little, but hey this was my first time.

Then it started to rain. When we got to the boat launch, it was lightly spitting, but nothing serious. After a few minutes of unsuccessful casting, it started to rain in earnest. A while later there was enough light we could see the rain, and it was getting everything wet. Hey, it's a marine sport. There's water involved.

We decided to move, and I did my best to troll us around the point to the other side of the little peninsula. I proceeded to get my senko stuck on a branch close to shore, but Mike's agile unhooking skills saved it. At one point later on, I somehow got my line tangled up in the trolling motor, but again it got unhooked. Not my finest hour for line issues!

At this point it was raining pretty good, but I remembered the saying "It doesn't rain on fish, only fishermen." I wondered if the clouds and rain would work in our favor, perhaps keeping our walleye friends active longer into the morning. I've read that rain often washes bugs into the water, which are eaten by baitfish, which bring predators closer to shore. So this could be good!

The rain wasn't helping the donuts though, the box was thoroughly soaked. Somehow the donuts inside were mostly dry, and still completely edible.

Mike decided to get to trolling some lures for walleye, so he set up some planer boards. I'd only trolled like this once, and didn't completely grasp the idea. At least we weren't using downriggers, those things are downright confusing. With 2 crankbaits on planer boards, and each of our rods in the water, we had 5 lines in the water. Mike mentioned we could technically have 9 in the water, as the law in MI is 3 per person. It's good we didn't have 9 in the water; I would have definitely tangled them all!

Dive-bombing fish-catching machine bird
As we were slowly trolling across the lake, we saw a bird flying- almost hovering- high above the water. Without warning, it dropped from the sky like a ballistic missile, and sped down to the earth... It hit the water with a huge splash. A second or two later (seemed longer) it emerged, splashes everywhere, a fish in it's talons. A fish! The bird triumphantly ascended back into the sky, holding it's prize. We watched it fly back to the treeline- maybe a nest.

We looked at each other. That was amazing! I'd never seen ANYTHING like that, except maybe on the discovery channel. Even then, it's hard to imagine it's real. I've been admiring birds in my posts, but this bird took the prize for most amazing catch. It was seriously like  some kind of weapon honing in on a fish so many feet below. A fish UNDER the water.

I guess if your life depends on catching fish, you either get really good at it, or you die.

At least somebody was catching fish! We alternated between slow trolling and casting toward the shore. There were a lot of fishy spots, but the fish didn't know they were supposed to be there.

At one point, we were trolling and Mike was slowing down the boat so we could cast. There was a splash, I looked at the planer board- "FISH ON!" I yelled.

And it was! Mike reeled in his line, and at the other end was a very feisty smallie. Although I would have loved to hook into one myself, I was elated that Mike landed one, and as a boat of fishermen we beat the skunk.

Mike and the first fish of the day
That was only the second fish I'd ever seen taken on a crankbait (the first one was that bluegill at Ogden slip a few weeks ago); this was also the first fish I'd seen caught while trolling. It's really helpful for me- until I see a fish being caught on a lure, part of me doesn't believe it can be done. I used to be that way with spinnerbaits- what the heck are they supposed to look like!!?? - but I've caught my fair share of bass with those guys. A little later Mike caught another bass, this time a largemouth, also on a crankbait. It was another little guy, and he said the first largemouth he'd caught at Holloway. 

2nd - and last- fish of the day
We were trolling again, and my dad suddenly jumped and started moving his rod- he had a fish on! His rod tip bent almost 90°, this looked like a BIG fish! His drag screamed in agony as something huge pulled relentlessly. Mike jumped up as well, I reached for the net. He reeled and reeled, trying to fight the monster on the end of the line, and suddenly, the tension was gone.

My dad reeled in, the drag no longer complaining... The fish was gone! When the line came back to the boat, it had been cut clean off. Damn! And it took his fancy lure too!

Although it sucked to loose a fish like that - which Mike was sure was a big'ol' walleye - it was great to get some more excitement. For about the next half hour we lamented the loss of our prized fish, especially knowing our wives wouldn't believe how big it was.

That was almost the last action of the day- we hit a variety of good-looking spots, trolling and casting; everything from wacky-rigged senkos to spinners to cranks to jigs, but all we got were a few more lost lures. One particularly fishy-looking inlet was being guarded by a large heron. I'd seen many herons recently, but none of them squawked and complained like this one! It cackled loudly, telling us to get away from its spot, but naturally we did not oblige. Didn't matter anyway, we didn't catch any fish.

Coming out of the inlet, Mike hooked into a nice fish. He reeled in, and a foot from the boat it threw the hook and quickly vanished into the deep. It must have been at least 12-14 feet long, a huge beast of a fish, probably a muskie-alligator gar-bluegill hybrid*. But since we didn't get a picture, we can't prove or disprove what it was.

Glancing at our time various phones and watches, we realized it was time to head in. We didn't want angry wives. Slightly defeated, walleye-less, without a picture of a smallie caught on my tube jig, we headed back to the boat launch.

It wasn't bad- to the contrary, it was an awesome fishing trip: we saw an amazing fishing bird, a belligerent heron, a healthy looking smallie, and the first LMB of Holloway. It's always great to fish with other fishermen and learn. There's only so much you can get from the internet and message boards. Or blogs.

But if you can't make it out, might as well read about it!

* It definitely was not a muskie-alligator gar-bluegill hyrbrid. It was a good-sized bass.

1 comment:

  1. I'm having so much fun reading your blog and am so proud to see my dad on here! I can't tell you how many fishy memories I have with him. My particular favorite is of an unbeleivable adventure near Chapleau, Ontario where we racked up an insane amount of walleyes, pike, and the biggest smallie of my life. Keep the stories coming, man.


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