My bother-in-law Bill DeJong and I met up with his friend Larry Byl last night for a quick excursion on Lake Michigan. Larry has a home on the lake and a very amazing set-up. He trailers a 16 foot deep-v right on the beach and uses a winch hooked to a post to back the trailer in and out of the water. The boat is set up with rod holders and down riggers, dipsy divers, and planer boards. It took just a few minutes to launch and once underway another fifteen minutes for Larry to put out six lines. Bill drove the boat while I watched Larry pay out line and adjust the various rods. Every inch of the boat is utilized and three guys would be about the limit.
Lake Michigan was choppy and I couldn’t help but wonder if it would get worse. The sun was dropping to the horizon and I could see Little Sable Point Light House in the distance. While I was taking it all in, we had the first strike. Larry grabbed the pole and handed it to me. I have done a lot of fishing so I’m no stranger to the drill, but Salmon on Lake Michigan is another animal. (I normally fish inland lakes and small trout streams.) It felt like a motorized anchor on the end of the line – I reeled line in, it pulled line out. I finally got it up to the boat and Larry netted it. A King Salmon with a glittering body that would make my wife’s polished silver look tarnished. A spectacular fish. My first impression: 30 lbs. Larry’s impression: 18 lbs. I guess I go with Larry’s impression.
Bill was next. We had moved offshore about a mile and a quarter when the drag on one of the planer board poles started zinging. The fish was way out there and Bill had his hands full. He worked the pole and reel by dipping the rod while he reeled like a madman but it still took maybe eight minutes to get the fish near the boat. The fish made a run to the starboard side and Larry got concerned about the other lines. The fish went port side and Bill thought for a moment he was off but then felt the fish surge again. I caught a glimpse of the fish as he rolled on the surface – a giant head was all I saw. All of a sudden he was gone. I felt bad for Bill partly because I had an idea of how much energy it took to get the fish that far. Larry, seeing Bill’s disappointment, tried to take out the sting by saying how he (Larry) should have pulled in a line that got in the way. My own history tells me that even when you do everything perfect you lose fish. It’s the one that got away and every good angler has a story.
We had a slow stretch then and when I say slow it was maybe fifteen minutes before the rods started dancing. I saw Larry grab the starboard planer board pole but he said the fish was on and off. Meanwhile the pole right next to it started up and he handed that one to Bill. This fish came in quite a bit easier and Larry netted the small but fat Coho. A beautiful fish.
By now the sun had set but strangely it was still light out. Might be some sort of big lake phenomenon. Larry pulled in lines and readied the boat for the trip home. We cruised nearer to shore for the ride back and I tried to get a photo of the lighthouse. It is still a working light house though built in the 1870’s. It was too dark to get a good shot.
We pulled the boat back up on the beach using Larry’s trailer and winch system and Larry was kind enough to do a quick filet job on the salmon. He has a knife that would scare a samurai warrior. A couple minutes and we had some boneless filets washed, bagged, and ready for the grill. I tried to thank Larry for the great adventure but he shrugged it off like guys tend to do. What a night.