A would-be angler at the number 5 pond apparently thought so, but his casting hit a snag or two among the buds on the tree limbs overhanging the boardwalk. He’ll have plenty of time to work on his technique in the coming months.
Posts Tagged ‘Fishing’
When I went to Canada for a fishing trip recently, I took along a cribbage board. As I’ve noted before, I think cribbage is the best card game ever invented, and I thought it would be a perfect way to spend some time with my friends.
I’m happy to report that the cribbage effort was a great success. We played for hours, my friends learned the rules, and for the most part we joshed good-naturedly about the cards and the state of play.
Even better, I’m happy to report that one of my fellow fishermen, The Sage, became an enthusiastic convert to the world of cribbage. Since his return from Canada he’s purchased a board, read up on the history of the game, and taught his wife and daughter how to play. I’m pleased that he has acknowledged the obvious merit of cribbage and become a member of the ever-increasing Cribbage Kingdom.
Of course, for every convert to cribbage, there is a sore loser who cannot gracefully accept a serious thumping — as the unfortunate photo accompanying this posting confirms.
One morning on Lake Temagami, we hired a fishing guide to help us solve the fisherman’s eternal riddle: where are the @$%&*# fish? The guide’s name was Woody Becker.
Woody is an Algonquin who has lived in the Lake Temagami area for decades. He’s hunted, fished, trapped, and camped in just about every nook and cranny of the lake, its islands, and the surrounding forested hills. As you would expect with that kind of background, Woody is a practical, self-sufficient man. When he came to pick us up in his small boat on a cold morning, he wore weather gear that looked as comfortable on him as an old shoe. He also wore a snowmobile helmet, face shield down to ward off the chilly air, and was smoking a cigarette behind the plastic faceguard. As he took us to where he thought the fish might be biting, he strung out a net across one of the connecting waterways. He was just interested in seeing what he might catch in that spot at that time of year, he explained.
Woody knew his stuff. He could pilot a boat like it was an extension of his body. He instructed us on what method (jigging) and what bait (minnows) to use. And, he found the fish. Drifting along a rocky outcropping in a desolate part of Cross Lake, we caught some huge small mouth bass. Woody nimbly maneuvered the boat as we fought the fish, netted them, and then used some wire he had handy to repair our net when one of the thrashing fish ripped it to shreds.
Every fisherman know that, for every moment of catching, there are hours of drifting, and feeding out line, and unsnagging hooks that have caught on a watery obstruction. During those quiet times, Woody liked to talk, and smoke, and laugh. He talked about how he tried to take down at least once moose a year, for food. He talked about how the price for pelts isn’t what it once was. He talked about his ex-wife, and his sons. He talked about where he’s fished before and where he hoped to camp for a week or two this coming summer.
And he talked, often and forcefully, about the issues confronting the First Nation in Canada — the negotiations with the Ontario provincial and federal government on new treaties, the involvement of some new tribe that he thought was trying to bargain away the Algonquin’s rights, and his mistrust for the deals and arrangements that were being offered. He knew every treaty involving the First Nation, by name and date and contents. He made me realize that those little bits of history that we learned in school that seemed so dusty and abstract had an enormous and continuing impact on this interesting man and his friends and family. Sitting on that boat with Woody, as he talked and bailed and lit another cigarette, gave me a different perspective on things.
I’m glad Woody helped us catch some fish, but mostly I’m just glad I met Woody Becker.
Since he retired to the Tar Heel State my friend the Brown Bear has been prowling the wilds of North Carolina, exploring remote streams and searching for the elusive brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout. Although he is by training and temperament an angler, he occasionally can take a pretty good photo — like this shot of one of his secret, sun-dappled fishing spots, deep in the Carolina woods, on a warm late summer day.
One of my friends, the Brown Bear, recently retired to a life of fishing and frolicking in Asheville, North Carolina. He goes to UNC-Asheville basketball games, walks his dog, audits classes at the college, brags shamelessly about the special beers brewed in the area, and occasionally — to really torment me — will send photos of the views on his hikes to secret streams where he leads “water aerobics” classes featuring the elusive brook trout.
It’s pretty country down there, if you don’t get sick of all of the Carolina Blue.
Last Saturday Russell and I tried an hour or so of fishing, because when you are at a fishing club and you’ve spent $21 for a Canadian fishing license, you probably should try to fish. So we commandeered one of the Quinnebog Fishing Club boats and a few rods and reel, got a small cooler of worms, and set out onto Lake Erie with Russell manning the outboard.
Unfortunately, we didn’t catch any fish. Indeed, we didn’t get so much as a nibble. The Lake was calm and other fishermen who tried that day were reporting that they had no luck, either. From our brief expedition, however, I have drawn the following conclusions:
1. Fishing is one of those exercises that look easy, but really aren’t. There are a lot of moving parts: knowing the good spots where fish might be found, determining the right lures and bait, deciding whether to troll or cast, and so forth. If you don’t know what you are doing — and I don’t — you are in the laps of the gods.
2. I stink at casting. I mean, I really stink. Not only can I not get the hook and bait more than a few feet from the boat, I inevitably tangle up the line every four or five “casts” and then have to painstakingly try to unsnarl things or cut the line and start over. This process teaches you the palliative power of curse words, as well as patience.
3. You are a very attractive target for biting flies when you are out in a boat, with no other sources for bloodsucking in the immediate vicinity.
4. Even if you don’t catch anything, it is fun and relaxing to skim the surface of a lake in a small craft on a bright summer’s day, stake out a spot, and then drift listlessly while you try your luck.
5. I think I’d like to try it again.
We just got back from an all-too-short visit to the Canadian waters of Lake Erie.
On Friday Richard, Russell and I drove up to Sandusky to the Griffing Air Terminal, where we met Chris and Danny and Al and Joe. We all boarded a nine-seater plane and took one of the shortest international flights anywhere in the world. Our 12-minute flight took us over Cedar Point, Put-in-Bay, and the rest of the Bass Islands. We landed on Pelee Island, which is part of Canada. From Pelee we took a boat and headed due west to Old Hen Island and the Quinnebog Fishing Club for its annual father-son get-together.
The Quinnebog Fishing Club is a corporation that was formed in the late 1800s by a group of Ohioans from the Sandusky area. By charter, it can have no more than 25 members. Somehow the corporation acquired Old Hen Island, which is a rocky, tree-covered five-acre dab of land that rises from Lake Erie between North Bass Island and the Canadian mainland. The island has been the site of the Club ever since.
There isn’t much on Old Hen Island. About half of it is covered by trees and strewn with rock. The first structure you see as you approach the island is the green and white, turreted main building at the dock. It stores fishing and boating supplies on the ground floor and features a dining hall on the second floor and staff residential quarters on the third floor. There is a spartan bunk house with rooms equipped with cots for use by members and their guests. Finally, there is an excellent bar with a fine screened-in porch, card tables, and a pool table.
Admittedly, we spent most of our time in the bar, playing lots of cribbage and drinking Labatt’s beer. Between the constant card games, however, we did do a bit of (unsuccessful) fishing, ate lots of very good food, threw horseshoes, watched sunsets, explored the tiny island, sat on the porch in total darkness after the generator was turned off for the night, and visited with friends old and new. I can’t imagine a better place to unwind and spend a father-son weekend.
Thanks to the members of the Quinnebog Fishing Club for hosting the Webner and Hartnett men and putting up with us!
“Fishtown” is an area that used to be used by commercial fishermen on Lake Michigan. There is still a functioning smokehouse there and lots of fishing vessels that you can charter, as well as a boat you can take over to some nearby islands, but most of the structures are occupied by gift shops, t-shirt emporiums, restaurants, bars, and other businesses that cater to the tourist trade.
Fishtown is small in size, but is still a real treat for the senses. The structures are wooden and weathered and gray with age. There are some unusual objects here and there, like a rack used for drying nets, a metal fish windsock, and various nautical items. The smells are the kind of smells you associate with the waterfront, like the smell of fish and of decaying plants, intermingled with the very enticing smell of whitefish being smoked. And the sound is the gentle slap of the water against the pilings of the pier and the occasional cry of a seagull.
Fishtown is a good example of the kind of pleasant and interesting surprises you often find when you travel through America and are willing to go off the beaten path.
We all remember Dr. Ian Malcolm, the annoyingly egotistical mathematician and chaos theorist from the Jurassic Park books and movies. Malcolm confidently predicted that, for all of its technology, Jurassic Park was a fundamentally unstable creation that would inevitably fail because “life finds a way.” He was right, of course.
His statement has proven to be equally true as it applies to the relentless advance of the dreaded Asian carp. An “electric barrier” was created to keep the carp from moving up the Mississippi River and into the Great Lakes. Now the carp have been caught past the barrier, only six miles from Lake Michigan. The Great Lakes communities are tremendously concerned that the destructive fish will ruin the sports fishing and recreational boating industries on the Great Lakes, and Members of Congress from the surrounding states have now proposed legislation to permanently separate the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes in order to keep invasive species out.
Let’s hope that any action gets taken in time, but I think Ian Malcolm would point out that six miles is not a very long distance. He might predict that if a fish was caught only six miles away, there is a good chance that other members of that species have already traversed the six-mile distance — and if they haven’t, they could jump, crawl, sprint, or be carried past whatever barrier is erected in their path. Asian carp, he might suggest, will somehow find a way.
They’ve tried just about everything to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, and still the carp continue their inexorable movement toward some of the largest fresh water bodies in the world. The carp were apparently — and stupidly — introduced into our ecosystem decades ago, when someone thought that their willingness to eat algae and waste products made them perfectly suited to help keep sewage lagoons in the South clean. The fish somehow escaped their captivity, as living beings typically do, made their way to the Mississippi River, and since then having been moving steadily northward despite man’s best efforts to stop them.
It reminds me of the old commercial about “ring around the collar.” The embarrassed, exhausted housewife pushes back locks of her hair as the announcer intones: “You’ve tried scrubbing them out! You’ve tried soaking them out!” With the Asian carp, they’ve tried establishing an electrical barrier to keep them from getting from the Mississippi River into the Great Lakes. When that apparently didn’t work — they found Asian carp DNA on the other side of the barrier — they poisoned miles of the potential entrance way in hopes of killing any hardy Asian carp that might have crossed the barrier. Somehow I doubt that has worked, either.
Why do people care? Because Asian carp are an invasive species, for one, and the Great Lakes’ experience with other invasive species, like the zebra mussel, has not been a happy one. For another, the carp can grow to gigantic sizes, and there is reason to fear that the carp will consume so much plankton that native fish species, like Lake Erie perch and walleye, will starve. If that happens, it will kill off not only the native fish species, but also the multi-million-dollar sport fishing industry on the Great Lakes. And finally, people care because the Asian carp are some kind of weird, hyper-aggressive superfish that is perfectly willing to fling itself out of the water and hurl itself toward the fisherman or boater, like a bolt from the deep. (Check out the YouTube video I’ve posted below if you don’t believe me, and it is just one of many.) There are stories about the fish knocking people senseless, breaking jaws, and generally wreaking havoc on boats and their occupants. What recreational boater is going to want to go for a leisurely cruise on Lake Erie if their idyllic trip requires them to navigate through a plague-like curtain of massive, leaping fish?