Ok, get yourself comfortable, sit back and let me unfold the saga of April 9, 2004. This is kinda a rags to riches "tail" of how Capt. Bob Kietzman, Dave Schmittou and "yours truly" turned a day around after suffering
an extreme setback early-on in our adventure. I figured it's important for me to show you flexibility must always be a key ingredient in your big lake game plan. This pertains a positive attitude and not being discouraged if your first attempts fail!
Our day started bright and early by me meeting Dave and Bob at the Augres DNR Public Access around 6:30am. I'd say, eager described our attitude as Bob prepped his boat for launch. Bob's vessel is the highly popular 22 foot Starcraft Islander and it's a perfect boat from 3, maybe 4 persons to fish out of.
We met with some of the members of the message board and proceeded on our way to Bob's semi-secret happy hunting ground. Our destination was the waters off the Whitney Drain (11 miles north), or more popularly known in Michigan as the "Singing Bridge." This spot has always hosted a good run of smelt in the spring, making it a magnet for the predatory
species of Michigan's gamefish. All species of Great Lakes Salmoniods can be caught here, including Smallmouth Bass and Walleye.
Well, ....to make a long story short, after a few passes thru Capt. Bob's "honey hole" we only managed 1 strike and that was a smaller Brown of about 2 pounds. Dave bought the fish almost within netting range, then the hooks pulled free on Bob's "not-so-secret" Thin Fin anymore. Thin Fins are out of production, because Storm Lures sold
out to Normark the Rapala folks. Thin Fins are pretty much a do-nothing bait as far as action goes, it just quivers, or vibrates. I've had good success for with them on Steelhead in southern Lake Michigan.
With me being extremely superstitious losing the first fish of the day (in this case the season) generally means a struggle and a day laden with BAD LUCK.
The Adversity Part
Tragedy with Capt. Rock Hopper at the wheel....aka, me:
Turning a 22 foot Starcraft into a ATV, or a SUV is something that can't be done.
We were in 5 foot of water and all of a sudden the water jumped up to about 2 feet.
The "Getaway" had struck a shallow reef, vertical to the shoreline better then a quarter of a mile off beach. Right about now, "I felt dumber then the rocks we struck!"
A terrible jumble of wound-up twisted mono and planer board string:
Line under the outdrive and wrapped thru and around the swim platform. Oh, it was a mess. Wads of mono had to be cut. Drifting free from the 2 feet of water meant we had planer board string under the boat. Planer board string is 200 pound test and can wrap a prop so tight, the
motor is useless. This was the major concern. Not to mention how pricey planer string is. Getting towed 12 miles back to port was another reel concern.
Man, we had a mess and extricating the planer string took the longest to sort. All 3 of us went into action and after about 30 minutes we were set up and trolling again. Still no action, and we seen nary a boat even fight a fish! Now, was the time to re-figure what needed to be done, because it was almost 9:30am and we were sitting with the white
striped black critter in the box. We as a team, made a quick decision to head out to parts elsewhere.
The problem with the Whitney Drain area is that the water, once you left the main plume of the drain the surrounding waters were almost gin-clear.
10am and all's not well.....at least, not quite yet! By this time we had traveled about 5 miles south to the first point north of Au Gres. Capt. Kietzman had a buddy alert him on his cell phone he had taken 4 or 5 fish by now. In a blink, we had just finished getting our 9 lines in the water when a chunky post spawn Walleye decided
to munch on a S11 Vampire Rapala. Dave did the honors and after good tussle (for a Walleye) we were no longer skunked!
I noticed immediately when we reached our new hunting grounds the water had a definite stain and was kinda stirred up and muddy. The water had maybe 4 foot of visibility instead of 15 to 20 foot, like our last spot. It was like we found the "Lost Dutchman Gold Mine" as fish after fish met it's doom at the hands of "Team Getaway."
Walleyes, my first choice were large and put on a Jim-dandy struggle. The 'eyes ranched from about 4 to 8 1/2 pounds. This meant the $9.95 Walleye blue-plate special was in the future for Capt. John's belly!
Capt. Bob K had been kind enough to let me have the port-side to run my program. I stacked the Brown Trout 7.0 program on 120 foot leads off the tag line to our planer string. With the water being about 39 degrees, a very slow troll seemed to produce best (about 1.2 to 1.8 mph). This is too slow to reach maximum effectiveness on S11 Rapalas most of
the time. After seeing Capt. K's Bomber styled lures starting to out produce me, I went shopping in my tackle box for sized 15 Long A Bombers. The reason being the 15 Long A has a sound chamber, or rattle to help draw attention in cloudy water. The flavor of the day was the brightly colored "Fire Tiger," which always produced for me on Lake
Huron since the late 70s.
OK, now that I covered the why's and where-fore's lets draw our attention back to the action. Capt. Bob K's side took a tremendously savage rip and this fish was headed for the Charity Islands. Line was peeling off the reel, with me thinking we had a hold of good King. Yeah, buddy....the first King of the year, or at least I thought so! By this
time Dave Schmittou was grabbing a rest after boating several fish and Bob stuffed the rod in my paws. Now, it was King against King and I had no intentions of losing to my namesake. I gingerly gained line as a sea bag went in the water to slow us down to fighting speed. At one time the fish had out almost 300 feet of line and I was in no
hurry. I let the fish play itself out, because I hate to see a green feisty fish at the stern of the boat. This fish fought amazingly well, considering the water was now reaching the 40 degree range.
Here's where Kietzman's pro-skills came to shine. With Bob being 6 foot 4 inches he has a reach like Kareem Abdul Jabar. He lifted a leg over the transom and firmly planted it on his swim platform. I sensed the fish beginning to fatigue, as the pressure lessened on rod. I gained line at a good pace, then
seen the by first
"purplish-silver" flash. Yep, it was a King and we were close to having a family reunion. Then, just as
we had the fish within Capt. Bob's net range, that darn varmint made a mad dash and peeled off 20-some feet on line.
With all fishermen a silent bond should happen, cause as if Capt. Bob Kietzman was already reading my mind and the anticipating salmon's next move he swiftly withdrew the net. Now, in the mean time,....
no credit whatsoever has been given to Capt. Dave S at the helm. Dave's masterful control of the wheel and throttle was instrumental in this supreme battle royal. Dave delicately
shifted the 22 foot Island in and out of gear for ultimate slow speed control.
By now, the King was just about done in. That's when unvoiced mental telepathy, between Bob and myself came into play. As I led the fish towards Bob's half-cocked net, in one fell swoop......Capt. Bob Kietzman suddenly slid the net under the first King of the 2004 season for "Team Getaway." Yeah, buddy! This was a
feeling that only comes once a year and it's called the first King, or Chinook of the season. While this was no Tuna "world class" Salmon, it looked to me like it weighed 5 pounds heavier than it did for a short bit. Actuality this Salmon was in the neighborhood of about 11 lbs.
When I titled this section "Versatility," you can now see nothing was written in stone when it came to our game plan. As Bob changed areas, I changed my program to a more productive set of lures. So, don't take the attitude of "live by the sword, die by the sword mentality." Adjustments are always in order to go with the
flow. Always remember this all too true statement, "I don't want to change a fish's mind, I just want to catch them!
Efficiency at anything you do depends on working with what's presented to you. The age old saying at first if you don't succeed, try...try, again holds especially true. Constant small adjustments to suit the time of day, water temperature and light conditions (due to the angle of the sun) must be part of your never ending
game plan. Great Lakes fishing is not rocket science, it's being wise enough to pick up on the clues you have to work with.
The depths we targeted were from 8 to 14 feet and our shore line planer board was probably in water as shallow as 5 foot. So, dragging downriggers and divers would not be that helpful. In fact, I've several times when once a rigger, or a diver was put in the water, it would shut off the shallow water bite. So, our program was
kept very simple and we dragged 4 rods per side of the larger dual planer boards. With Capt. Kietzman dragging a short 100 foot flat line off the inside starboard transom corner.
What appeals to one species of fish a food source, will appeal to another. This fact was evidenced, because on 4/9/04 we took 6 different species of fins and scales. Walleye, Coho, Steelhead, Lake Trout, Brown Trout and King (Chinook) Salmon all fell victim to a properly fished surface program in water many would have thought was to cloudy to
fish. Five differing varieties of Great Lakes Salmoniods is considered a grand slam and it don't happen all that often. My last "slam" was in May of 2003, so I guess you'll see what I mean.
Our north troll was about 60 to 70% more productive. The seas were coming from the south a what's referred to as a downhill troll (going in the same direction as the wind) had probably set up a current running north bound. I suspect our speed was slightly more consistent and that spelled more action for us.
Water clarity was the key that unlocked the area where the bait and the predator species of fish coagulated. The kinda muddy lookin' water was very productive compared to the gin clear waters in the first area we tried. I wish I could better describe the color of the water, but just keep in mind, we
had 4.....oh, maybe to the outside 5 foot of visibility.
Our Lure selections included on Bob's starboard side was mainly Bomber styled baits in the 15 Long A size. This bait has more mass and presents a larger target to the fish. Plus, it has a sound chamber inside, making it easier for your quarry to locate in the turbid waters we trolling in. My leads on the port side
stayed at 120 feet of the tag line throughout the duration of our voyage. I did notice Bob stretch his leads to match mine, because he started off in the 70 feet range. I suspect Bob K's savvy instinct matched my leads after we took a few more hits on the port side.
Leads of the dual planer board to me? .... depends on how choppy the seas are. If we'd have been fishing in 3 footers....70 to 80 foots leads, or closer would have worked just fine. That was not the case. Our conditions were close to flat calm at times and we never dealt with any waves much over one foot. Rougher water from experience says,
"the fish ain't near so skittish, hence the thought on shortening lead lengths."
I used the Rapala Knot when we took a few fish on the S11s. On the Bomber 15
Long-A's were tied directly to the split ring on the nose of the lure. 15 pound test Ande was our chosen sting to let the baits swim a little more natural without being encumbered by goat rope (25 to 30# test). The knot used on the 15 Long A's was my old stand by.....the Trilene
Speed is a hard thing to gauge on any boat, especially one you're not used to, but I'd say slightly below 2mph turned the trick on these cold water fish. We started in 38 degree water and as the day wore on, solar power kicked it up to 40 degrees. If the water had been in the 44 degree range.....I believe a little hotter speed would have been the ticket.
I used number 2 VMC round bend trebles in 1X strong on my Bombers, but would have preferred number 4 round bends on the 15As (I only had number 2 PermaSteels with me). My S11 Rapalas were rigged with number 5 VMC round bend trebles in the bronze and the brighter Rapalas have the chrome, or nickel plated trebles to better match the overall shininess of the more chromer
(silvery) stick baits.
Now, if I could just convince Capt. Bob Kietzman to buy a Luhr Jensen hook file? So, I don't ever have to use his stone age sharpener he picked up in Grindstone City. I'm a stickler for ultra-sharp hooks and view ever missed fish as a failure on my part. The bottom line is that, I'm not there to mess
around with fish on a hard bite. I always strive for 90% of our strikes to go into the box. Making opportunities count is what boxing strong numbers scales and tails is about.
It's great to say we at least 25 hits in about 4 hours and landed 18 fish, however the quality of our combined team is what made the day shine. Even though, my most excellent company that had to suffer through my earlier attempt to turn Bob's 22 foot Islander into an all terrain vehicle, I'd say we ended up OK.
For the 3 of us never tag-teaming the fish before, within an hour, or two....you'd have thought we fished together for 20 years. Dave eagerness at everything, Bob's knowledge of the waters brought this whole deal together. All in all, it's pretty darn nice when you throw a fish party and the fish decide to show up.
My many thanks to my wonderful fishing partners who made my trip to the "Sunrise Side" a truly great experience. There's no one in the world luckier then me to have fishin' buds......like Dave S and Bob K!
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