A Rookies Accelerated Learning Curve
By Capt. Dave "the Rookie" Schmittou                      December  22, 2003

Dave is far left

Dave is far right

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My First Season

Let's begin by telling you that until this year I've never fished for salmon.  Yeah, I've caught a bunch over the years, sitting on the deck of a charter boat with some pretty decent Captains producing the fish for me.   All I had to do.... was the fun stuff (reeling 'em in), and thought I was doing a good quality job. 

The Major Expenditure 

Well, this year I got the bright idea to buy my own boat, electronics, fishing rods and lures.  I was wanting to save some money on my hobby, by not having to pay the charter operators the big bucks.  My first reality slam?......when I got enlightened in the skill required to catch these dumb fish.   Hey, the charter guys were only running the boat out a short ways, setting a bunch of lines and yelling "fish on,"  This seemed all to easy.  

After experiencing a couple of "skunks," (on my own) I soon discovered that fishing the Great Lakes wasn't as easy as it looked.  I looked to others willing to pass on their knowledge.  Maybe, not all they knew, but most would share some of it.  I just needed to learn "what questions to ask" 

Took a few guys out on my boat and tried to learn, caught a few fish and learned a little.  I still had a long ways to go.  Then started thinking, "I ain't going to be around long enough (I'm in my 50s) to acquire the necessary talent to catch fish consistently on the big water."   Although, I could put a few in the box a on some of my trips.  

So, I started using the internet to glean knowledge and found a great website.  I sat up most of the night reading, re-reading all the old posts, the daily reports, the articles in the "members only" section of the website.  Learned a lot, but still couldn't put together a sound program on my own.  I really didn't understand the methods and techniques. 

Quest for Knowledge

On the internet there was a post from a Charter Captain with 20 plus years of experience saying, "he was willing to share all his knowledge and methods."   The price of his seminar was substantially less then cost me to trailering the boat across the state and gassing it up.  Then going out and try to self-teach myself for a day?   Well, with some apprehension I sent a deposit and showed up for what turned out to be the best investment in my new found addiction, the pursuit of Mr. King Salmon.  That first seminar taught me more in about 5 hours than I had learned in about 100 hours of trial and error!

Just setting back and watching the small stuff, like how to set up the sonar.  What to watch for in the water, how to turn off the radio, how to get lines out fast.  And that was after only the first 30 minutes of being on the seminar boat.  For the rest of the trip all the things that I had read, started coming together.......I was learning this stuff!  Over the next 5 or 6 weeks I was on the big pond catching fish.  Knowing why I'm catching them, and if I'm not?... having a darn good idea why I'm not.  I even have firm ideas of what to use on a given day.   In fact, I was surprising myself on most trips.   At the cleaning station I wasn't quite with the big boys yet.  However, I was doing as good as most, and this sure beats driving past the cleaning tables skunked. 

Reel Spiel on Cut-Bait

From late July the word was "cut bait" really taking some big fish.  I had one fisherman show me a 3 fly rig in the spring (about May of 2003).  He had taken and lost a big fish on it, but that was it.... peaking my curiosity.  Now, the same captain that I had learned so much from was offering a cut-bait seminar.  I thought what the heck?....... I'll surely pick-up some more general fishing knowledge and meet some more really nice guys (one of the best parts of the first seminar). 

Little did I know, I was about to learn a method that would work so well and consistently. I was putting a loads of big fish in the box with very little time on the water.  Plus, I was having the time of my life doing it!  I impressed the hell out of myself, friends, business associates that I took out on my boat.  Now, when I hit the cleaning tables, I was the "go to" guy that everyone asked questions...... "where did you fish? what were you using? how deep? and how fast?"  It felt really good to pass on what I had learned and to being able to help out my fellow fisherman.  I even gave away few worn out 3 fly rigs and a few strips of bait on my way home to a couple of anglers. 

At first I figured it must be luck, or a fluke of some kind, but after 8 or 10 trips things were pretty consistent.  I knew I was on to something that many of the other more experienced captains hadn't even heard of yet.  Much less, having enough expertise to use effectively on a regular basis.  

Me?..... could go on and on about numbers, size, amount of time on the water but all that doesn't seem all that important now.  What's important?....... I know when I'm launching my boat, I have the necessary skills and knowledge to catch fish!

Summing It All Up 

I'll have a leg-up on most come mid-summer and through past Labor Day.  I know a many fishermen will be dragging meat this year, but I've got a seasons' experience over them.  Myself and my fishin' buddies will be having time of our lives due to the fact; I was able to take advantage of these seminars.  I learned how put to practice what I was taught, and all this happened in a few short months.  I know I will be bringing home a skunk or two this coming season (that will knock me down a notch or two).  

Recently, my wife and I attended a meeting of a new fishing club I just joined the other night.  They were handing out "big fish" awards for the year, when my wife whispered, "you caught a lot bigger fish that that," and she was right!  I would have taken 3 of the 5 awards on a specie basis by a substantial amount. 

This Captain I refer to in the story is Capt. John King.  Although, he'll never win "Capt. Congeniality" award (he does call a spade a spade)!  He has a hell of a lot of knowledge and has the ability to pass it on to even the most inexperienced fisherman...Capt. Dave