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Wild Side: That’s why they call it fishing

By Dan Wilcox

Outdoor Columnist

Ole and Sven were returning from a fishing expedition with few fish. Ole said the fish were pretty expensive, given all the time and money that they had invested in their fishing trip. Sven replied, “It’s a good thing that we didn’t catch any more of them!”

The fishing for me this year has been great, with many good times out on the water with friends. The catching has varied between lots of action to getting totally skunked. The mystery involved in fishing keeps me interested.

Fish are reclusive creatures supremely adapted to their aquatic environment. We usually can’t see them. The water surface reflects light and the deep water hides them. They move around, feeding when they are hungry and when prey is present.

We try to outsmart them; get them to bite on our bait or lures and bring them to hand, but they often prove elusive. Fish are animals whose brains are less than about one fifteen-hundredth of their body weight. They often manage to elude us nevertheless.

Fish are covered with chemical and hydraulic receptor nerves that enable them to know of our presence as soon as we step into the stream or get near them on the water in a boat. We take measures to avoid spooking them, whether it’s a stealthy approach to a trout stream, making long casts, or using planer boards to swing our lures far outboard when we are trolling from a boat.

Last weekend, Dale and Amy Hafeman of Emerald invited me to visit Amy’s family cabin on Lake Superior near Cornucopia. Dale is an avid big lake fisherman. He has gone fishing for years on Lakes Michigan and Superior in his old Chris Craft inboard boat. Dale has rigged it for trolling with long rods, line-counter reels, downriggers, a mast and planer boards and an electronic fish finder.

After getting some work done on my sailboat last Friday, I stayed overnight on the boat in Washburn. A line of noisy thunderstorms passed through early Saturday morning. When the rain quit I drove over to Cornucopia. Dale and I met some guys at the boat landing who said that they had good luck catching brown trout about 30 feet down not far off shore.

Dale launched his boat in the harbor and we motored out onto Lake Superior. We tried Krocodile spoons, a dodger/flasher with a fly, a couple lures off a planer board and Hottentot lures set at different depths. We trolled in 90 to 100 feet of water off Roman point and near Eagle Island.

It was a beautiful day on the lake. The weather was clearing from the south and it gradually warmed up. Wraiths of fog obscured and then revealed the Minnesota shore to the north and the Apostle Islands to the east. Recent rains had flooded the tributary streams and delivered sediment into the near-shore zone of the lake. We tried fishing in the more turbid water and in the clear water out by Eagle Island.

We changed trolling depths, speed, lures, talked to the fish, but we didn’t get any bites until late in the day when we caught one smaller brown trout on a Hottentot lure.

The weather on Sunday was nearly a repeat of Saturday. Dean and Mary Bergseng of River Falls arrived in Cornucopia in the morning after the rain had passed through. Dean and I accompanied Dale in his boat while Mary and Amy went off to the casino at Red Cliff.

We tried trolling off Roman and Bark Point, following an underwater ridge far to the north out into the lake. We listened to the Twins beat the Yankees on the radio, had some good sausage and cheese that Dean had brought, told stories and had a good time. The lake was flat. The slight overcast kept the sun from baking us. Like the day before, we only caught one fish, this time a small lake trout. When we returned to the cabin we were greeted by Amy and Mary, who had both won money at the casino.

Last year, my wife Carol and I went out from Cornucopia with Dale and we had plenty of action, landing some nice king salmon. Despite straining the lake with multiple lines and a variety of lures, and trolling miles for two days last weekend, we only caught two fish. We had a great time out on the beautiful lake but the catching was slow. That’s why they call it fishing.

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