When I was younger one of the best times of summer was right about now, with the lull between planting and harvesting. Dad worked in the factory besides farming and took his vacations from the factory in the spring and the fall for farming, but he always saved a week in midsummer just for fishing.
That’s when I got “hooked” (couldn’t resist!) on fishing because it’s not just about fishing. It’s about families and friends spending time together and making memories.
Again, I count myself lucky to live in Michigan because it has some of the best freshwater fishing anywhere. With the four Great Lakes, 11,000 inland lakes and hundreds of rivers and streams, you are never more than six minutes or six miles from a lake. Anglers have their choice of fishing for trout, walleye, salmon, perch, muskie, bass and blue gill. Any of these make for some fine eating.
After buying your license, the sport can be as cheap or as expensive as anyone desires. If you are 17 years of age or older, you need a Michigan fishing license, which is $26 for residents and $76 for non-residents and includes all fish species. Folks can buy them at licensed dealers or get an E-License 24/7 by visiting www.Michigan.gov/dnr.
We fished anytime we had time. Whether we caught anything was another story. Many fishermen prefer either early morning or later in the evening because it is generally cooler – for the fishermen and the fish! Also, if you are on a bigger lake, there are less speed boats, water skis and other interruptions during morning and evening hours.
Finding how deep the schools of fish are is also a concern. There is a scientific theory to this relating to what is referred to as the turnover. This is the exchange of surface and bottom water in a lake or pond, and it happens every spring and fall. During summer the sun heats the top water and the cooler water is at the bottom of lakes and ponds. Fish like it cooler at the bottom but also need the oxygen in the warmer water. Thus, their hangout is usually somewhere between two and 10 feet.
As far as the equipment you use, it is all a matter of personal preference. The three basic options are rod and reel fishing, fly fishing, and using a cane pole. Using a rod and reel, you cast out the line and reel it back in. Using this method you can set the depth you want to fish and it will usually get you farther out than a cane pole.
A fly rod and line works on the premise of getting fish to bite on an imitation bug or other fish bait just below the surface. Flies are made of various materials and resemble insects. Fly-tying is quite an art form, and flies sometimes have exotic names like Silver Doctor, Rio Grande King and Black Ghost. When it comes to materials, anything goes from raffia from Africa, silver and gold tinsels from France and rabbit and rooster plumage.
Personally, I prefer the cane pole because it is so simple. All you need is a pole, some line and a hook. If you really want to splurge, you can splurge on a sinker and a cork or bobber. Unlike a rod and reel, you are limited to fishing only as far out as your line will reach and there is a knack for throwing your line out without hooking trees or the hats of your fishing partners! I know this from personal experience many times over.
As far as bait is concerned, you can go artificial or live or take a combination because you never know what the fish will like on any particular day. Earthworms were always our preference. You can’t get much cheaper than free, all you had to do was dig them. If the ground was too dry or earthworms were scarce, we substituted crickets and sometimes purchased red worms.
One rule I was always taught when I was old enough was “If you catch ‘em, you clean ‘em.” Here again, you have two choices, you can either fillet the fish by cutting the meat away from the bones with a special filleting knife or you can cut the head, fins and tail off and leave the bones intact. With this method, you also need to remove the scales from the skin by raking the scales from the tail toward the head using a dull knife or spoon. My personal opinion is the fried fish have more flavor by leaving the bones in and the skin on.
I had an uncle who lived on the St. Joe River near Colon, Michigan. So, pretty much all my fishing memories began and ended there. My dad, Uncle Harold and myself spent many a day seeking out our favorite fishing holes. It took me until I was much older to figure out why I always seemed to catch fish even when they didn’t – they kept putting the same fish on my hook over and over! Sure was fun for me, but not the poor fish!
Fish fry days were the best where fish, bread and butter and a couple desserts made up the whole meal. We would start frying fish in the late afternoon and most times we would still be eating and partying after the sun went down.
Some people only like to go fishing when they are biting. Not me. Anytime on the water where it is peaceful and quiet is an OK day for me. I just have one problem, I still can’t decide if I like catching them or eating them more. I guess I’ll just have to keep on doing both!