Archive for October, 2014

FISH TALES, TOO

From: Meridian, ID:

The other day, I was fishing with a man to whom I owed a sum of money. He fell out of the boat and drowned. After pulling him from the water, I attempted restitution…but he wouldn’t accept it. I’ll miss him…

***

As it happens, I really have been fishing recently. Friend George has been in town for a few days and whenever that happens, we rarely miss spending at least some of that time searching for our finny friends. And this time was no different.

Prior to George’s arrival in town, I had heard that that the yellow perch fishing at CJ Strike Reservoir was going gangbusters! (A source that has, sadly, been proven somewhat unreliable.) Well, perch being one of the very best eating fish in these parts (only topped by walleye pike, in my opinion), we naturally wanted to get our share.

(A Bass.)

(A Bass.)

Fishing for perch from the bank is quite a challenge, although I’ve heard that if one “knows where to go,” it can done…and even be productive. (Of course that could be said of practically any kind of fishing, eh?) Nevertheless, since I have a boat in the garage, it wouldn’t make sense not to use it. I did have some concern about it’s seaworthiness after not having been wet for over a year, but by with just a couple of days of moving “stuff” from both inside and under, I was able to get it out in the driveway to try running it. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised to find that the engine battery would still crank the Tohatsu 30 hp engine…no problem. (I did, subsequently, have to charge the trolling motor battery, even though I figured we wouldn’t be trolling. If nothing else, it is a “backup” motor, capable of getting otherwise marooned fishermen back to the dock.)

(One of many, many varieties of Bluegill.)

(One of many, many varieties of Bluegill.)

The engine didn’t start on the first crank…nor the second. But after I shot some starter fluid into the air cleaner, it fired up. Tah Dah! It sounded pretty good, too. So after the charge on the other battery and some additional air pumped into the slightly deflated tires, it was ready to go.

The drive down to Strike was very nice. It’s about 80 miles, during which time we could see that it was going to be quite a nice day. Well, except for the fact that we both have long known that CJ Strike Reservoir is a wind magnet. A kite-flyer’s paradise! Better than the Washington and Oregon beaches…and that’s saying a lot. Sure enough, as we drove down into the Snake River canyon we could see the chop on the water. And of course as we stood on the dock alongside the boat ramp, it looked that much worse. But the sudsy fringe on top most of the waves was not spraying and, remember, we had just driven 80 miles in the hope of finding perch. We elected to go ahead and launch, knowing that we were starting on the downwind side of the lake…on the upwind side, below the canyon heights, the water was bound to be less choppy. So be it.

( A Crappie.)

( A Crappie.)

To avoid getting soaked with spray from the bow at the very beginning of the day, we idled through the waves, in search of the “secret spot” I learned of a few years ago. Many call it the, “island,” while others call it the, “rockpile,” which is actually much more descriptive. It is a small shallow area in an otherwise 60 feet deep part of the lake. None of it rises above the surface, so the term “island” is definitely a misnomer. It does seem to be comprised of large rocks, so the second term is much more accurate. (I have no idea how it got there, whether part of the landscape before the reservoir was filled, or dumped there afterwards.)

I had not given much thought to the actual location of the rockpile. After all, in my experience as rather a Johnny-come-lately-in-the-day fisher, there have always been other boats anchored about the rockpile long before my arrival. This time, as you might guess, there were not. (There were other boats on the lake, mind you…but none fishing my “secret spot.” So as it turned out, we searched for it, using my depth meter, for over an hour. We found it! Eureka! Then, dang the luck, as we tried to untangle the two anchor lines, the wind blew us far, far away…and we had to commence our search once more.

(A sunfish. There are many species of these, too.)

(A sunfish. There are many species of these, too.)

George had had the good sense to take a look around while we had been over the spot (however briefly that turned out to be), and he took sightings on various landmarks. Even so, it took us a 15 or 20 minutes more to find the spot again. But, hallelujah, we did.

Very shortly after that, George had the first fish. It turned out to be a small bass, kind of surprising how small because it was quite a hard strike. But then, bass have a well-deserved reputation for hitting the bait hard, and fighting very aggressively afterwards. He was (maybe) six inches long. During the two hours we fished we caught quite a number of those pint-sized bass, along with a crappy or two, some bluegill, two or three sunfish…but not a single perch. George had never eaten a bluegill, so we kept three of those, but the remainder of our catch went back in the water. (So in truth, I couldn’t swear to the fact we caught more than a couple of the small bass…we may have been catching the same two over and over again, no?)

We gave up at 2:00 in the afternoon, relatively early for us, but it became more than obvious that there were no yellow perch where we were fishing…and it seemed as though the wind speed was picking up. The chop was already bad enough that it was going to take longer going back to the dock than we had needed to get to the island, so we thought it best to get the rodeo over early. We were unable to pull up the anchor. It had become wedged in the rocks and simply wouldn’t budge. I tried breaking it free with the engine, but after I realized the boat was going to swamp before the anchor let go — or the rope broke — I cut the line. Anchors are cheaper than boats.

As I expected, I got wet during the boat retrieval process, but the soaking only occurred below the knees. It could have easily been all of me, so I figured I was way ahead. There were several guys out of the water ahead of us, using the fish-cleaning station. George checked them out and found that they had a similar smorgasbord to what we had been catching, but they also had a few yellow perch. The perch were quite small, however…hardly worth the work to filet them. Yeah…and I bet they tasted sour, too. (Said those of us who had caught none.)

The drive home was uneventful, and after we arrived safely I filleted the bluegill. Janet fried up the six small filets (about the size of potato chips) and Geo got his long-awaited taste of bluegill. He liked them just fine – a nice, mild, mouthful of firm, white meat – but I doubt he’ll be making a special trip anywhere for the chance to catch more of them.

We awoke in our respective houses on Tuesday morning to quite a stiff breeze whipping through the valley. Happily, we weren’t planning to take the boat, anyhow, so we didn’t worry about rough water, at least with regard to launching and retrieving a boat. (Real rough water can be a challenge to bank fishes, too.) Besides, I’ve often seen it windy here in the flatland and calm as can be up in the hills. (Well, I’ve seen it vice versa, also, but never mind that.)

(Geo - standing - getting to know the neighbors.)

(Geo – standing – getting to know the neighbors.)

We arrived at Geezer Beach (at Arrowrock Reservoir) to find four rigs lined up on the beach ahead of us. Our spirits picked up a bit, figuring that with others up there fishing already, perhaps the fishing reports had been good. (Neither of us had done any research for that.) But no, none of those who arrived before us had caught anything. (And this despite the fact the two fellows we talked with before setting up said they had their lines in the water at 7:30 AM…we had arrived at 9:30 AM).

The good news? The wind we left in the valley was but a slight breeze at the lake. And during the day, it sort of “ebbed and flowed” between dead calm and fairly stiff. The bad news? What fish were in the lake must have been quite small, indeed. Most of them, anyhow. So small it appeared they couldn’t get their mouths over the bait we were using…they were only able to tug at it, giving us the appearance of a bite, but never getting hooked up.

Oh, in time, I caught three of the rascals (rainbow trout), with one of them checking in at 14 inches long, and with some good “heft” to him. A second was perhaps 13 inches and the third no more than eleven. The three of them made a good supper for Janet and me.

Obviously, I should have made a clean sweep on the “fisherman’s bet” that always is active — even when unspoken — when Geo and I fish together. But, alas, because I have a permit to use two poles while George normally buys only a one-pole license, I must designate which of my two is the “money pole.” Of course I always choose the first one I’ve casted out, so there is no pressure to hurry while getting the second one set up. George had several of those little-fish bites I spoke of above, while I was getting zip. But finally, I caught the smallest of my (eventual) three fish. Naturally, the fish had chosen the “non-money” pole (otherwise I would have had the “first fish” bet locked up). Before too much longer, I caught the biggest fish of the day. And of course it, too, had selected the “non-money” pole. Clever bastards, these trout!

(My designated parking spot on Geezer Beach.)

(My designated parking spot on Geezer Beach.)

Swearing not to be outdone by a fish, I quickly designated that pole (the one that had caught both fish, so far) as the new “money pole.” Some time later, I caught my third fish…and which pole to you suppose I caught him with? Not too difficult a question, is it…it was, of course, the pole that had been first dubbed the “money pole,” but which designation I had cleverly transferred to the one that had caught the first two fish. So right up until the moment he pulled his line from the water the final time, George could have taken the bet for First, Biggest, and Most if he could have landed just one little trout, since none of my three counted. (I’m actually surprised we’re not still out there, waiting for that to happen.)

So it was another day of “Good Fishing,” but “Not so good Catching.” It happens. Truth to tell, it happens quite often. But it always gets better, sooner or later, and that’s why we keep going out. Besides, it is always either fun while we do it, or, occasionally, bad enough so that we have fun telling stories about it for years.

So long till next time,

Bud