A few years ago my Father-In-law invited me along to head over to Lake Michigan to do some salmon fishing on a charter. I had never been on a chartered fishing boat and I had never fished for salmon either. It seemed like something I should at least try once. After that first year I have been invited back every year and it has become kind of a traditional trip every July.
Every year I have gone I have said that I would really like to go over there and try it with out a guide and see if I could catch a salmon. I am not against going on guided fishing trips or guided hunts but I always feel like I am watching someone else fish and every now and then I get to reel in a fish. I have never done any fishing that requires downriggers and outriggers and running multiple lines all while trying to get on some fish. This year I finally got that opportunity. My buddy Drew Merryman just finished his residency down in Cleveland and had a month off before starting his new job. Drew also has a boat and all the equipment for this style of fishing. Drew, myself and our buddy Ben Pena headed over to Sheboygan, WI for a few days of fishing.
I was in a unique situation this year, I was going to be able to go out fishing with Drew and Ben for four days and then my father-in-law and Brother-in-law were going to come over for our annual trip. I was going to get to do an almost side by side comparison of going out on a charter and the DIY fishing that I like to do.
Our first day over there Drew and Ben walked me through how to set lines and how to use the down riggers and outriggers. I had only one goal for the week and that was to catch one salmon (I like to set reasonable goals). It didn't take long for me to reach that goal either. I was setting out a silver spoon and had let it get about 25 feet behind the boat when a Salmon hit it right on top of the water. I was shocked that my very first salmon came so easy. It didn't take long after that and we started getting more hits and eventually more fish. In a short evening fishing excursion just to get our bearings we managed to land 5 salmon. I was beyond overjoyed and I couldn't wait to get out the next morning and give it another try.
The next morning we got a slow start and didn't get out as quickly as we wanted. The Lake was rolling with some very unpleasant 3-4 foot waves and I got my very first experience with sea sickness. I have been out on Lake Michigan before in big waves and didn't expect to have issues but after getting the lines set I was pouring sweat and the nausea set in. I fought as best as I could but nothing was going to stop me from chumming the water. I didn't last very long after that and we had to call it a day. We still managed a few fish but it took me most of the rest of the day to get past that nasty sick feeling.
The next morning we got up and out on time and we barely got the lines in the water before we got the first fish. in about 20 minutes we had three nice salmon in the boat and added a couple more before we headed back in for breakfast. One of the fish that got away was my first experience with a king salmon. It hit hard on one of the outside lines and it raced back and forth out behind the boat I was certain it was going to get tangled in the other lines but it didn't and I finally got it behind the boat and started bringing it in. As it got up behind the boat we could see that it was a big king. This is where my inexperience got the best of me. I could see the fish and it was about ten feet behind the boat. I gave the pole a good lift and tried to bring the fish up to the net and that big king salmon wanted nothing to do with that. It dove down and darted forward right into the motor and cut the line. I should have let him play around back behind the boat about 50 feet until he was tired out before I horsed him in.
On our last day over there before I switched over to the charter we got out nice and early and the waves were rolling again. We were all having a hard time staying on our feet as we set lines but we managed to get them all out. we got a couple of decent salmon and then out behind the boat about 165 feet we saw a big fish hit a j-plug and jump up out of the water. Ben grabbed the Line and set the hook and held on with all he had. At the exact moment our outrigger line snapped and we lost our boards going out the left side. I quickly grabbed the lines and got them in so they wouldn't get tangled. While I was tending the line Ben was still engaged in a fight with a very big fish that ended up jumping a number of times. having learned from my mistake Ben didn't want to horse this fish and let him fight it out back behind the boat a good distance. When the fish had finally had enough he brought it up and Drew killed the motor in hopes of avoiding my other mishap. We landed the fish and got it on the boat. We were all a little exhausted and could barely believe we had just brought in such a nice fish.
We got back to the Harbor and couldn't wait to get a tape measure and a scale on this fish. Ben had landed a beautiful 34 inch 16 pound Rainbow trout. We went over to the cleaning station and all the other fishermen had to come take a look. It was a hell of a fish.
After that I met up with Zac and Ted and we headed out the next morning to fish with Seadog Sportfishing Charter. Over the previous days Drew, Ben and myself were running 6-7 lines. I felt like that was a enough and kept me busy. On the Seadog the first mate was running 12 lines all by himself running at different depths and distances behind the boat. I had a completely new appreciation for what he was doing and it made me want to jump in a help but that's not how it works. We managed five really nice fish that day and had a blast.
The last day we were over there was cut short, we were met by very unfriendly lake conditions and two of the five of us fishing that day got sick. I was certain that I was going to be one of those but for whatever reason I was just fine. I know that I would be a fool to turn down an opportunity to go out on a chartered fishing trip but I have to say I prefer doing the work myself. I can't wait to introduce some of these salmon to my new Treager grill. I am positive they are going to get along splendidly.