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River fishing challenges

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Fishing inland lakes in summer and ice fishing in winter is wonderful outdoor exposure. It’s a joy to look through the ice hole and observe swimming fish. Ice shanties create a dark room and sun filtered through the ice lights the water. The hole resembles a TV viewing screen. I find joy watching fish and catching them.

Now is a time when anglers crowd the rivers to catch fish swimming upstream. I am an infrequent angler and had little experience river fishing until I was teenager. At age 15, my older brother took me fishing to Fletcher County Park, near Alpena, and it became an annual Memorial Day weekend event.

At that park, I learned an important fishing lesson. Many Northern Pike were just under the size limit and needed to be released. It was fun for me to reel in a fighter big or small. I am sure that is not what the fish considered a good time. I prefer continuously casting my lure instead of sitting with a static line waiting for fish to bite. I am too antsy. Watching a bobber is not the best time for me.

Thunder Bay River flowed into and out from Sunken Lake. We floated the rowboat downstream to where we thought “the big one” would be lying in wait for its next meal. It was a great place to perfect casting skills. Too long a cast would land on a log; too short would not reach hidden hollows where fish were waiting; and too far to the left or right was not suitable for fish to hunt their prey. My older brother, Mike, was excellent at casting. Whatever he did was always better than I could do. I think that is true of older brothers in general (true or not).

As we floated down the lazy river, we would cast to where we thought fish were waiting. I hooked one and the fish decided it was not going to be landed. One must not to exert too much instant pressure on the line or it might snap. I kept constant pressure on the line and reeled the fish closer as it fought for freedom with powerful “fish moves.” Gradually the fish exhausted and was drawn close to the boat.

When it was close, I released some line and the fish took its chance to escape. Mike, with shock, said, “What are you doing?!” I said I wanted to play the fish longer. He said, “You cannot do that.” Instantly I learned why. The fish immediately swam to an underwater log and swam around the log. The log now caught me on one end of the line and the fish on the other. Mike rowed to the log that was submerged near the water surface. We could see the fish on a short line unable to get away.

It was near the water surface and Mike was able to net it. We landed the fish and prepared it for dinner. Mike explained more do’s and don’ts for fishing while we enjoyed a Northern Pike dinner. We enjoyed bass, sucker, and pan fish dinners on our fishing weekends. We smelt fished the Great Lakes. Each fish species has unique habitat requirements for temperature, depth, vegetation, currents, and prey.

The fish we catch taste better than those caught by other people. When one spends time exploring fish nature niches to learn behavior, selected habitats, and experiences time in beautiful wild places fishing, it adds flavor to the meal. This makes the fish we catch the best tasting. It is a psychological benefit that transposes to our taste buds.

I learned to never allow slack in the line because the fish will seize the escape opportunity. We were lucky to eat the fish that taught me a lesson. It is good for people to learn where fish come from. Too many people think they come from grocery stores or fish markets instead of rivers, lakes, and oceans. We cannot protect habitats if we do not know them from personal intimate outdoor experience. Go outdoors.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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