Now she can say she's done that
WORTHINGTON -- My wife and I normally take a motorcycle trip each summer and this summer was no different. When it comes to motorcycling, southwest Minnesota is at a real disadvantage. It takes about five to six hours of travel to get anywhere that most bikers would find interesting. The Black Hills are about six hours away. It takes about that long to get up the Mississippi River or to northern Minnesota.
Normally the first day and the last day are spent getting to and from a winding road. This column is a two-part series about an outdoor adventure I have never participated in before. The first is a recap of a unique fishing trip and the second one, next week, will be about the water it took place on.
We were joined this year by another couple, Casey and Rosa Ingenthron. They, like us, had never fished salmon before and for them it was the first bike trip of consequence in their history. We hauled for 1½ days to get to Algoma, Wis., to hook up with Troy Mattson of Kinns' Sportfishing Charters. We booked a 5-hour charter to catch what I hoped was lots of big fish.
When I told the gals we had to be at the marina at 3:45 a.m., they were quite a bit less enthused about the fishing prospect. Getting on a 32-foot boat in the dark at o'dark 30 is not like your normal largemouth bass outing in Minnesota. We fished with a boat captain and a first mate.
We were about three to four miles out in 200 feet of water and the first mate started rigging lines. These were big rods and reels spooled with wire line. Wire line is heavy and helps get the artificial baits down the necessary 60 feet to where the fish hang out. I called it an orchestra concert as I watched as 12 lines were rigged and set on the back of one boat. If I had been in charge this would have resulted in my untangling lines for about half a day. These two pros never snagged another line over the entire five-hour period.
As the sun came up, the fish woke up and the action remained brisk for the entire period. The limit is five fish per person and our group of four ended with 17 fish. I pestered the captain with what, to him, must have seemed like an endless barrage of questions about salmon, their habitats and how they were doing compared to years' past.
We caught three different species of fish, including three King Salmon, 13 Steelhead and one Brown Trout. There was one other species in Lake Michigan, the Lake Trout, but we did not catch any of those. I was pretty impressed by our captain, who also owns the charter company. This was a young guy -- about 35 years -- old who owns 11 boats and manages all of the captains and other staff who use them. More than half of all of the charters that operate out of Algoma are his. The boat that we fished on was worth about $80,000 --not bad for this enterprising young man.
We were in a unique position in that our group was traveling by motorcycle and had no room to carry fish with us. I asked Troy when I made the reservations whether there was any captain that might be interested in trading his money tip for the day in exchange for the fish that we might catch. Troy replied that they fish all day, every day, seven days a week from April to almost October and that the captains and mates get very few fish for themselves during that entire time. He figured every captain in the fleet would love to take us up on that offer. When it came time to go fishing five months later, it did not really surprise me that we got the company owner to captain our boat. They cleaned the fish on the way to shore and the sea gulls had a big and rich time with the free buffet.
I clean fish pretty good, but doing it on the back of a fast moving boat in big water with the skill of our first mate, it was obvious I still had a long way to go to reach his level.
There was a five-gallon pail filled to over-flowing with fillets and many more that would not fit in the bucket. We kept three fillets and made them on a grill before we headed on to the next destination. I am not a big fish eater, but at $14 a pound in the store, many others must be big fans of salmon. The captain and first mate had big smiles.
The fishing was great, the weather perfect and the company was first rate. We all took turns catching fish, and with 250 yards of wire line out reeling one in was no walk in the park. Casey did catch one of the bigger fish of that day and it was also the last one. What he would prefer you did not know was that we had to wake him up off the couch inside the boat cabin to catch it. This is a perfect end to a great experience.
It would be fun to do it again. It is a 7½ hour trip one way and runs about $750 for four people for 5 hours. This distance to Lake Michigan will keep this effort limited to special occasions. Kinns' Sportfishing is a first rate outfit and I would highly recommend them to anyone who wants to give this experience a try. The website is www.kinnskatch.com.
Rosa was pretty tired after getting up at 3 a.m. and catching a big fish, but the photo seems to show the prize was worth all of the effort.
Scott Rall is the Daily Globe's outdoors columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com.