FISH ON !

FISH ON !

Tossed like a bit of flotsam upon the white capped waves, chilled by the wicked northwest wind, and nearly drowned by the spray off the waves my thoughts are of tranquil, warmer waters. I ask myself that most serious of questions, one that originates from deep within, the very center of my being, from the pit of my gut, "WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING ON THE LAKE WITH WAVES THAT COULD KILL ME ?" "WALLEYE!" I shout from the top of my lungs to be heard over the howl of the wind, raging against me, brought on by an angry God who must have damned me for pursuing his noble beast of a fish.

God's temper is a fury cast upon me for the quest of this fish. I suffered; tossed in my boat, rigging lines to catch a beast. I want to see its toothy grin as I pull him from the chaos. Waves slap over the gunwales, as the wind blows like the Bull of Barney a beast of a breeze. Soon my trousers will be stained as fear tries to rise from the pit of my stomach. "I WILL BATTLE THE GODS' TILL I AM VICTORIOUS! I WILL CATCH A BEAST!"

Breaking the crest of a wave the boat slides into a bottomless trough. The next wave breaks over the bow. "DAMN YOU LAKE, I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!" The angry seas have turned black, capped with white foam; I turn the boat to quarter across its wrath. There is an angry roar from the waves trying to fill my boat. Holding the wheel to stay onboard and keep the course true, my eyes watch the rods for any tell tale sign that a beast is there.

One rod in the downrigger with a worm harness of green and black with a big eye, Paul Stoos created this harness he swears it possesses magic. The rigger is set down only to 10 feet and 140 feet back for the harness. Lead core, three colors out with a copper willow leaf with orange and green sparkle blades and crawler for bait seventy five feet to the port on an inline board for my second rod. One point four on the GPS and one point one on the subtroll, water temperature a frigid 55 degrees. DAMNED this is a cold spring, it has chilled the fish, froze them, and given them lockjaw. The water is so cold the crawlers canÕt drown; they stiffen up like pencils. DAMN this cold; let go; it should be June. Wait! There is a mark of a big fish on the Lowrance LCD screen, a long red tell tale sign in the hook, it is a WALLEYE!

The tempest rages, never the less I am driven to fish on by the mere thought of catching a beast. BLACK WATER, WHITE CAPS that could swallow a boat in one gulp, gone forever into the abyss. That is the hell called the Eastern Basin of Lake Erie, and I am here to do battle. "FISH ON!" The starboard rigger trips I grab it and take in the slack. "DAMN, NOTHING." I quickly bring in the worm harness to check the bait. I put on a new crawler, re-rig the line into the downrigger. It is a big disadvantage to fish alone in this hell, nobody to steer when hauling in a fish. Nobody to man the net, that could be bad.

FISH ON! FISH ON! The rigger tripped! Run with the waves, it is all I can do to maintain control. A four-footer goes over the bow for good measure before I can turn and grab the rod. RUN WITH THE WAVES A BEAST IS HOOKED! The wind blows a cold spray at me; I feel the head shakes; it is a big beast. The magic that Stoos put in his harness has worked, now I must focus on the battle. The boat pitches in the turmoil, I almost loose my footing and fall to the floor. THE GODS HAVE BEEN ANGERED! A cold hard rain begins to beat on my brow. I am only cooled in battle not defeated. The line counter says only forty feet to go. I reach to get the net ready, only twenty feet left I have not seen the beast yet he holds deep and shakes his head more fiercely to break free. I CATCH A GLIMPSE OF GOLD! THE BEAST IS HUGE! The beast makes a plunge and takes line off the drag. I fight back and bring the beast to the surface now it is thirty feet to go. I reel and see the noble fish on the surface. I reach with the net and carefully guide its head in; it is mine "I HAVE WON!"

I carefully lift the fish from the net, beautiful not a mark on it. The Berkley digital scale reads 10.85. For just this moment all seems calm, quickly now, back into the water so this beast can live. I won but I won't kill my beast, catch and release to conserve this creature for tomorrow.

I turn the boat into the waves and head back to port. Breaking the crest of a wave the boat slides into a bottomless trough. The next wave breaks over the bow. I laugh out loud, "I DARE YOU LAKE, I AM THE VICTOR TODAY!" The seas are black, capped with white foam; I turn the boat to quarter across its wrath. There is an angry roar form the waves trying to fill my boat. Holding the wheel to stay onboard and keep the course true. I see the harbor and its refuge from this chaos. I smile and know I will be back again to do battle with another beast. In port, refuge awaits, clean dry clothes, hot beverages, and friends to swap tales of beasts caught yesterday and today. We all live to cry out, "FISH ON!"

by Alex "Catch" Scheckel


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