Tuesday, May 13, 2008

When To Go Fishing

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It was a lesson I learned many years ago. The best time to go fishing is whenever you can get away.

In days of old, when I was taking care of my four young children while recovering from a broken back, the first sign of the school bus was when the old man got up, stumbled around a bit, and once the kids hit the bathroom, we’d jump in the car and drive five miles to a small lake.

We could park along the edge of the road, and it looked like one of those circus clown tricks where people kept tumbling out of the car. I’d grab the can of worms, set the bobber on each rod at three feet, and we’d go fishing.

One after another of the kids would hook a bluegill, crappie or sunfish, and I’d sit there on the road shoulder and unhook fish and bait them up again. A wire mesh container held the fish in the water, and it didn’t take the kids long to catch a good mess of fish.

We’d fish for two or three hours or until they carried on about being starved, and we’d go home. The fish would be cleaned, and it didn’t take long to cook up a big mess of panfish. I’d keep cooking as long as they kept eating, and sometimes they would eat my share of fish as well. I’d have to settle for a can of soup. Wow!

Going fishing on a schedule is what I’ve had to do for 40 years as a full-time outdoor writer. Meet a charterboat at 5:30 a.m., and head out onto Lake Michigan for Chinook salmon or lake trout as I’ll be doing tomorrow. Come in, rest up a bit during the middle part of the day, and head back out in the late afternoon and early evening for more fishing.

It was like working in a factory. Be here at a certain time, eat lunch at another time, and punch out at a different time. Much of fishing is regulated a good bit like being in military service.

Been there, done that, and now that I’m a bit older, I’ll play the fishing-by-schedule game when it’s necessary but frankly, I enjoy going fishing when it moves me. Give me a four-hour respite from pounding the keyboard to write my daily blogs and my Sunday website stuff, take a break from writing my weekly column for the Traverse City Record-Eagle, and I’m as likely to slide out for two or three hours of bluegill fishing, chasing brook trout, or fishing for salmon of steelhead, depending on the time of year.

Over many years of fishing for a variety of game fish, I’ve learned one important thing. Fish do not wear wrist watches, never look at clocks, and have absolutely no concept of time. They feed when hungry, and don’t feed when they are not.

It’s not a bad life except small fish always run the risk of being eaten by a larger fish, and I suppose that is a bummer, but fish don’t think like we do. They react to instinct and stimuli, and when the belly rumbles, they go looking for dinner.

There are exceptions to every basic rule. Fish often feed well in the early morning, as we hope to prove tomorrow with a good catch of lake trout or salmon, and also feed well as daylight fades into darkness. Those are commonly accepted key fishing times, but the spring Hendrickson hatch is a gentleman’s insect. They get going in the early afternoon at a reasonable hour, and are unlike the Hex hatches that occur about the time most people are snoozing on a pillow.

Fishing is a sport with many wonders, and I’m a firm believer in trying to learn something new every time I go. Sometimes I do, and on occasion, I’m not only skunked by the fish but fail to tuck a little tidbit of fishing knowhow in some hidden recess of my brain.

Fishing, to me and to many people, is not a competitive thing. Most of us find little necessity in catching more fish than the next person. We fish because we enjoy areas where fish are caught, and feel better about life when we have a pleasant day on the water.

Most of all, we learn that fishing on an unscheduled basis can be fun. At age 69, what do I have left to prove? That I can catch more or bigger fish than someone else?

Naw, that’s not me. Fishing is supposed to be a contemplative pursuit, where being there is every bit as important as catching fish, and in some cases, more important. So, for me, it’s as much pr ,pre fun to fish when the mood strikes tather than when other people think we should.

In my dotage, I’ve become a bit more like the fish. I eat when I need to, sleep when I must, and spend the rest of the day outside enjoying the best that nature has to offer. Sadly, it took me nearly 60 years to learn that little fact.

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/13 at 12:29 PM
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