Anything to catch a salmon

Perhaps the most daring, boring, physical, and when successful, rewarding game that I play is attempting to fish salmon out of a canoe on Lake Michigan by paddle trolling.

Though I know that other people do it, I have never seen anyone fishing out of a canoe in this manner.

I started doing this about 20 years ago. I generally give it one try a year and most of the time I do a lot of my fishing after dark as there is less wind and boat traffic. On average I catch about one salmon every other outing and my best was twice I caught three.

Monday, June 4

High 74, Low 53

Port Washington is a very cool town, has an excellent port and last year I caught three coho in one day fishing there. This early evening I was incredibly excited as I began paddling my 16-foot Aluma-Craft out to sea.

I would be using two rods rigged with a dodger/fly combination and though the bite had been slow in the area, I figured if I put in enough hours I would have at least one chance.

That one chance did not materialize as an hour before dark and a mile from shore a pop-up storm hit me that was mostly wind and it was taking me to the state of Michigan.

I did a quick about face and began the blow-your-arms out job of heading to shore in 3-foot waves. Someone must have seen my plight as before long a crew in a Coast Guard boat appeared out of nowhere and followed along side of me until they were convinced I could handle the job.

The following morning after sleeping in the front seat of The Chevy Hotel east winds kept me shore bound and I headed home.

Friday, July 6

High 83, Low 57

There is a lot of salmonfishing pride at the port of Sheboygan and 32 days after my first attempt I would give Sheboygan a try. I have to tell you for a good week I could not get the thought of being pulled around in my canoe by a big fish off my mind.

I sit on a cooler, I have a large cooler with ice in it to put my catch and I have a dry box. I use a 2-by-6-foot that I attach to my gunnels that has three rod holders on it and I also have a propane lantern mounted to that.

Some bad luck came my way right at the landing when I talked to a fisherman who was trailering his boat because it was too windy, and his wife had become ill.

No problem. I am Mark Walters – I can do anything. So I exit the harbor and there is a solid breeze causing steady rollers and so I work my way southeast. That plan did not work out as I believe there were a whole bunch of commercial fishing nets in the area and it was a pretty good-sized task to dodge them.

The rollers were taking me south, it was getting dark and I was maybe two miles from shore when I started heading north. I was wearing long pants and a life vest and I was soaked as each wave splashed me just a tad.

Long story short, at 11:30 p.m. one drowned rat exited his canoe, stripped off his pants and sat in the Chevy Hotel until 3:00 a.m.

Saturday July 7

High 84, Low 57

As I paddled three miles straight east in total darkness this morning I can guarantee you one thing. Every boat load of people was talking about the “nut job” in a canoe trying to catch a salmon.

For seven hours I pulled on the kayak paddle and did the same speed as my neighbors in both private and charter boats.

There were times when I was in so much pain that I thought I was gonna lose it. Pain comes from sitting on a cooler with a back that has some issues and knowing that if you stop paddling your lines are gonna get messed up.

Checking your lines has to happen as they get fouled, pick up vegetation or in the case of my only fish being an alewife that my glow spoon had snagged.

I did not see a net go down as in any of my neighbors catching a fish but at the fish-cleaning station some of the fishermen had 1-5 per boat and about half had the same as me.

I have come to realize that I need to stay somewhere for at least two days and fish maybe six hours at a time as this sport kicks my behind. Taking breaks in a truck does not work.

Catching salmon out of a canoe is indescribable. First, the line is screaming off your reel. Actually first, for about a million hours you get worn out and sometimes big waves make you wanna cry for help that you know is not coming.

When Mrs. Big starts pulling you around and you have to figure out how to get your other line in and then you have to net or gaff it and then it wants to beat you up as you are both on the floor of your canoe.

When that dandy from the deep is flopping in the box, then you know you put on your Big Boy Pants and accomplished something.

I am going back with a full moon!


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