Saturday, August 13, 2022

Angling for an Adventure

So what did you do this summer?  It turns out, I went fishing....and winning awards doing it.

First there was Truman versus Dewey, Jesse Ventura in 1998, or even the Miracle Mets of 1969, but on Thursday I (yes I) shocked camp winning the much coveted Smoothrock Walleye Fishing Challenge" and got to hoist the Stan Peer Memorial Trophy for the first time ever and win the fabulous prize money.

Dr Rapp the 2019 champion presenting me in Duluth with Stan Peer Trophy

Why is this such a shock? You may ask.  First of all, we spent more time blueberry picking than walleye fishing, mostly because we found a blueberry spot that was just incredible and we never win the walleye trophy, walleye fishing is just too ....slow.


Greg, boat partner, picking berries on "Burnt over Lunch Island"

Secondly, we aren't very good at it.  We do not have the sophisticated sonar, fancy rigs, or anything, we just fish jigs, sometimes rotate colors, but only reluctantly, and well, catch many small ones but nothing large.  Greg, my boat partner almost never catches even a fish for the "Slot Board," over 19 inch fish we release and mark on the board.  This year the group had 58 registered fish, Greg, he caught 1, and was happy he caught one.  The first one I caught, was on a pike lure in 2 feet of water.  

Our boat spends almost our entire effort pike fishing going after a separate trophy, one in which we can win, one in which we have won, and won in which we expect to win, the only question is typically who in the boat is going to win it, and it becomes quite competitive, I the "Pike Whisperer" but also the guide, who usually fishes second on casts, so Greg has an advantage on each bay.

Greg admiring the Falun Sucker Club Memorial Trophy that hangs in Cabin #11 at Smoothrock Camp, first awarded in 1984 after being caught by me Musky Fishing on Big Trade Lake in NW Wisconsin (long story) and then fashioned into a traveling trophy of sorts, first won by me in 1985, since 2010, when Greg dedicated Canada fishing towards pike fishing, he has won it 5.5 times and me 3.5 times, one year not awarded due to Covid, two years we did not win it, and in 2016, I did a big year and did not go up there (but Greg won it with someone else.

3rd place, 37 inches.  The group landed and released 19 pike over 28 inches

2nd Place 40 inch fish, although heavier than the winning fish, it was a 1/2 inch too short to win.  Our boat caught 197 pike for the week, about average.  Our best total 352 in 2013, a year in which we boated 5 over 40 inches

Greg holding the first large fish caught, last Saturday, 40.5 inches, but it held out for the entire week

Greg Peer holding his cash prize, and luckily getting a chance again to "pet the beaver" in an annual tradition under the coveted trophy which will have Greg's name on it for 2022.

But that is pike fishing, to win the walleye award is the big honor.  My dad, Doug Segelstrom has never won it in the modern era despite first coming to Smoothrock with me in 1982 and many fishermen have came and went without having their name on the trophy.  I won it in 2013 (but before we got the new trophy to award two years later), but with the smallest walleye ever at 22 3/4 inches and I think everyone must have been drunk that year or something odd was in the air.  

So a newcomer named Butch from Phoenix took the lead on the second day, with a 24 and 1/2 inch fish, a respectable fish.  Greg proclaimed most accurately that we would have a better chance to both beat his 40 1/2 inch pike than to beat that walleye.  I had only caught one walleye bigger on the lake, and that was in June a few years back, well before an August contest.  Greg had never caught one bigger. So we never even fished walleyes for days 2, 4,5, and on day six, bored we fished them for an hour, just the 2nd hour to do it.  Everyone else fished for dinner and for ones to take home, but even though that was only our second hour fishing them (we had picked blueberries for four hours and pike fished for 50 hours during the week), I used some advice I gleaned earlier in the summer- fishing deeper down the drop offs away from the smaller fish and Greg and I caught three fish between 21 and 22 inches, his only one for the week.  It seemed to hold true but only to get on the fish board.  

But it wasn't like we were plotting an "attack," there was no attack, we were never going to win anything.  We spent the week otherwise enjoying the sights and doing what we do while fishing. 
BS-ing at camp, telling tale tales of ones that got away

stealing gas from a sister camp ten miles away so we can get home

wildlife watching and photography

Making shore lunch

Enjoying the many fantastic views.......

So the last day arrived, we went...pike fishing, rotating directions to hit the holes on the way to blueberry picking.  While passing a spot I have fished once for walleye in June, for reasons never clear I stopped to walleye fish, Who knows why I do things on the lake. I found the reef and backed off and Greg immediately hooked something large....and undoubtedly green, it would be a feisty 31 inch pike that made us struggle to land on light tackle and no leader. But, we did.
It was pike #190 for the week and a tricky catch on the walleye rod

So we did it again, Finally after sorting out some small fish I kept catching while backing down the the drop off, I finally saw the depth dropping fast.  I had a bite and set the hook then I got something on, it was notedly large. When hooking a bigger pike on jigs, if they don't cut the line immediately, need to be slowly hoisted off the bottom and then a quarter, half way up especially in August will just take off and swim away fast.  Greg noticed my hoisting efforts with my even lighter rod than he uses for walleye.  "Big one?" He asked.

"Yes, and if this is a walleye, It has money attached to it," I laughed at what I said knowing full well it was a pike just waiting for a big and fast run and which it would probably never be seen. Knowing such, I have changed my walleye reel to a smaller clone of my pike reel, a salt-water and hard to find, baitrunner series with two drags in which I use for different things than the company intended.  I use the second "baitrunner drag," to have an emergency second drag set very light to allow a run away pike the chance to go fast without giving it a chance to either pull the rod out of my arms or to break the line since it is so hard to keep up.  My 40 inch fish on heavy line ran 150 yards before it stopped enough for me to turn it back toward the boat.  I once had a 38 inch pike on this same reel that ran and ran so much Greg had to take the tiller to chase it down as twice it was nearing the end of my spool.  It took us 40 minutes and nearly a quarter mile to even land.  As such, knowing this was a bigger pike, I had my finger on the second drag button ready, but how big was it?  It is hard to tell at this stage.  On my rod, they all feel huge.  I struggled to pull the fish off the bottom knowing what was coming, I was ready for it to go.  But then It gave up some depth, and then some more, I was thinking the new and a little heavier line I had put on had helped, (my wife on her similarly equipped rod was able to out hoist a rather lazy 40 3/4 inch pike that never ran and we got it in the boat).  Maybe I could beat Greg's pike?   

It was coming up and I struggled to look into the depth to see how big the "pike" was to determine what we had to do to get it into the boat.  Maybe I would switch places with Greg so as to maybe chase it down when it ran.  The boat sometimes scares the lazy ones into running.  We prefer to hand land all pike but a walleye might cut you on a gill plate, and my fingers were sore for weeks in June from walleye fishing, so we use a net on them.  Greg held the net but was also trying to get a plan of what we would do.  My light trusty rod, was bent over double as I hoisted the fish.

Then Greg and I saw it together, "It IS a walleye."  It came right up to the surface and without a word,  He scooped it up and there it was a 26 INCH FISH!

   We high fived each other, I let out a hoot as I measured it as my arms started to shake.  It was not a record or anything. Then we laughed at the absurdity of it all.  Then laughed the rest of the afternoon thinking about it again.  It wasn't that big of a fish so other boats were out there fishing and fishing for walleyes in places were big ones lurked, I had not even won anything yet. But the laughing subsided...

So, what does Olaf do next?  Well, then I tried to snatch defeat from apparent victory.  We went blueberry picking two miles south of camp, but we were 12 miles north of camp and I never stopped to refill the gas tank, and after blueberry picking drove a mile even farther south.  I kicked the gas tank of the boat accidentally.  It showed empty and easily moved around.  Crap, I'm out of gas. Would we even make it home?

There is a rule for the contest.  All fish need to be registered by a certain time on the last day.  Previously, it had been 5PM, BUT someone still fishing caught a tying walleye five minutes after five a few years back and was not given the award.  There was also the event when a pike was trying to eat a walleye that was caught which was promptly netted by my dad which was never on a line, would that win (luckily Greg bested that fish two days later so it was never a real issue)?  We have had rule SNAFUS and committee rulings, that have adjusted the rules.  Quitting time now was 8pm, but if I ran out of gas, got stranded and would I even be rescued on Thursday, let alone by 8PM?  I could hear the lore for decades more, of how I had neglected to stop and register my fish only to run the boat out of gas....and lose.  Uff Dah!

I put the can up on the seat and shook it, it would be close and headed back to camp and into the wind, we would never even drift the right way home.  We had seen no one fish that direction all week so no one was going to come to our rescue.  I sighed and soldiered on.  Keeping close to one shore so we could paddle the boat to a point to increase our chances.  A mile ahead of us eventually I spotted a boat near an island not far from camp, it would turn out to be three boats.  I shook the can.  It was going to be close.  They would never notice us a mile off so I started to cross the open water heading straight towards them, it was probably unwise to go a few extra yards but I needed to get as close to them as I could.  Then I was a half mile, still too far to yell, then I crept to a quarter mile, and began to think we had a chance....

As I passed them, people I did not know, I was too close, I wonder if they got bothered by this crazy guy who was running flat out way too close to them but well, I might have needed them.  I got passed them and I breathed easier.  WE did have enough gas to get back to camp, but had I not kicked the can and noticed we would have ran out from where I was going.

Greg went and got more gas and I.....registered our fish.  We fished a half mile from camp for the rest of the day, actually walleye fishing for fun and then the previous champion returned from the their spot to join me at a place we call the "Hump."
Dr Jeff Rapp and Butch fishing at the Hump.

As I was marking the underwater mound with buoys, the three boats I had buzzed earlier drove over, circled around me in what all I can surmise was some sort of "f" you gesture.  I waved a small walleye on them and put down a second buoy and looked like I was not moving.  They all eventually drove off.

So that was it.  The fish held and in the morning, we organized our stuff for the flight out, luckily I was on the first flight out.  Like usual the plane was delayed due to fog at the basecamp and now sitting in the office, I tried to take a nap.

The fog cleared, the plane came, unloaded reloaded, and then we were able to board led by the camp dogs...



The men in Cabin #11 2022,  Most had not been here for three years due to COVID and Canada travel restrictions.
 

It is not the biggest award nor the biggest fish, and there is ALWAYS a bigger fish, but for an older guy, you do not get much glory in this world and this may be it, for me.  My real glory is seeing my kids and wife and their pictures are what makes me happy, but everyone needs a little recognition in life.  I am still feeling like I accomplished something special and that is why we live or at least why I live. In 2023, I will put in my tournament "fee" and well, fly to Smoothrock Camp and try again to win this award for two years in a row, something never done before.  Will I fish walleyes more?  maybe but probably not.  Nothing beats a big time pike run like the biggest one I caught, nothing.  Will I succeed in repeating, probably not, but heck, as they say it beats a day out at the office. 

So go out there, go fishing, go blueberry picking, something I shall savor all fall, as I brought back 20 pounds of them and why only 20 pounds?  It was all the containers we had with.....

Go out and enjoy yourself

Olaf 



   


2 comments:

  1. Just a great fishing tale.
    Heartiest congratulations and well done!

    ReplyDelete

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