I wasn't going to repeat last year's procrastination in getting my boat in the water and doing some fishing. The winter of 2013/2014 was long, cold, and a general pain in the ass - even for this native, lifelong New Englander. So early season fishing seemed to dominate daydreaming while anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring.
In classic eleventh hour form, on Friday, the day before opening day for fishing, I moved the boat and trailer from their winter storage spot to the lake. The to do list wasn't overwhelming, but not a simple walk in the park, either. Clean off/out winter debris, affix registration stickers, retrieve and mount engine, drain lower unit hypoid oil, install fresh hypoid oil, clean up spilled hypoid oil (heh), responsibly discard 2013 remnant fuel from tank, fill tank with fresh gas (and 2-cycle oil with conditioner), install mooring whips on pier, launch boat, start/test engine, and take a performance ride.
All went smoothly, with the exception of the initial starting of the engine. It took probably a dozen yanks on the starter cord before the engine fired up. In retrospect, I probably could have primed the gas line a bit more and reduced the number of yanks on the cord. The cooling system check was A-OK, so I let 'er sit and idle to warm up before the performance ride, which went off without a hitch, sputter, or stall.
The photo at the top of this article is of my faithful vessel The Arturo at 7:50 P.M. on the eve of Opening Day 2014 after all the prep and performance ride. It's a 14' Starcraft powered by a 15 HP Johnson 2 cycle. It's a perfect combo for me as it has plenty of get-up-and-go, trottles down to smooth troll, is a one man launch or extract, and trails like a feather behind my PT Cruiser. A "right-click, view image" should show the image full size in your browser, revealing the green "ADK" (Adirondack!) sticker on the rear of the transom.
I got out on the lake later than I had hoped, though in the back of my mind I thought it best to avoid the mad rush at precisely 6 A.M. and the requisite maritime stampede of Opening Day/Weekend Admiral lunacy. So at around 10 A.M. I took a drive by the state boat launch area to see what the activity level was. I was disheartened to see a chain across the entrance, a full parking lot, and the DEEP attendant doing the "one out, one in" system. Highland Lake was going to be a zoo...
And it was.
The Arturo's engine fired right up on the third pull of the starter cord! Yay! No sooner had I navigated out into Second Bay and gotten my first troll line out, some Opening Day/Weekend Admiral cut across my line not 30 feet behind me. "I guess it's going to be that kind of day," I thought. Mostly undeterred, I got another line out and putted around the bay's usually trout-rich basin area. After two or three hours of simple line and lure trolling and only three questionable strikes, it was time to call it a day. The Opening Day/Weekend Admirals were still thick as flies. And the wind was kicking up making for a busy time at the tiller in already challenging navigation.
At least this year The Arturo and I were out on the water before Opening Day. That's a welcomed freedom compared to previous years just fishing off the end of the pier!
After a couple of "surprise trout" were hauled in last year while angling for bass, I made a few trout runs. Though I caught a few, most were caught with worms. These runs were in the late summer when the water was still warm. Trout generally run deep where the cooler water is, so the trick is to get down to the magic depth where the fish are.
When I was a kid, my father and I trolled for trout and kokane salmon using braided, color coded, lead fishing line, Seneca or Davis spinners, a leader, and lure. Though very effective, when a fish hit, the fight and play of it all was was somewhat dampened by the weight and drag of the line and spinners.
Wanting the full feel of the fish, another method was needed. What I was interested in was something like Illustration 1, though after pricing such systems, I couldn't bear the thought of prying the price of admission out of my wallet.
I thought about that downrigger system for way too much time over the winter...
Fortunately, a quick web search turned up what I call "the Poor Man's Downrigger System." I don't own what you'd consider a conventional printer, nor do I want or really need one. As the photo below shows, my printer consists of a Ticonderoga 1388-1 pencil and a envelope from some otherwise worthless junk mail. And on said envelope are the details of the PMDS.
A quick trip to Northwest Sporting Goods and Supply and less than $10 passing across the counter secured enough 3-way swivels, bell weights, and swivel snaps surely to last a good part of the season! That's a far cry from the aforementioned fancy-schmancy downrigger systems. God bless the people who can afford such parapernalia, but SHEESH!
On Saturday, May 3, I went up to the lake for trout hunt two. I thought it best to prepare the PMDS lines while on land instead of while bobbing around in The Arturo. Knots tied on land seem to exhibit far fewer failures than those tied out on the lake. At least that has been my experience. 15 or 20 minutes later, the task was done and it was time to load the boat.
Once on the lake, I decided to again circle the Second Bay basin. On my second pass, one of my poles bent over signalling a strike! After a nice, little fight, I landed a 15 or 16 inch brown trout whose dinner plans for my Rapala F07 Perch lure went terribly wrong -- for him! Damn! Downrigger worked! Though I was going to keep the fish, I decided I wanted something a little bigger as a keeper, so I tossed him back in the lake. No photos of catch-and-release trout. They're considerably more fragile than bass, and don't take well to handling by humans or being out of the water too long.
Perhaps between 30 and 45 minutes later on another pass, I decided that I'd change the frog flatfish lure on the other pole. As I was reeling in, the pole suddenly bowed over! And another nice, little fight landed a 12 or 13 inch brown trout! This one was also released. So much for changing lures ...
Incidentally, both fish were caught at nearly the exact same spot, so I very well may have found a hot spot for browns. More visits are planned!
A few more passes were made and on a whim, I headed into First Bay. However, the wind was kicking up and there were a few seemingly hesitant raindrops coming down, so I called it a day. A couple hours or so on the lake well clear of Opening Day mania, two trout caught, a bit of sun on the skin, a little windburn ... ahhh, fishing again!
That's it for the initial 2014 fishing adventures. I've got two trips under the belt with only a couple of weeks into the season - a far cry from last year's foot dragging. The PMDS has been tested and it works. And I've caught a couple of nice fish. To expect any more than that would be folly. Life is good!
There will be more fish tales to follow, so stay tuned.
As a better-than-good friend frequently says, "And that's all I have to report at this time."