On the slide - Another first was enjoyed

Dan Marquardtsen (left) hoists the 20-25 pound “whopper” coho salmon that Dan Paladie (right) just pulled from the waters of Lake Michigan. The pair of Dans were on a fishing outing with a group of six that included Barb Marquardsen, Laura Wakefield, Wally Wakefield and Randy Kovars. In all the group netted five salmon. (submitted photo)

On the slide

I haven’t been fishing in a long time.

It started a while back with a question from my daughter Laura.

“Would you like to go fishing with us to Lake Michigan?” she asked.

It didn’t take any time answering. “Sure,” I said.

Then came the questions. “Who’s going?” “When?” “How much will it cost?” etc., etc.

But after a while, I wondered, in my mind, perhaps the most pertinent question: “How am I going to get into a boat that will embark onto one of the great inland seas?”

Anyone who has seen me around these past few years knows that I have been confined to a luxurious little blue scooter that I travel around in to various sporting events. It also is my means of travel for a myriad of other tasks that occupy my daily chores and endeavors.

“We’ll figure that out and get you on the boat somehow. Don’t worry about that,” came the reply from Laura, who was much more confident that I was.

So it was that on my birthday we set out for Sheboygan, Wis., and a meeting with the company, “Dumper Dan’s Charter Fishing Fleet,” which would be our hosts.

The plan was that we would set out onto the lake at 4 p.m. that day in search of catching our limit - five each - of the mighty coho salmon, a species that was first stocked in Lake Michigan back in the 1960s.

In the eyes of sports people, the introduction of salmon into the Great Lakes by the various Departments of Game and Fisheries has been one of the most successful undertakings since pheasants were first introduced and more recently wild turkeys.

My “sidekick” for all of his 19 years, grandson Dan Paladie, and I began our sojourn at the early time - for him - of 7 a.m. to Sheboygan and a visit with Dumper Dan, who bills himself as “Wisconsin’s proven Charter Fishing Leader.” He goes on to boast “Catching the most fish; Running the most trips.”

Once we got to Sheboygan - a trip of approximately 350 miles from the Twin Cities to the South Pier Drive - we met up with our soon-to-be fishing companions.

There to greet us were Laura, her significant other, Randy Kovars, and a couple of their delightful friends, Dan and Barb Marquardsen from McGregor.

We got situated in our motel - a facility also owned by Dumper Dan - and began making preparations for our imminent 5 p.m. departure onto the lake.

Dumper Dan held a meeting for the people about to venture onto Lake Michigan, and Randy and Dan soon returned with news that the fishing trip for that day would not take place.

The waves - upwards of 6 feet - on the lake would prevent any sport fishing from taking place.

When that disappointing news was relayed to the rest of our party, we were prompted to digest the sad news.

Once that had been realized we set out to make plans to digest something a bit more palatable at a nearby restaurant, which our motel clerk had suggested.

Instead of catching fish we ventured along the boardwalk to the Mucky Duck Restaurant. We found the cuisine much more digestible than the name it went by. Additionally, it was also very affordable.

If you ever venture to Sheboygan, it would be worth your while to dine there. While enjoying our meal, we contemplated a 3:30 a.m. wake-up call we were facing.

This so as to be able to venture onto what we hoped would be a calmer Lake Michigan the next morning.

Fishing looked promising

The next day we arose early. The effort was made somewhat more acceptable when Sidekick Dan made the observation that he “wasn’t sure if it was really that early, or just late the night before.”

Rubbing the cobwebs from our eyes, we strolled to the dock to await a boat owned by Dumper Dan.

We were assured that Lake Michigan was indeed “more calm.”

The boat docked nearby to afford my boarding. Two muscular humans arrived on the dock. First the scooter was manhandled over the gunwale of the boat, and then it was my turn to be literally lifted aboard.

“More calm” we found out was something less than 6-foot waves. The captain of the ship, Josh, described the lake surface as “choppy.” That meant waves of something in the 2- to 3-foot range.

Once we made our way onto the lake, we found the waves to be big enough to bounce the boat - on which we would spend the better part of eight hours - around quite a bit.

There was enough “bouncing” to make one’s stomach queasy, if one was susceptible to seasickness.

It was interesting to watch the baiting of the hooks by first mate, Aaron (we quickly found he was somewhat into himself and made sure we all knew that because of his superior fishing abilities, he had never lost a tournament he had entered).

Aaron cast out something akin to a dozen lines, which were set at various depths, lengths and distances from the sides of the boat.

Once the lines were into the lake, we sat back to wait. Not too many minutes had passed before we found patience to be much more a virtue than one’s anticipation of catching a limit or two.

We were informed that the temperature of the lake was important. And the rise - almost 10 degrees - since yesterday was not at all desirable.

We were also informed that the late spring we had endured was also not at all conducive to fishing. Additionally, we were told that few parties had ever - if at all - caught a full limit of fish.

During the lack of fishing action and the need to zip up one’s jacket to ward off the chill of the brisk northeast breeze, we kind of felt we were being prepared for the possibility that this venture would be much less than our hopes of numerous successes.

Maybe, I thought, I should become more accustomed to enjoying and enriching my conversations with my newfound friends and less focused on landing a lunker.

An actual fish suddenly was most important

Our thoughts and doubts were suddenly interrupted with a flurry of activity. A fish had actually taken a bait!

The first mate leaped toward a quivering rod. He jerked the rod to set the hook and began to turn the reel.

I was first up - it later was explained that the honor of being first was afforded the oldest on board - to begin the quest of catching our limit.

I was handed the rod and told, “No matter what happens, keep reeling in!”

I felt the tug. The fish slowly came into sight. It tugged harder. Then I was instructed to move back towards the bow of the boat. A huge net appeared. Soon the words “Got ‘im” were heard.

Then over the aft end of the boat came the first of the day’s catch. Even while still in the net it gleamed with a silvery flash as the sunlight glanced off its body.

The coho salmon gleamed even more as it was hoisted out of the net and handed to me for a picture taking ritual that went from one camera to the next.

So it was that my first-ever fishing venture onto one of our Great Lakes was a success. The fish was soon nestled into the bottom of a huge cooler.

Then we sat back and waited. Another half hour to 45 minutes later, the progress of gaining our sea legs - or in my case sea “wheels” - was interrupted.

This time it was Sidekick Dan’s turn to begin the process of reeling in the fish.

Dan was soon seated on the cooler near the back of the boat. He set about cranking away on the reel. He fought the fish as it pulled.

Dan was told to go at it in a more furtive manner. He pulled and the fish fought back. After a good 10 to 12 minutes, he was thrust - cooler and all - back toward the front. The net materialized and soon the awaited “Got ‘im” was uttered.

The fish was again hoisted aboard and this time everyone was amazed.

Dan’s fish was something to behold. It made my six to eight pounder look like bait.

Dan had reeled in a fish that was something near a 25-pound beauty!

Even the captain and his mate exclaimed about the size of the glistening dazzler that would become the “catch of the day.”

Then Barb pulled one in. A bit later Laura was handed the pole, and she landed another.

Barb’s husband Dan took the pole. He was not so lucky. His fish didn’t make it to the boat.

Dan later was informed that it was too bad he “let his get away” or each of us would have had one in the cooler. 

The morning turned to afternoon. Time dragged on as the fish determined that for all the reasons mentioned earlier, plus a few more alleged, they refused to be fooled by some artificial bait.

Finally, it was Randy’s turn to bring one to the boat and into the cooler.

So it was - as we were being informed that other boats from Dumper Dan’s fleet had much less luck that morning than we were experiencing - that the final couple of hours were spent in more conversation.

I suspect we were told that the fish we had were more plentiful than any other boat in Dumper Dan’s fleet, to pacify our group into believing that somehow we were luckier than the rest.

Even the conversations waned as time passed, and before long it was time to begin pulling in the lines and heading back to shore.

We soon entered the docking area and the end of our venture. Except for a small mishap in which a large swell and a sharp turn of the boat hurled me from my scooter into the gunwale of the boat, a good time was had by all.

Our first experience fishing on Lake Michigan was one - if the opportunity is ever afforded again - that would beckon me back.

Back on shore, our land legs - or in my case scooter legs - returned.

It wasn’t long before we bid our goodbyes and soon Sidekick Dan and I were back on the road.

We headed north to Green Bay where we once more intercepted state Highway 29 for the trip westward toward Interstate 94 and Minnesota.

The last few miles - 50 or so - were counted down by Dan on his GPS. As our vehicle approached home, we both agreed that the short two days into which we had ventured was already drifting into the past.

The long, 350-mile journey home made the fishing adventure  - taken with old and new friends - seem like it had occurred somewhere in the distant past.

But the memories that remain of the trip are ones that remain as an experience worth repeating.

Quick takeoffs
Hey RUTH you hang in there!

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