April 6, 2006

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

As a younger man I often dreamed of one day being one of those guys that hauled around my big bass boat to all of the world’s major lakes hauling in limits of all varieties of fish. Well, let’s just say that they make it look a whole lot easier than it is in real life. And I’m not even talking about the aspect of making enough money to afford the cost of the boat, trailer and all of the trimmings.

I mean the fishing aspect of it. One doesn’t simply show up at a 25,000 acre lake and 10 minutes later start catching fish. I reaffirmed this notion once again this past weekend as I ventured south for a family holiday and had the fortune of being able to spend Saturday on Lake Stockton.

I was more than ready and willing to go fishing, but when I stumbled across some highly favorable fishing reports and even got some pointers from a very successful guide on the lake, one could say I was chomping at the bit.

We began discussing the proposed adventure a few weeks earlier at one of the kids’ birthday parties. With the weekend looming just a few days off, I decided I better do a little research so that we might do something besides catch blue gill off the dock at the marina (which is my normal routine when we go to the lake for the kids’ swimming trips.)

I was pleased to learn that Stockton Lake is receiving lots of positive press with many experts predicting the lake will produce a new state record smallmouth bass this summer. Well that’s probably a few months away, but the first weekend of April was still an attractive date as the lake also is known as one of the state’s best walleye fisheries.

I got lots of fuel from a variety of Internet sites where anglers were reporting very successful outings on the lake with plenty of walleye and white bass being caught.

Still, being unfamiliar with the huge waterway, I thought we might be best served if we secured a guide to show us the hot spots. Unfortunately, three-days notice isn’t enough time to book these experts, who it turns out are generally scheduling trips as far as a year in advance for these top dates.

I have to give some thanks to guide Marty Thompson of Thompson Guide Service. Despite being booked for the weekend, he called me not once, but twice, and gave me some tips and advice so that we might experience some success at the lake.

But, as if you couldn’t tell by the way I started this column, when the big day rolled around, it was anything but what I had been reading about all week leading up to our outing.

We put my brother-in-law’s big bass boat on the water pretty early on Saturday. All told there were four of us brothers-in-law prepared to experience the success I had been telling them about for the past several days.

We zoomed across the lake headed for the dam, the spot we were told to target the walleye in. But after a couple of hours of trolling the deep waters, we still were in search of our first bite. A couple of moves to rocky points surrounding the coves near the dam, still produced no fish.

Finally we decided to give up on the walleye and start targeting the white bass. We decided that it was too sunny for the deep-water fish.

Besides, as Marty had written on his Internet fishing report on March 29th, “if you’re any kind of fisherman at all you should fill the boat” with white bass.

Our hopes did rise from the ashes when the first fish was hooked. Okay, so it was foul hooked, but surely that white bass was trying to swallow the rattle trap lure and simply missed it, right?

About an hour later we were wondering what kind of fishermen we really were? Unless we four had squeezed into a thimble and raised the sail, we were as far away from “filling the boat with fish” as we could be.

It was so slow, that our second and final fish came in the middle of a cell phone call. Boy was I glad for that mobile phone. The conversation distracted the fisherman long enough that myself and the other angler who were skunked on the day, were able to watch his bobber go under water and at least feel like we were part of catching him, when we interrupted the call with shouts and jeers.

That was one of the many laughs we had all afternoon. There’s no replacement for good friends, and we proved that by having a fun outing despite less than perfect fishing results. Heck, I got a sun tan, told lots of jokes and definitely got my hopes up for turkey season after the gobblers serenaded us all morning long. It’s a little warmer down south, so the birds were taking advantage of the 70-degrees to do some courting. I can’t wait.

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