Fishing Addiction – circa 1988

The other day I was having lunch at a local fast food Mecca when a truck-load of sixteen foot fishing boats went by on the highway.  I turned to one of my lunch mates, arched an eyebrow, shook my head and uttered with unrequited longing, “Ohhh, unspeakable lust!”   Strange comment for a midday repast, but perfectly understandable as neither of us has an all weather aluminum juggernaut to satisfy a growing addiction.

Many of us can recall fishing experiences with grandpa and dad. Usually it meant a small wooden or shallow draft aluminum boat with an old five and a half horsepower Evinrude or Johnson outboard motor. While speed was not required, a dependable start was when weather changed.

Equipment for a seven or eight year-old usually consisted of a bamboo pole, a rare bird these days, a length of line, some lead shot weights, a hook and worms.  You didn’t troll, especially with a kid in the boat; mostly you sat and fished Panfish.   Unwinding the line from around the cane pole took at least ten minutes, getting a worm on the hook another five, another ten till nature called and then the fascination at peeing off the side of the boat.  After that the bottom of the minnow bucket was way more interesting.

Dad could have developed into a first rate fisherman, but the occasional trips to the muddy western Minnesota lake were not rewarding enough to insure a continued interest.  There were times however. 

On one occasion we started out just as the sun was peaking over the eastern horizon.  Wisps of steam rose from the lake’s quiet surface.  A strike, hook set and a fine four pound Walleye settled in the bottom of the landing net! 

Dad was ecstatic. After grasping it firmly to free the hook, he laid the fish in the bottom of the boat to admire its’ captured strength; power all too evident in the next second when it leaped high into the air and over the side of the boat.

Stunned, dad burst out laughing, uttered a mild curse and reached for another minnow.  We would persist and we would win. Persistence is after all what fishing is about. 

I know of many fishermen who fall in love with the technology of fishing.  I have often felt, (although never researched) that there is a direct correlation between the number of lures, gadgets, and thing-a-ma-bobs and a person’s inability to catch fish.  Twenty First century marketing deludes us into thinking we need just one more lure, one more gee-whiz electronic doodad and we’ll win.  The basic issue remains, “What are they biting on?” and “Where is the best spot?”

I have to admit though; I really like my depth finder and GPS.  Dead reckoning on a large lake can be frustrating.  Sometimes excellent habitat is so far out that clear reference points to ball park a location can’t be counted on.  But here some modern engineering gets carried away.

I have a friend who recently got a “deal” on a high tech depth finder.  For awhile it was malfunctioning and he had to send it back to the manufacturer.  The company added a couple more microchips that enhanced the unit’s performance.  One of them added cross-hairs that line up on a “target” to determine if you are moving toward or away from the fish.  I told him now all he needed was a torpedo!

If you are a fisherman you can’t really look at the unit cost of each catch.  Thinking like, “Today’s limit runs me $400 a pound,” will get you nowhere.  It’s really like the stock broker who tells you, “If you stay in the market for the long run you’ll do all right.”  We understand that.

In a similar vein, a few years back my brother and I organized a family fishing trip to Lake Michigan.  Along with my father-in-law and son, we were to meet him in Wisconsin and from there drive to Sheboygan to pick up the charter boat.  When we got to his house he got word that his new adoptive baby son was ready for pick up.  I told him, “Well you’ve got a choice. A true fisherman knows what he needs to do.”  Minus my brother we left early the next morning.  He’s addicted but his heart is in the right place.

Anglers fall on a continuum.  I’m not what you’d label hard core, but some of the people I fish with in Canada are; up at five-thirty, on the lake by six, back at seven pm, clean fish, eat, talk smart, drink a little and then go to bed.  The logistics of this yearly expedition are worthy of Hannibal, although he had snow to contend with.  We have backups on everything, including alternatives at breakfast.  Weight gain is optional but inevitable.

I have a fairly stressful job and fishing puts me in another place. If luck is with me I can see something concrete for my labors.  If I catch nothing, then it’s a little like work except that the water, the sky and warm breezes are the pay off.

Last September I took a Friday afternoon off and went out on the lake in a borrowed boat.  I was working a sand bar at about fifteen to eighteen feet.  After a few passes and a couple keepers I got groggy in the 60 degree temperatures.  The lake was calm so I killed the trolling motor, put my feet up and dozed.  I woke relaxed and loose; the price of addiction.

Author: Doug Lewandowski

I have walked a varied path. I was a Christian Brother, an English teacher/counselor and Licensed Psychologist. I have a twice monthly column in the Duluth News Tribune and have had a story published in the Nemadji Review and placed third in this year’s Jade Ring contest of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association. I was a commentator for KCRB, Minnesota Public Radio in the 90s. I transplanted to Duluth to be closer to grandchildren.

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