Shawnee Dispatch

Not-so-great fishing on the Great Lakes

June 8, 2011

John Beal's column, Cabbages and Kings, appears monthly on the Voices page of The Dispatch. Beal is a Shawnee resident and retired editor of The Dispatch.

John Beal's column, Cabbages and Kings, appears monthly on the Voices page of The Dispatch. Beal is a Shawnee resident and retired editor of The Dispatch.

Collingwood, Ontario — Except that I haven’t been able to sleep, this has been a pretty relaxing vacation.

A week ago, we checked into this resort not far from the banks of Georgian Bay (Remember junior high/middle school geography? Georgian Bay is the pack on the back of the peddler that is Lake Huron.) and, apart from one foray into the madness of Toronto traffic, we’ve basically just lain around and taken life easy.

We’ve had a good time. But for some reason unfathomable to me, my circadian rhythms have developed a pronounced stutter that wakes me daily about 5 a.m. I’ve always been an early riser, but this is ridiculous.

All in all, we’ve had a pretty good time. Our daughter and her family drove up from Virginia, so we’ve had the company of our 4-year-old grandson, Jonas.

One of my brainstorms was that I’d take Jonas on his first fishing trip. Now the Great Lakes are considerable bodies of water. That is true, I would say, of any body of water that one cannot see across. (The Great Lakes, after all, contain something like 21 percent of all the fresh water on the earth’s surface.)

One of the local marinas advertised that you could rent a 14-foot fishing skiff for a day, but with the possibility of big waves coupled with my complete ignorance of local conditions, hot spots and fishing methods, I thought it more likely that we’d achieve some success by chartering a boat (complete with captain and all gear, etc.) for part of a day.

I failed to account for my normal fishing luck — or, actually, the complete lack of luck. First of all, the day before our expedition it was nice and warm, but the wind came up. Gusts of 35 to 40 miles an hour blew across the surface, adding to the normal chop.

By the day we went out, the wind had abated somewhat — down to about 15 mph — but it had moved around to the north. Now, when the wind blows from the north in these latitudes, it’s blowing right off the Arctic Circle. And when it blows across water that is only 42 degrees to begin with, there’s nothing that’s going to warm it up very much. Let’s just say it was cold and let it go at that.

Jonas, I must say, was a trouper. He was a little put off by the boat’s motion at first, but once he figured out that it was just rocking a bit (his father and I were hanging on to anything we could grasp), he danced about the boat with an abandon that caused a little concern. Then, lulled by the motion, he fell asleep in his father’s arms and slept for an hour or more.

The fish? What fish? I’m told that anglers in the area were catching some deep-running salmon and rainbow trout nearer the surface, but any fish that we chanced upon could not be enticed to bite.

I don’t know what I expected. I’ve never know anyone who’s fished so much and caught so little. Not for the first time, we contented ourselves with the joy of spending time on the water.

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