A tornado rips through Gaylord earlier in the day.
Cadillac catches rain showers and strong winds.
It doesn’t look like I’m going fishing tonight. But just before eight o’clock, the wind drops.
I drag my solo canoe to the lake and tie it to the dock. Designed for a single occupant, the clearance between the seat and the footrest is only 20×24.
Everything I’ll need when I’m in the canoe has to fit in this space.
By the time I load into my fish finder, anchor, net, bait, tackle, rods and canoe paddle, there isn’t much room left for me. I put on the gear and paddle away from the dock.
The sky seems filled with soggy gray cotton balls. More storms seem likely. It’s a night to stay close to home.
I paddle about a quarter mile and start trolling with two rods – one with a Rapala and the other with a night caterpillar harness.
Literally, seconds after the robot exits, it is hit. It’s a gold — a 15 inch. I unhook it and put it back in the lake. I raise, recover the line and continue to troll. The tracked rig is hit again. This time the walleye I drop is 16 inches. Two fish in 10 minutes. Thunder rumbles in the west. The sky darkens. I’m the only boat in sight. Sitting in my canoe, I am the most important object there is – a potential lightning rod.
I roll up the two lines, take my paddle and head home. This is one time I wish I had an outboard motor propelling me instead of a paddle. I enter just as the rain starts. It lasts 10 minutes and then it’s over. I stand on deck and listen. Not hearing the thunder, I get back in the canoe and leave.
The walleyes are always interested in the nocturnal caterpillars and I catch two, a 17 and an 18 inch. Both go on the silt. With regard to the walleye, I am aware that it is a limited resource. But we like to eat them, so I have a self-imposed slot limit. Any fish between 17 and 21 inches is directed to the frying pan. The others can swim another day.
No orange sunset tonight. The horizon takes on a purplish glow and then fades.
I paddle slowly. The cane ends are wedged under the barrel of the canoe and rest against my shins. When a rod tip jumps, I drop my paddle in my lap and take the active line.
Moving one rod aside while I pull the other from under my leg is never an easy move. Sometimes I lose fish while fumbling to set the hook. This remains online. After catching the walleye, it is thrown onto the fish finder at my feet. With walleye, that’s usually not a problem. They don’t struggle much.
Pikes, however, tend to go into a frenzy when they hit the bottom of the boat. Earlier this year a 31 inch north nearly knocked the canoe over before I could get it under control. Tonight the pike are elsewhere. I don’t even catch a small one.
As it gets darker I can no longer see the ends of the rods, I now rely on the feel of the nudge against my shin to alert me to a biting fish. It’s full night, the only light is the glow of my fish finder screen. The shore is just a series of cottage lights lined up in the dark. I may be the only boat on the lake. Then I feel pressure against my right shin. Leaning forward, I pick up the rod and fix the hook. At first I just feel a constant pull. I think I’m stuck in the weeds. But then the tip of the rod throbs. I work to gain line while the fish dives deep. Bass would probably bring the fight to the surface, maybe with a jump. Pike tend to zigzag in frantic rushes. Walleye like to hang close to the bottom and push hard. When it comes up, I slide a net under it and throw it into the boat. It measures 22 inches. After unhooking the fish, I release it into the lake.
As I rebuckle the crawler harness and start trolling again, thunder rolls in the west. Another round of storms is on the way.
Quickly, I pull in my lines, grab the paddle and sprint to shore. The canoe picks up speed as its bow cuts through the water as the wind begins to pick up. The chorus of screeching peers and gray tree frogs grows louder as I get closer to home.
It was a fishing trip I won’t soon forget.