The last time I went fishing was on a rocky, tree-sheltered creek in the Upper Peninsula. I was maybe 9 or 10 years old at the time, and I was as clueless about fishing then as I was when I decided to take on this "special" writing and photo assignment.
The little I did know about the sport: I needed bait, hooks, fishing line, a pole and a license. But to really get things started, I called my buddy, Chris Temple, general manager of Bert's Custom Tackle. I knew he could save me on this one. "Chris," I told him, "I need to rent a charter or some kind of boat to get real-world experience. Help!"
Two days later, we were on an amazing 37-foot yacht, Hold On (which isn't available for charters, I should note), complete with tackle and snacks, and marvelous views of the Detroit skyline and the distant horizon. To boot, the weather gods were feeling very generous, blessing us with a 70-degree, cloud-free day smack in the middle of October – perfect.
As the newbie fisherman, I was informed that it was muskie season. "Sweet! Let's go snag some muskie," I said, not really knowing what a muskie was.
7 a.m. It's gray, chilly and I didn't have my espresso. We got to the marina in Grosse Pointe and boarded the Hold On.
9 a.m. We left the dock. Captain Tim and his first mate, Matt (both asked that their last names be omitted), were in charge. Chris, Johnny O., a friend who I had called in last minute to join us, and I were along for the ride.
10 a.m. The captain and his mate got the gear ready. The sun came out. The fleece came off.
11 a.m. Everything was set – riggings, bait, lines, rods and reels. My camera and pen were ready. Game on.
11:15 a.m. We were trolling the lake when Matt snagged a muskie – pretty big.
11:30 a.m. Johnny O. caught the next one – not too bad.
Noon Chris got another – fairly sizeable.
12:30 p.m. The captain dragged in the next – so far, the biggest of the day.
In the meantime, I was leaning over the edge of the boat, running around and sometimes hanging on by a rope, snapping pictures, capturing all the action. There were the obligatory woo-hoos and high-fives with each fish, as they got bigger with every catch. I watched and considered my lack of fishing skills and knowledge. "No way am I doing that," I thought. "It can't go well."
As if reading my mind, Captain Tim said to Johnny O. and me, "Do you have any clue how lucky you are to see all this happening?" And then, turning to Chris, "They have no idea." He was right. The captain explained in more detail.
"Not only is this the most beautiful waterway in the world and – look, the sky's amazingly clear – but it takes at least – at least – 80 hours of trolling to snag muskie like these. So guess what? It's your turn. Stop taking pictures and get over here." I did.
1 p.m. We trolled some more.
1:15 p.m. I was ready to head back to shore, what, with the snacks running out and my stomach on empty. Plus, I had all the details and photos I needed to hopefully complete this story.
1:30 p.m. "Fish onnnnn," Chris unexpectedly yelled. He handed me the rod and reel.
"What the (insert profanity here) am I supposed to do with this?" "Reel it in, Billy." "What?" "Reel it in, Billy." "How?" Stressed and laughing so loudly with excitement, I froze for what seemed like 30 minutes (but for what was probably more like three seconds). "Okay Bill," I thought, "pull it together."
The captain and first mate were dancing around while I was holding the rod, frozen with the biggest smile on my face. "Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God," was all I could utter. Finally, I got it together and heard everyone – except for Johnny O., the other novice fisherman on the boat – telling me to lower the rod and crank the reel at the same time. "But whatever you do," they all agreed, "don't let go!"
"Yeah, right. Easy for you to say," I thought, as I maniacally pulled and reeled as hard as I could. With aching arms, I fought on, thinking, "This has got to be a whale." The fish slowly grew closer. Chris was ready at the side of the boat with the net, telling me, "It's a big one." I was simply trying to survive and breathe between my insane laughter and manly fisherman grunts, which weren't actually all that manly.
Chris netted that big one and there were the traditional high-fives all the way around. My arms were like rubber and I was still buzzing with energy. It was the biggest catch of the day and measured about 42 inches, which, when held upright, was the same height as my 9-year-old son. Somehow, I had managed to reel in the biggest fish of my life on my first muskie outing – and my first fishing trip since my childhood.
And that's no fish tale.
If you want to experience the same rush I had, make sure to grab your friends and hook up with the right charter crew to find my monster muskie, which we released back into the lake so somebody else could have a chance at reeling him in. Bill Bowen, one of the creative directors and principals of Octane Design, might be a legend in his own mind. We're not sure.
Order and Eat
If you're a catch-and-release type person, here are some favorite Detroit-area spots where you can get a taste of fresh- and seawater fare after a day of angling.
Andiamo Detroit Riverfront and Andiamo St. Clair Shores
400 Renaissance Center
24026 Jefferson Ave.
Portofino Italian Restaurant
River Crab Restaurant at the Blue Water Inn
Sindbad's Restaurant & Marina
Tom's Oyster Bar
Special thanks to Chris Temple of Bert's Custom Tackle for making all this happen.
Bert's Custom Tackle
(800) 367-3726, ext. 236
And thanks to Captain Tim and First Mate Matt for helping me land my monster, as well as allowing us to use Captain Tim's beautiful privately owned, non-charter 37-foot Tiara yacht, Hold On, which is docked at the Michigan Harbor Marina within the Nautical Mile on Lake St. Clair.
Michigan Harbor Marina
24600 Jefferson Ave.
St. Clair Shores, 48080 M
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