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Gone Fishin’

From Cheboygan Today

The words, “Gone Fishin’” mean more than that the store is closed, or that the occupant of the house is not in. Those words mean: I’m relaxing now. I’m doing what I love. Call if you want to, but I won’t answer. I will not be right back. The rest of the day belongs to me.

That is, unless your name is Dave Hija. For him, Gone Fishin’ means the same as “I’m Workin’”, because Dave owns and operates Emma J’s Sport Fishing Charters. His fishing days begin well before 5 o’clock in the morning. “Our morning charters leave at five or six and return at 11 or noon. The evening trips go out around four in the afternoon.

“I love what I do,” he says. “We ran our charters out of Presque Isle for ten years but found that the water around Cheboygan is less congested with boats, and the fishing itself is phenomenal. This is our third year running from Cheboygan. I like fishing without boats all over. It’s so peaceful.”

Who charters a boat to take them fishing in Lake Huron? “We see a lot of tourists but some local people, too. It’s a nice way to go, since we clean and vacuum pack your catch as part of the package.”

“Cheboygan is a great starting place because there are so many options. The river is beautiful, and full of fish. Or we can go out around any of the islands, where the boat ride is a big part of the experience. I remember one evening last summer when we came around from the east side of Mackinac Island. The sky was bright orange in the sunset, and the Mackinac Bridge was perfectly reflected in the still water. It was breathtaking. Yes, we had a good catch that day, but the sunset was the highlight. Watching the sun crest over the horizon on Lake Huron puts a good feeling on the day, too.”

But seeing the faces of the people on board light up when the “pull in a big one” is Dave’s favorite part. “They get so excited. We have days when we catch a dozen good fish by 7:30 in the morning.”

Each Emma J’s charter boat can take between four and six people, and each person is allowed to catch a total of five fish. A fishing charter trip is not as expensive as may be assumed. “We have a trip that will fit you budget.” For more information, visitwww.emmajsportfishingcharters.com or call Dave at 989-734-3548.

Not everyone is game for going out on the big lake, though. But that should be no hindrance to their fishing enjoyment in Cheboygan. The casual angler who prefers to keep his feet on the ground can catch plenty of fish from shore. Cheboygan fisherman Steve Warren knows that with some basic equipment, some time, a place, and a little bit of knowledge” it is possible to catch a trophy walleye out of the river…right from shore.”

That basic equipment includes “a rod a reel, a few lures, and a fishing license.” The Cheboygan River’s accessibility is one of its great features. “I’ve caught some nice-size smallmouth bass from the access site across from the hospital,” said Warren. “It’s a great place to fish with kids, because with so much public access, even down town, you can go out for a little while pretty often and almost always catch something. No matter what you’re chasing, it’s possible to catch it here.” He noted that all along the pier is good fishing, too.  “You can’t miss.” He lists steelhead, muskie, sturgeon, walleye, and both smallmouth and largemouth bass among the species that are common to area.

Each year, several fishing contests take advantage of Cheboygan’s wide variety of diverse fishing opportunities along with the abundance of easily accessible lakes, rivers and streams. Contact the Cheboygan Area Chamber of Commerce for an upcoming schedule or visit their website at www.cheboygan.com.

One of the more popular tournaments has been the Cheboygan Lions and Lionesses Clubs’ Annual Salmon Tournament on the first weekend in August. Friday evening opens with live entertainment and dinner under the Big Tent. The fishing begins Saturday morning at 6:00 am, and all boats must be back in the harbor by 2:00 pm for weigh –in. Each year, participants consistently reel in salmon over 20 pounds. Over $13,000 in cash prizes will be awarded this year. More information is available from Steve Gall at 231-818-1235. Aloha State Park on Mullett Lake holds a lot of bass and is home to the annual Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League (BFL) tournament that is held early June. As many as 400 anglers and 200 boats converge on the lake every year for what is known as “The Super Bowl of Bass Fishing”, a catch and release event.

Dave Washburn, a spokesman for the organization whose headquarters is in Kentucky said, “There are one million reasons to compete in this (the Forrest Wood Cup) tournament; that’s the one reason for every dollar of prize money awarded.” Nationwide, 230 BFL events take place each year; with the Cheboygan tournament being the first of the season in Michigan. Washburn added, “We love being able to work with the towns that are host to the tournaments and try to return to communities that are good to us, like Cheboygan.”

“We had heard good things about Cheboygan, not only about the great fishing opportunity, but the friendliness of the people. We have found that both are true and really enjoy coming back. We’re going to put Cheboygan on the map as a great place to go fishing.”

Spectators are welcome to watch the lake take-off at 6 am on tournament day. Weigh-in takes place at 2pm. “It’s a neat opportunity to see some great fish before they go back into the lake. Both times are exciting and a lot of fun, and crowd just adds to that.” Learn more about this tournament and other by following the links at www.sloutdoors.com.

If you’re looking for something for the whole family to enjoy together, or just a bit of quiet time alone, it doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t even need a boat, just a little information and some basic equipment, including a little sign to hand on the door that reads “Gone Fishin’”.

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