Enter Visual EditorWordPress Admin
Home » Tight Lines, Tight Lips Fishing on Lake Huron

Tight Lines, Tight Lips Fishing on Lake Huron

By Tom Carney, News Outdoor Columnist, The Alpena News

Captain Dave Hija kept one eye on Lake Huron in front of the “Emma J.” With the other, he slipped Sam Sellen a sidelong. “How was that, Sam? Kind of fun?”

“Well… err… yeah, I guess so.”

Sam Sellen, 9, is a man of few words.

But Hija knows kids and knew that Sam’s retinence had nothing to do with a lack of excitement. “This is something he’ll never forget,” Hija said.

Sam might have played his cards lose to his vest then, but in a later phone call to his parents back in Pullman, Wash., he let them know just how excited he was about his first fishing trip ever on Lake Huron, about catching his first salmon and lake trout, about catching the first fish and the most, about how he didn’t lose any and about manning the helm of the Emma J for most of the ride back to Cheboygan.

Hija had asked if Sam wanted to drive the boat. In typical Sam fashion he replied, “No, that’s OK.”

“Come on,” Hija said, “don’t be shy.”

And with that he scooted over in his chair, made room for Sam, and directed him on how to read the GPS, how to take bearings on various lights, and how to read the channel for the way in: “Red, right, return,” he said.

Sam informed his parents, “It’s pretty hard to steer the boat. Yeah. You have to line up the lights in the harbor and follow the route line on the screen and make sure there’s nothing in front of the boat that you can hit.”

As much as anything, those little scenes show both what it takes to create a successful fishing trip for kids and the fact that Hija is all over it when it comes to such successes.

Of course, it always helps when the fish are biting.

The Emma J had left port around 4 pm. By about 7 o’clock, Sam had fought and landed three salmon and a lake trout, one lake trout shy of his limit of five fish, no more than three of any single species.

“You can pull in my fish for me,” said First Mate Dave “Gumby” Gumtow, but Sam was having none of that. He’s got his ethics and even though was required to have a license, he was determined to stay within his legal limit. He then agreed that if another fish hit, he would fight it until the crew could decide if it were a trout or salmon. If a salmon, he would hand off the rod.

So he waited for another hit. And waited. And waited…

As if the lack of action weren’t enough to bore a kid to pieces, the grownups started talking about more serious matters, like getting kids involved on different levels of Great Lakes fishing.

Also on board that night was Ron Ramsey, President of the Cheboygan Area Sportfishing Association. In 2003, the association began working with the Michigan DNR on a salmon-planting project. “The DNR wanted Duncan Bay to become a small-boat fall fishery, and it’s taken off,” says Ramsey. The state brings in about 65,000 salmon fry each year. This year, says Ramsey, the fish came form the Platte River State Fish Hatchery in Beulah, and “they were all beautiful, healthy fish.”

And here’s where the association brings kids into the picture.

The group planned to build fish holding pens that sit right in the river and, when the time is right, allow for nighttime release of the smolts.

This helps curtail if not eliminate the attacks on the fish by gulls and cormorants. Students in the welding class at Cheboygan High School built the frames for the pens. Also, the association augments the DNR’s release with salmon raised in classrooms. This year, about 450 fish were added to the pens, raised by students in the Indian River, Cheboygan and Mackinaw City school districts.

Some students had an additional chance for some up-close and personal action earlier this summer when the association and the Emma I co-sponsored a free sportfishing day. Youngsters ages 12 to 16 enjoyed a day of Great Lakes fishing with Hija and volunteers from the association.

This couldn’t have happened without Hija’s move to a heated storage unit for the boat. “Other years, we wouldn’t be getting out until now,” he said in mid-July. “This year we got out in early May, and I’m telling you, there’s some good fishing then.”
He estimates his clients have already boated 400 fish, surpassing the total for all of 2007.

Sam had just about had his fill of waiting when around 9”30 pm, “Wham!”

“There’s a release!” called Emma J team member Brent Harriman.“You want to fight this one, Sam?”

Sam’s eyes widened as he watched Herriman struggling with the fish. Then, he saw the fish jump from about 100 yards away. “No, that’s OK,” he said, quickly back-pedaling so someone else could endure the ordeal. By the end of the night, Sam and his party had put eight Chinook salmon and three lake trout into the cooler.

“And people say there are no fish in Lake Huron,” said Hija. “Whaddya’ think of that, Sam?”

“Well… err… that’s not right. Because there are.”

Outdoor Network Marketing & Communications

Fishing Info | Learning How to fish | Muskie411 | Walleye411