We’d been trolling on a friendly, calm Lake Michigan for four hours Tuesday with just a 3-pound coho to show for our efforts when the mayhem began.
“There goes a board!” I exclaimed to Bud Roche who was driving his center console Grady-White. “Man, it just pulled the planer board underwater. Like Jaws did those barrels in the movie!”
“Looks like we better chase him before he spools you,” Bud said calmly, as we both watched the braided line rip from the trolling reel.
Bud Roche, known as Uncle Bud to most folks, is a big salmon specialist with numerous tournament victories. He’d called me the night before, asking if I wanted to go with him out of New Buffalo the next morning.
“I want to catch some of those big kings that are around,” he’d said.
Bud’s invitation was far more appealing than the office work on my calendar.
I’ve known Bud since he was a young guy in his late 60s. He just turned 86 in April, and he’s as fun to fish with as anyone I’ve ever known. He’s also a wealth of fishing knowledge and I always learn something from him.
Like when Tuesday’s big king finally came behind the boat to within netting distance, Bud made an initial scoop, but the fish surged, managing to hook the fly’s back treble on the net’s mesh at the rim of the net.
It’s something that happens to almost every salmon troller. “Okay Dave, I want you to give some quick slack,” Bud said as the thick-bodied silver fish dangled on the single hook, one head shake away from its freedom and our major disappointment. I did as instructed, just lowering the rod tip, and Bud rolled the net, engulfing the king. It took both of us to haul the fish aboard. We estimated its weight at a little better than 20 pounds.
Schu’s SummerChallenge results
It has been a second straight outstanding spring for kings in southern Lake Michigan.
Last year saw records for weight at April and May tournaments in Michigan City as well as in the Schu’s Summer Challenge out of St. Joseph. This year’s Schu’s contest also featured outrageous catches of kings.
“On Call,” captained by Clare Racine, posted a lead that was insurmountable by the other 24 boats in the Open Division, bringing 12 fish totaling 197.58 pounds to the scale on Day 1. That’s a 16.46 average. The crew added 136.52 pounds on the second day.
Yous truly was unable to get hold of Capt. Racine to find out details for this story, but that was a heck of a catch.
“On Call” won by more than 34 pounds over second place “Giv-N-The-Bird.” Between the $5,000 top prize and competing in the side-bet calcutta, “On Call” won $8,500.
“Trollin Dirty” took the pro-side biggest fish with a king that weighed 27.57 pounds, good for $720.
In the Amateur Division. Josh Wilson’s “Underdog” topped 37 other boats in the one-day contest that allowed anglers to catch a Michigan limit and weigh in their top five fish.
Wilson’s crew landed 10 kings, and coho and a lake trout working 90 to 96 feet of water south of the St. Joe pier. Their biggest five kings weighed 89.45 pounds (a 17.9-pounds-per-fish average), and edged second-pace “Ann Marie,” captained by John Gibbs, by less than two pounds.
“I would have to say that this yea and last year have been better than it’s ever been for me out of 12 years fishing on Lake Michigan,” commented Wilson, who bought the “Underdog” recently from Bud Roche and changed its name from “Uncle Bud.”Kevin Robson, captain of “The Fourth Wife” only caught one fish in the am division, but it was the biggest. The 25.82-pound fish won $525.
Outdoors columnist Dave Mull lives in Paw Paw. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.