License scam worse than Shafer Lake trolling

Dave Mull displays a crappie, the only fish to hit one of his lures while trolling at Shafer Lake recently. 

I like to think I’m pretty savvy about Internet scams. I can almost always spot when Facebook friends have been hacked and I receive a direct message with a link and a question such as “Is this your brother in the video?”

I don’t click on them before sending a note to that friend asking if they might have been hacked.

But I fell for one Monday and it cost me $39. The trolling on Shafer Lake was bad, but buying a license for a friend online was worse.

Our story begins the previous week when I got a Facebook message from a guy I hadn’t seen in about 10 years. I met Doug Corson, currently living in Bristol, Indiana, through a mutual friend long ago. We attended a few of the same parties and went fishing with our friend a couple of times. Doug ended up renting my old house in Niles from me for several months after I moved to Paw Paw a decade ago.

Doug found me on Facebook and sent a message that he’d like to go fishing. It was perfect timing as I had been scheduled to do a video shoot out of my MirroCraft boat for MidWest Outdoors TV later in the week and had only used the boat three times all year.

Plus, the TV segment was to highlight the boat’s Cannon Downriggers, which meant I’d be trolling. I hadn’t trolled since last October when we tried and failed to get the same kind of trolling show on Michigan City’s Trail Creek. We failed because we only caught fish on leadcore lines — none on the downriggers.

Bottom line was I needed to get out and do some trolling to make sure I could catch some fish before the MidWest Outdoors cameraman met up with me.

Doug and I arranged to meet at Shafer Lake near Lawrence on Monday afternoon to troll for the stocked rainbow trout there. I was hoping to catch enough to lure the MWO video shooter to Shafer so I didn’t have to meet him on the other side of Chicago with my boat to troll out of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Shafer is about 187 miles closer than Kenosha.

Doug and I were to meet at noon, but I had trouble finding all the gear I needed for trolling. I caught up with Doug in downtown Lawrence at 2 p.m. From there he followed me to the ramp. On a phone call while driving there, Doug told me he didn’t have a license, didn’t have any money and his Volkswagen Jetta was low on gas.

No problem. I’m always happy to help a brother out, especially when I wanted three rods more in the water to do some hardcore trolling.

Upon arrival at the ramp, I set about installing the downriggers, rod holders and rod trees in the boat’s Traxtech track system. I told Doug to search for Michigan one-day licenses on line, and we could use my credit card to pay for it.

Soon Doug handed me his phone which displayed a site that, in the glare of the sun, said fishinglicenses.com and had a logo that looked like the Michigan DNR’s logo. I was in too big of a hurry to see the web address on Doug’s phone actually said “ishinglicenses.com” (no “f”) and “Michigan Fish and Wildlife Conservation” not Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

So I scrolled down and requested a 24-hour license. I was taken aback when it said the cost would be $29, but heck, I never buy a one-day license and knew our state’s license fees had gone up a few years ago. So I entered credit card info, touched the pay button — and saw the site charged me $39 instead of $29. Well, I was in a hurry to get on the water, so I didn’t investigate further.

Soon Doug and I were relaxing in the boat with my wiener dog Gus and golden retriever Gabe, letting the Minn Kota trolling motor with its autopilot take us around Shafer’s deep basin.

We didn’t catch a single trout, but did wrangle a 12-inch crappie that hit a Stinger Scorpion Spoon in the Mixed Veggies color pattern. The spoon was dragged behind four colors (40 yards) of leadcore line, attached to a Church planer board.

Overall it was a relaxing late-afternoon trolling session that lasted until nightfall. We drank a few beers, talked about mutual acquaintances — and caught no more fish. With the boat back on the trailer, I loaned Doug another $20 for gasoline and we parted ways.

The next morning was when the scam hit home. I had signed up for credit alerts on that Visa, and received an email that notified me of an “international charge” of $39 at C-PHCOM. Talk about feeling stupid. I didn’t want to, but checked the cost of 24-hour licenses on the DNR website and learned they were $10.

As they say, let the buyer beware. But I still feel pretty stupid.

Outdoors columnist Dave Mull lives in Paw Paw. Write to him at dave.sportfish.mull@gmail.com.