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ERIC SHARP: Don't stick with just one way to catch fish

July 22, 2004


Recently I've fished for muskellunge, walleyes, smallmouth bass, carp, trout and sunfish. I've trolled, still-fished with bait and tossed lures with spinning, bait-casting and fly rods.

Which was the most enjoyable? You've got me.

The most active unquestionably was catching pumpkinseed and bluegill with a gaggle of kids off a dock on Lake Margrethe near our house in Grayling. We used three spinning rods rigged with Euro floats and a fly rod with a popper, and as fast as I could put a worm on the hook and cast it out, one of the kids had a fish on another rod for me to unhook and toss back.

We admired the beauty and power of these amazing little game fish, discussed what they eat and why they might take worms and flies. We could even watch their predatory tactics as the fish warily stalked the baits and poppers in the crystalline water.

A few days later I fished in a charity muskie tournament with Bob Wyfells, a member of the Michigan-Ontario Muskie Club. Trolling isn't my favorite kind of fishing, and this was not my favorite kind of day on Lake St. Clair, with a 20-knot northeaster pushing up breaking four-foot waves.

But after I had provided the chum by returning my breakfast orange juice to the lake, things felt a lot better. Our score of three fish landed among five strikes was slow by Lake St. Clair standards, but I was still fascinated by being able to get up close and personal with one of the most ferocious predators in fresh water.

The mate for Bob that day was buddy Matt Firestein, who moved from Indiana to Chicago to be closer to the muskie waters of Wisconsin, then took another transfer to Wisconsin so he could fish within minutes of home.

When his wife was offered a job in Detroit and asked if he would mind moving there, Firestein said, "Only if we can live near Lake St. Clair."

Despite the relatively slow fishing, we had a great day. While discussing lure shapes and color choices, someone told a story I've heard a dozen times but get a kick out of every time.

Told originally by the late and legendary muskie guide Homer LeBlanc, it's about a woman who takes her poodle for a boat ride on Lake St. Clair. She lets the dog go over the side for a swim and is horrified to see it disappear in the jaws of a huge muskellunge.

The woman gets on the radio and screams, "Help, help! A giant muskellunge just ate my poodle."

A few seconds later, a muskie charter captain trolling nearby radios back: "Hey, lady. What color was that dog?"

These experiences are what reinforce my belief that there is no best kind of fishing, and that anglers who limit themselves to one form of the sport would be like people who eat only the pepperoni on a pizza or the carrots in a stew.

Fishing is about a lot more than catching fish. After at least 2,000 years of rod-and-line angling, fishermen are still trying to figure out how to make the bleeping things bite.

Make this summer the time to expand your angling horizons. If you hunt bass every week, take a kid fishing for sunfish or perch. If you're a muskie troller, try your hand at tossing some tube baits for bass. If you're one of those tunnel-visioned people who only fly-fishes for trout, see if you're smart enough to lure a catfish from a warm-water river.

And you never know. You might like it well enough to give yourself an excuse to buy a whole new set of fishing toys.

Contact ERIC SHARP at 313-222-2511 or [email protected] Order his book "Fishing Michigan" for $15.95 at or by calling 800-245-5082.

h2o<--says hey lady what color was the poodle
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