An eventful day in the sweetwater

The fishing was mostly just OK. I might even be tempted to call it slow. But the day was eventful, nonetheless.

And I didn’t drown!

As is my usual practice, after loading the gear in the boat, unstrapping the stern, checking the plug, etc. I backed it down the ramp. Since the approach and this particular ramp itself are so flat (as in the opposite of steep), I even unhooked the winch strap from the bow before backing down to the water. I backed in enough to let the inertia from the stop help the boat slide off the trailer, and started to pull forward with an eye on the rear view mirror for the rope coming tight to pull the boat gently to the shore.

Rope?

What rope?

I guess because I broke routine and unhooked the boat before backing down the ramp, I’d neglected to hook the rope to the trailer winch. That’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking with it! Been launching my boat on the regular for 52 years, and have never done that before!

Never.

For a fleeting moment, I pondered the odds of another boater coming along to launch and helping me retrieve my boat. I decided that chances were not good on a rather frigid weekday morning, 10 minutes after first light. My boat was slowly drifting farther from the ramp and there was little time to consider options. I emptied my pants pockets and started wading toward it. Never figured I’d wade out deeper than my waist at the shallowest, flattest ramp in the state. Well, that was an incorrect assumption. Before I knew it, I was up to my chest. Then I was swimming. Not far, but way farther than I want to be swimming after a boat at my age. And with no one up there weighing it down, the bow seemed an awfully long way up from my vantage point.

I managed to get a finger purchase on the edge of the front deck and pull myself up enough to get two hands solidly in place on the electric trolling motor bracket, and kicked my way back to wading depth.

Once back on shore, I looked at the pile of stuff I’d taken out of my pockets before going after the boat.

Keys.

Yup.

Wallet.

Yup.

Eye drops.

Yup.

Phone?

Um, nope.

Where the heck is my phone? In my velcro secured shirt pocket, of course. I opened the pocket, pulled out the phone and it was bone dry! How is that even possible? Everything worked, and it didn’t even complain about moisture in the charging port like it does when I wipe it off with a wet cloth. I’m still not sure how or why my phone was dry. It had definitely been underwater. The handful of neatly folded paper towels in the other shirt pocket — also velcroed closed — were sopping wet.

Did I mention that the air temp in the northwest corner that morning was 41 degrees? The water was in the low 70s, but as soon as I was out of it, I was freezing.

Fortunately, I had a half change of clothes in the back of the SUV. No towel though, and even my paper towels were sopping wet. Didn’t make sense to use the dry clothes to towel off, so I just waited a while to air dry as best I could before putting on the dry (soon to be formerly dry) clothes, hung the soaking clothes all over the boat, parked the truck and went fishing. Did a lot of shivering the first hour or two, but no catching. Finally the sun got high enough over the horizon to do me some good, and the light breeze fell to near nil.

As I usually do there, I started with a soft jerk bait, until I cleared the shallow area and got to the main basin. Nothing. Got on the outside weedline and alternated among a one ounce jig, a jerkbait and a creature bait on a light weedless head.

I had a rod rigged with a drop shot ready to go, but I was purposely trying to avoid using it, so I left it in the rod rack. I wanted to catch them power fishing. But I wasn’t getting bit, and after a while, I added a 4″ Monkey Grub into the mix. Slip-sliding away from the power game, as I hadn’t had a hit on any of the heavier stuff.

Didn’t get bit on the grub either.

Finally, I capitulated and took the drop shot rod out of the rod rack. Took about 10 casts to get bit, but I lost the fish without ever getting a look at it. The bite had come off a tiny point on one side of a gap in the lily pads. I cast to the similar point at the other side of the gap. and hooked up pretty quickly with a fish that might’ve gone 2 pounds if I squinted just right. I was happy to finally get bit, and happier yet to actually get the fish in the boat! Heck, I’d even stopped shivering. This might end up being a good day after all!

Fished my way to where I either had to continue back toward the ramp, or go through water I’d already fished my way through. On general principals, I put it on spot lock and sat down at the edge of the front deck to retie all my rods. Only thing I didn’t change was the drop shot, although I did swap out the motor oil Ribster for a black one. Figured I might as well give the fish that had turned down what they’d already seen, a look at a fresh selection of stuff.

Made the mistake of telling the GoPro to stop recording while I was busy tending to tackle. Forgot to restart it when I was done. Caught 7 more fish about like the first one over the next couple hours. All of them on the drop shot, despite my insistence on tossing everything else twice as much as the drop shot for half that time, before resigning myself to just sticking with what they were willing to chew.

Every time I wanted to move more than 30 or 40 feet, I switched to side imaging on the front depth sounder. What was I looking for? Hopefully, either some fish, or a spot that a few of them might live, that I’d somehow never found before in the 52 years I’ve been fishing this pond. And I actually found a couple! Two that were probably only 20 feet or so outside my normal fishing path — both just minor high, rocky spots outside the main drop-off. Plus, a deep brush pile in the middle of nowhere. It even had some fish around it, but I guessed they were crappies or sunnies, and I didn’t stop to fish for them. The size and shape of the brush pile, plus where it’s located, suggests to me that it was built on late ice by an enterprising ice fisherman.

Hooked my best (and last) fish of the day off one of the “new” rocky rises, but lost it 8 or 10 feet from the rod tip. Just before hooking my last (and definitely best) fish of the day, I looked at the GoPro and realized it wasn’t running. Told it to start recording again, and thankfully, it started.

I didn’t get as good a look at the fish as I would have liked before it came unhooked and dove back into the depths, but my first reaction from the glimpse I got of it was four-plus. In hindsight, keeping in mind that they are never as big as our first impression, I’m calling it a 3 pounder. It wasn’t so much the size of the fish that had me excited, anyway. It was hooking it off a spot I’d never made a cast to before, in a lake I’ve fished regularly since 1968!

Other than the 8 bass I actually caught and the first and last ones I hooked (the only two I didn’t land) the only other fish I encountered were 3 small pickerel and a lone crappie.

By day’s end, the shorts and T-shirt that I’d had on under my long pants, long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt when I went swimming to retrieve the boat were sort of dry, so I sat out in the middle — still the only boat on the lake all day (boy I’m glad I didn’t decide to wait for another boater to launch) — and changed into dry clothes before heading in.

I couldn’t call it a bad day, and I couldn’t really call it a good day. But it sure was an eventful one. I survived, and I can even joke about it now. But I never, ever want to be in that situation again. Damned sure not when I’m staring 75 in the face in a few months.

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