"4:45 am is pretty darn early to be slipping the boat in the water in anybody's league," said WW&W senior fishing correspondent Ed Wetelainen, upon hearing that I'd been out wetting lines way before breakfast for LT on BTB, shorthand for lake trout on Big Traverse Bay.
Fishing with George Riedel aboard his sleek, fast 22-foot Tiara Pursuit, veteran walleye pro Mark Martin, Captain Larry Smith of FishOn II Charters, and I eased outa the irons, readying our presentations and setting lines by flashlight.
Traditionally a dyed-in-the-wool northshore fisherman, George wanted to get an early start for his debut southshore outing of the season. Mission accomplished, with Mark at the controls, George and Larry had a good half dozen lines in the water at daybreak as we trolled the edges of Buffalo Reef.
When the sun came up, we were the only boat on the bay, but by mid-morning, another half dozen craft I recognized through binoculars joined the flotilla pursuing early fall lake trout and coho in BTB's unusually warm water. At 10:30 a.m., the air and surface water temps were tied at 62 degrees, dropping to 48 around the downrigger ball at 130 feet.
We set our initial offerings under the cover of darkness, and at 7:20 am sunrise, we had ten baits swimming on eight lines, including two sliders, with a tempting array of laker and coho breakfast favorites staggered 30-50-foot depths from four Church planer boards, two LJ Dipsy Divers and two downriggers.
"That's a heckuva lotta moving parts to keep tracka," observed Ed Wetelainen, "You've gotta know what you're doing, especially with boat control and trolling patterns to keep it all from becoming a hideous tangled mess."
For the first hour we had the cleanest spoons on the bay before a nice laker broke the ice and slimed a Purple Barney Finn Spoon 15 feet backa the downrigger ball. With the first fish in the live well, I served up breakfast of good strong eye-opener, heart-starter coffee, hard-boiled eggs with hot sauce and blueberry muffins.
The bite picked up a bit about noon with a couple more 3-5 lb lakers taken on Finn Spoons, small LJ flashers with firetiger Fiddlehead squid hand-tied by Kenny Lutz of Laurium, and a blueberry muffin Long A Bomber 100 feet backa planer board.
Mark Martin broke out his trademark sea salt wings for lunch as we marked fish so unwilling to bite they remain out there taunting and tempting their next suitors to this very moment.
The V6 VRO Johnson pushing George's 22-foot Pursuit gets you there and back faster than you can say quick. With a top end of 43 mph and a cruising speed of 30, we were back at the dock in no time. BTB boaters unfamiliar with the harbor should be careful in the channel with its extremely shallow prop-rubbing sand bar.
During September and October, native redfin lake trout, Salvelinus namaycush, move onto their spawning shallows of Buffalo Reef and other BTB structure from Louie's Point to Gay. Bobby Kauppi's tall silver water tank and deer stand towers high above his marina, campground & RV park just easta the moutha the Tobacco River, a landmark to trollers and bobbers fishing the bay. As usual I had my trusty geppu handy just in case, but it never saw action.
In other outdoor news, September is a busy time in the bush. WW&W Fall correspondent Autumn Equinox assures Keweenawans in particular and Yoopers in general that she will arrive right on schedule, shedule as they say northa the lake in Canada, on Sept. 23.
We're into the home stretch of another delightful brookie season, LD (last day) Sept. 30, and mosta the cricks I know are swarming with grasshoppers and gnarly gnats, especially Woodtick Crick, so you don't wanna go there.
Partridge season is on the wing Sept. 15 for that glorious two-week combo of brookies and birds.
As Autumn progresses, nudging our inland lakes through their turn-over process, she casts a powerful spell on northern and smallmouth, luring them near the surface for some of the season's hottest topwater action, where twitching a lure over decaying weedbeds provokes savage strikes.
That's when local anglers do well to heed the lyrical advice of elder rocker Bob Seger, "Grabba holda something, hold on tight, Betty Lou's gettin' out tonight!"
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@ chartermi.net.