Fishermen Google Worms and Chum and Find Chrislip

By Skip “Buck” Mendenhall, Chrislip Journal Outdoor Writer

It’s trout season!  That’s what the headline will say in just a couple more weeks.  And nowhere do those two words mean more than in northern Michigan.  Trout fishing is more than a sport around here, it’s a religion.  In fact, three out of four Catholics say they’d rather find a trout at the end of their fishing line than God.  They don’t call our rivers the Holy Water for nothing.

A brown trout rises to snatch a mayfly on the AuSable River near Chrislip

This is the time of year that many would-be anglers say to me, “Buck, is there anything I can do to ensure the success of my fishing trip while at the same time minimizing the  factors that can jeopardize both that success and my relative safety on the water?”  Well, there’s no way I can guarantee a whopper on your first cast.  But if you pay attention to three specific areas, you can raise your chances for angling success, for having a good time, and maybe even coming back alive.

Sobriety. Try to avoid this.  A lot of people say you don’t need alcohol to have fun, but that’s the coward’s way.  And the coward’s way isn’t your way.  It’s cold on the river, especially in the morning, and liquor makes you feel warm all over.  And while it’s true that alcohol is fattening, it also fattens up those fish you didn’t quite catch. Bartenders report that, when anglers tell about “the one that got away,” the size of a drunkard’s fish is, on average, between three and five lbs. bigger than that of a teetotaler.  Alcohol is also a matter of tradition.  You’ve seen the grainy photos of an old-timer on the river, corncob pipe in his mouth and a tin cup in his hand.  That wasn’t Fresca he was drinking, Mary.

Equipment.  Bring it.  We’ve all known the disappointment – You spend weeks planning your fishing trip.  You drive seven hours to the river.  And when you get there, you discover you’ve forgotten your fillet knife, your scaler, your hook disgorger, your stringer, your creel, your net, your lures and your pole.  There’s a little trick that seasoned fishermen use to avoid this situattion.  Before leaving, ask yourself, “Have I packed everything?”  If the answer is no, do so.

Look out.  The river is a dangerous place.  There are whirlpools, dropoffs, crayfish, lamprey eels, sudden thunderstorms, and mosquitoes.  Don’t sell the mosquitoes short.  Every year more people die from mosquito bites and car accidents than from lightning and bee stings combined.  But there’s one hidden danger you may not have considered – your waders.  Waders are very good for keeping your legs warm and dry, but step in a hole, and those rubber pants could fill with water and become your grave.  There are many glorious ways to die; being swept downstream in a pair of giant clown pants while screaming like a chorus girl isn’t one of them.  Take it from me: deep-six the waders and go commando.  The icy water will permanently wither your genitals, but that’s probably for the best.  When you think of all the misery that can be directly traced to your penis – the social diseases, the restraining orders, your kids – it’s a wonder you didn’t take an electric  knife to yourself years ago.

Lamprey eel: Clown prince of the deep

Have fun on the water.  But remember, the river is part of our northern heritage.  Show it the same respect that you’d show your inlaws or your parole officer.  And when the first day of fishing season arrives – or maybe a day or two before – I’ll see you in the river!


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  1. Hey, we have that same type of fish here in WA! But we call it “salmon,” which I believe is the original Greek, or some native language, I forget.

      • chrislipjournal
      • April 20th, 2010

      No matter what it’s called, Dolly, you’re the one I’d want taking its picture. 🙂

  2. You got some Texas size trout up there! Sadly, our prized catch are crappie. How is someone to react in the campground with the hot skillet of grease and fish smell wafting in the air and you ask “good eatin?’ with a reply “they’re crapy!”

      • chrislipjournal
      • April 20th, 2010

      Haha! Jerry, my sister loves to fish, and she insists it’s pronounced “croppie.” I’ve never believed her, of course.

  3. Send her on down here. Just saw on the TV our Trinity River is chocked full of 200 lb. alligator gar. Ugly mothers.

    • chrislipjournal
    • April 24th, 2010

    She’s on her way!

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