Fishing. To eat or release?

Last year I decided I really wanted to learn to fish. No overwhelming desire to be immersed in nature. Didn’t care if I was part of a community. I just wanted to eat fish, especially Lake Michigan salmon. You can’t just buy Lake Michigan salmon. It’s a sport fish. So, you have to join the sport.  Our local fishmonger carries fresh and smoked Lake Michigan whitefish and smoked salmon, and it’s great.  She sells Alaskan salmon, and it is delicious.  But also, expensive. So I decided if I wanted to eat Lake Michigan salmon, I would have to catch it.

Problem number one: I don’t own a boat. I made a deal with a friend’s son. I would bake his wedding cake if he taught me how to fish from the pier. This kid fishes all the time. A pro.  And I figured I could go to the pier when the salmon are coming in the channel and hook a few. Sounded like a plan.  So Thomas and I went to the pier. The day was not right for salmon running, but I did learn how to cast, tie on lures, etc…. But, no reeling in fish or cleaning them.  A start.  But then, the wedding was upon us, the cake created and Thomas moved to another state. Bummer.

I tried going to the pier by myself. I brought my newly purchased fishing rod (I was told not to call it a pole.) I bought the line Thomas recommended and watched a YouTube video about how to wind it on the reel. I bought a little organizer (like the ones I keep all my jewelry-making equipment in.) I filled it with hooks, bobbers, lures and little tools. I designated a little cooler to be “fish-only.  I set off for the North Pier.

When I tried to cast, I knew I had done something wrong in the set-up process.  So I asked these two guys, who were clearly all finished for the day, if they could look at my rod.  After a minute one of them asked, “So, how did you get the line on the rod?” After explaining and listening to their chuckles, they informed me it was wound on backward. One of them grabbed the rod. The other guy took the end of the line and walked until all the line was out. Then they rewound the line for me.  I was so surprised at how friendly and helpful they were. I have always considered myself a feminist, but my brain clicked that part of me off when I went to the pier.  It is amazing how many men are more than pleased to be able to show a helpless woman how to fish.  I was the recipient of lessons, lures and advice from the men on the pier.I found myself considering my next step.  Should I come to the pier with fresh baked goods to repay these guys? Hmm.

My next trip to the pier was a 5AM start. I went online to try to see if I could tell when people were catching salmon; when they were starting to run in the channel. The DNR has a weekly fishing report that tells where people are catching fish and what kind of lures they are using. After reading it, I determined I needed to get to the pier the next day and stake out a spot. After arriving in the dark, I sat down on my cooler and set up my line, taking a wild guess as to what lures I should use. After an hour, I was freezing! Clearly I had not dressed appropriately. Not to be crushed by the weather, I went back to the car and found a large black trash bag.  I cut head and armholes and slipped it on. Back went the coat so no one could see my haute couture. No luck. But no one else seemed to be catching anything either……except those guys in boats a little ways out.  Boat jealousy. I came home empty handed and told my husband we needed a boat.  He just laughed.

Then the luck of the Irish descended on me. I won some unexpected money. I decided I would take myself charter boat fishing. I didn’t really want to go alone, but no one had room for a single. Makes sense. Usually people fishing trips with their friends. But Captain Jake saved me. He would take me by myself and he gave me a great deal on the cost. So, off I went with Jake and his wife Renee.  What a blast. Now, granted, I would not be able to do this kind of fishing on my own. But, I CAUGHT FISH!  King salmon, coho, steelhead and lake trout. SIX FISH! I was in fish heaven.  Captain Jake showed me how to clean and filet the fish. I tried one and then he quickly zipped through the rest of them. I took them home, cut them up and vacuum-sealed them for the freezer.  Yummo! Thanks Capt. Jake and Renee. And how could a retired librarian not love a fishing service called FISHMAEL Sportfishing? 


This was all last summer.  I am out of fish and again thinking about how to fill my freezer. A silent auction at the Irish Music Festival fundraiser solved it for me.  I was the winning bid on a day of fly fishing with Matt of Wiked Flies Custom Tackle. Up at the crack of dawn, we headed for Baldwin, MI for a day on the Pere Marquette.  And what  beautiful day it was. Bright, sunny and warm.  The only problem was the area had received three inches of rain the day before and the water was pretty murky and probably filled with all sorts of little insects the fish like to eat. Mike and I learned a lot about fly fishing from Matt. We had a great day.  But, alas, no fish.

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But here’s the initial question. To catch or to release?  I told Matt if we caught fish I would like to take them home.

“Fine,” he said.  “We can just put them on a stringer.”

“Do you keep them when you catch them?” I queried.

“Nope. I like to let them go and catch them again,” he stated. Then he told me about the fish he caught that had a cut and how he caught it again later. He recognized it from the scar. And then there was the 30″ trout. Caught and released. My brain just can’t comprehend. 30″ inches of trout would be very good eating.

“But don’t you like to eat fish?”

“I can buy plenty of fish.”

Well I had previously had this conversation with other fly fishermen. Most of them catch and release. I know it’s a sport, but I just don’t get it.  I only want to fish so I can eat the fruits of my labors. Release? Are you kidding?

Well, here I am again thinking about a trip to the pier.  Hopefully I will have a little more luck than last year.  Or maybe charter boat time??


The last port for the Vikings Homeland cruise was Bergen. The ship  docked overnight and we had an apartment booked for five nights following the cruise. So we really were able to see quite a bit of Bergen. The weekend we landed was the Bergen Music Festival, so there was a lot going on in the city center.  Boats were docked at the harbor full of musicians, singers and parties, many in traditional clothing.


These guys were having too much fun!
I make pretty good pancakes, but these were delicious. They were served with sour cream and preserves, raspberry, strawberry or rhubarb.

We wandered through the fish market, marveling at all the different kinds of fish for sale, including minke whale.


The next day we checked into our apartment. We have had really good luck with Airbnb. Our apartment in Stockholm worked out great. This apartment was also nice. Too bad I didn’t find the easy way up the hill when we had our luggage. The neighborhood was really attractive. 

The little yellow building on the corner is Klosteret Kaffebar. Great fish soup, and three doors up from our apartment.

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Bergen is a lovely town. The area around the harbor is especially beautiful. Bryggen, the old wharf of Bergen in a UNESCO World Heritage site.

From the UNESCO website:  Bryggen, the old wharf of Bergen, is a reminder of the town’s importance as part of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire from the 14th to the mid-16th century. Many fires, the last in 1955, have ravaged the characteristic wooden houses of Bryggen. Its rebuilding has traditionally followed old patterns and methods, thus leaving its main structure preserved, which is a relic of an ancient wooden urban structure once common in Northern Europe. Today, some 62 buildings remain of this former townscape.

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Ole Bull, born in Bergen was a Norwegian composer and violinist.
Henrik Ibsen statue in front of the theater in Bergen. Ole Bull invited Ibsen to Bergen when he was 20 years old and he stayed for six years.

The second day we awoke to clear skies and decided that it would be the perfect day to go to Mt. Ulriken, the highest of the Seven Mountains that surround Bergen. We bused up to the base of the cable car, hopped aboard and rode to the top, 2110 feet. What beautiful views. One thing that boggled my mind was the square concrete landing that had no railings. I couldn’t even get close to the edge….big dropoff. Yikes. That would never be legal in the United States. But there were tons of families at the top, and no one seemed to worried.

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After returning to town, we walked around quite a bit and decided that it was time for a break. So we stopped at a local bar. We watched a crusty, old guy that looked like he just got off a boat come in and signal the bartender. She gave him a shot. He downed it and then another. I asked her what it was. After trying to explain, she handed me the bottle. I ordered one shot for Mike and I to share.  Very odd, but tasty vodka flavored with eucalyptus and menthol.


As long as we are on a seafaring theme… we also visited the Norwegian Fishing Museum. To get there we took a little boat from the harbor, piloted by a man that appeared to be well-versed in the way of boats. The museum was actually very nice.

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We also visited the Coastal Museum. To get there we boarded a city bus and rode for an hour and a half through beautiful scenery until we came to the museum.

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It is quite small and took us just an hour to tour.  But the ride was worth the trip. The red flag on the map is Bergen; the arrow points to the museum.

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The museum is quite small, but new with a beautiful view from the little cafe.  We decided to have lunch, but all they served were pancakes.  The were already made and served room temp with sour cream and jelly.  The Scandinavians really like their pancakes and waffles.

Time for a visit to the Edvard Grieg Museum in Troldhaugen, Grieg’s former home in Bergen. Grieg was born and is buried in Bergen. He spent a good deal of his life traveling throughout Europe. I am not a musician, but his music is said to reflect both the Norwegian life and European culture.  He is revered in Bergen and there are a number of buildings named after him. His home is an enjoyable tour, but the highlight was the 45 minute concert held in the newly-refurnished concert hall. Wonderful program in a gorgeous setting.

Edvard Grieg was a very small man, only about 5 feet tall.


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Hardanger Fjord…We went with our new friends Bridget and Tom on the Hardanger Fjord in a nutshell day trip.

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Trains, buses and boats and beautiful scenery. Started at 9 AM and ended the day at 7PM.

Took this route, except not the Voss to Oslo part.

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Yes, there is a gaot on the roof.
Yes, there is a goat on the roof.

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Restaurant Cornelius was suggested by our friend Charlie’s former exchange student who is all grown and lives in Bergen. It was a treat.  A boat picked us up in the harbor and about thirty minutes later we arrived at the restaurant. The evening started with a welcome and a story from the owner about his life and how the restaurant came to be. Hilarious. What followed was an exquisite meal in an unbelievably beautiful setting.


Beautiful city and the end of a great trip.

One last photo that I snapped on the way to the airport. A good chuckle.