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??

One thought on “Fishing. To eat or release?

  1. Debbie Callahan

    Very fun read and also informative. I enjoyed the link because I would rather choose a guide from someone with a previous good experience than just to pick randomly. I enjoyed hearing a viewpoint from a beginner willing to go out and learn. I greatly enjoy fishing but without a boat, I too am stuck pier fishing. Had my first deep sea fishing experience recently and had a wonderful time and learned quite a bit of new information. I am ready to try the pier again soon! Keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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