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Notes From the Dockside: The promise of summer

It is early May and the first week of the bass season. It has been a long winter and cold spring but fishing season has started so life is good, regardless of the weather.

It had been a cold, wet, windy day for the beginning of Wisconsin's bass fishing season a couple of days earlier. Later in the week I will be leaving to go to northern Minnesota for the beginning of their walleye fishing season. Weather forecasts up there are predicting snow.

But for right now, I am sitting in a boat on a lake not far from my home in Hudson. It is sunny but windy and feels good to have a couple of layers of clothing on.

My buddy Tony and I are trolling along a rocky shore alternating between casting crankbaits and tube jigs. It looks like nothing is working. We fish for an hour without a strike.

I am using a tube jig and it splashes into the water just short of the bank. I lift the rod tip and feel weight. As I drop the rod tip, I see the line begin to move to the side. I pull back sharply to set the hook and the fish puts up a short but tough struggle before I hoist it into the boat. It is a small bass. At least it is a fish and I am no longer skunked.

Tony keeps fishing a crankbait and off a rocky point he catches four nice bass. They fight hard and splash on the surface of the water, swirling and diving and at times briefly taking line off the reel against the drag. The fishing is starting to pick up.

Since I haven't had another strike on my tube jig and Tony has four fish on a crankbait I switch to crank baits. No use being obstinate about it; that won't help catch fish.

A dozen casts later my bait comes to a jarring stop. I pull back but nothing moves. It is a big fish. It slowly takes off seemingly unheeded by the pressure from my spinning rod. The reel whines as the drag gives out line and I hold on until the fish stops moving and I slowly turn it. The fish stays deep and after a number of short runs I have it alongside the boat and reaching over, grab the fish and bring it in. It is a five pound largemouth. I guess that I did make the right call in changing to crankbaits.

We continued down the shore and keep catching fish. I see birds flittering from tree to tree and I can hear their calls as they talk to each other on shore. I pick up a smallmouth bass. It is the first of the season.

We motor along the shore back to the point but we find another boat there. So we move further down the lake to fish the rip rap underneath a bridge. I catch a three and a half pound smallmouth. The fish vaulted out of the water and fought hard to the very end as smallies always do. They never give up.

I see a pair of cardinals bounce from limb to limb in a tree. The trees are barren still from the cold spring but there are green buds on the end of the branches, meaning that soon they will open up and become green. Two cardinals are chattering at each other and I stop to listen. The two red birds stand out sharply on the gray barren limbs.

The sun is beginning to sink into the trees on the western shore and darkness is descending. I feel a night chill beginning to take the edge off the disappearing sunlight.

We return to the point and the other boat is now gone. I drop the trolling motor down as I sit in the chair on the front casting deck. I cast my crankbait against the rocky bait and have an immediate strike. It is a hard, savage hit and my spinning rod comes alive and the rod tip plunges as the fish tears off.

The fish swirls, dives and runs off. I stop the fish but only momentarily. It starts all over again; swirl, dive and tear away. I am starting to get more line back on the reel, then I am loosing so I am beginning to win the battle. I see a large shadow go under the boat and the spinning rod strains but holds the fish and now it is coming back. I pull hard on the spinning rod and the fish is next to the boat. I slide off the chair to the floor of the boat and reach over the side. The fish sees my hand and pulls away but I bring the fish back and finally grab it.

It is another largemouth and probably weighs about five and a half pounds. Tony takes a photo of me holding the fish and then I slide it back into the water.

I sit back on my chair and look around. There isn't a lot of light left and we should probably start back to the landing. I pause for a moment to enjoy it. It has been a sunny day although I can feel the chill of night beginning to seep through my layers of clothes. I saw a lot of song birds and heard them in the trees. The buds on the trees are not far from opening up. I realize that summer is coming soon. This day has given me the promise of summer and that is enough for now.

Editor's Note: The Notes From The Dockside is an exclusive feature appearing in the Hudson Star-Observer on the first and third issues of each month.