I’m standing on the ramp at Dempsey’s landing watching the sun rise over Sandusky Bay. There’s a chilling wind, but when isn’t there at this time of year? Looking past Johnson’s Island, I think what spring must have been like for those Confederate P.O.W.s kept there. Winter on Lake Erie can be blue hell, especially if you’re from Mississippi and have never seen snow before. Spring time to them must have been a real celebration of life, as in their own! It’s the first of many reflections on the area’s rich history today. We put in here at Dempsey’s, and before you know it we are throttling up and heading out on the open water past Bay Point Marina toward the Islands.
After you see Marblehead Light House so many times you forget it’s there; it becomes like any street corner in the city, just a place to turn left. But this is our first trip out on the Lake this season and it greets me like an old friend, the rising sun making its limestone sides and bright red cap even brighter. Into the chop we go; the McIver brothers Scott and Matt and myself. I’ve always been impressed how much the first morning on the Lake feels like the first morning of deer camp. We are
hunters just the same, stalking the elusive Lake Erie Hog, the Walleye!
Captain Matt drops anchor off the West side of Kellys where we join a few boats drifting here. We are quickly joined by more boats from the shore, one I notice rigging Dipsy Divers. Everyone is his own football coach at this moment, picking a lure and a strategy for the big game. I Carolina rig a night crawler and send it to the bottom. It just feels like the thing to do, and in some ways one man’s guess is as good as any other. We watch the sonar and a few fish are out there, so now it’s up to
us to work our magic. The wind is calm now, the waves are soft, and there’s a few minutes that we each sit there silently absorbing the sun’s glowing rays and basking in the certain victory that we are here, on the water, while so many lesser anglers are still asleep in their beds. For whatever reason, the fish don’t come. There’s two things we can do; change
rigs or change position. We pull anchor and head for the North point of Kellys, peering toward Pelee.
In the slow moments we begin to chat, although there are long, comfortable silences where no man utters a word. We talk about trouble we got into as kids, and what those kids as men are doing now. The conversation narrows on one fellow whose life has taken a serious turn for the worse and his career, his marriage and his health have hit the rocks because of the battle with the bottle. He was just like us, we fished with him right here and many other places many times. I begin to wonder if we are gossiping, but that’s not it at all. It’s a reality check. It’s the three of us, grown men with careers and families taking inventory of what’s important in our lives and making sure we are looking out for each other so we don’t fall through the cracks as well. The end of the conversation has the solemn feeling of a funeral, but we take pride and a shameful joy that we each have it together, we are going forward with our lives, and fishing here this beautiful morning. No high dolla psychologist has a therapy as good as the support group we have been while drowning worms today. Too much talking, not enough fishing. The wind has picked up and we are spending much energy trying to keep our seats and very little effort at reeling in fish. A white bass, a sheepshead come aboard but it’s not what we were planning on. We decide to rig for smallmouth and cast the Southern shore of the island where there’s protection from the wind. Here, things picked up and our efforts were less towards “fishing” and more towards “catching”.
What you take away from a fishing trip isn’t always in the live well or on a stringer. Time spent on the Lake is time spent re-connecting, every single time. It may be with your family, with your friends, or just with yourself reevaluating what’s important to you. Rest assured that when you set a hook in the Lake, you’re sure to take home more than fish. You can buy
fish; get outdoors!