“We need a bigger net,” the captain said after seeing the lake trout my 9-year-old son, Ronny, had been battling for the last 10 minutes.
It’s the kind of statement you love to hear from a seasoned Great Lakes fishing guide, because it means there’s a real trophy on the line. It’s also unnerving to hear, unless it’s followed by a reassuring remark.
“Luckily, I have one right here – hang on,” the captain said as he unhitched a much larger net from the side of the boat.
With the help of his grandfather, Rich DeLisle, Ronny walked backwards, lifted up the rod, and captain Dan Fox deftly swooped the net under the lake trout and hefted it onto the boat.
Cheers erupted from our fishing party that also included my 7-year-old daughter, 8-year-old nephew, and my brother-in-law as the lake trout thumped on the floor of the boat.
It was the biggest fish of the day and Captain Dan said it has a good chance of being the biggest lake trout he’ll boat this summer.
“A fish like that can win a contest out here a lot of the time,” he said.
The lake trout measured 36 inches and weighed in at 16 pounds, making it the largest fish Ronny has ever caught. It topped his previous largest lake trout, which measuring 29 inches, caught while bobsticking last summer on Lake Superior.
In both instances, as is often the case when he lands a big fish, Ronny’s legs were shaking with excitement.
“I really like catching big fish. It’s my favorite thing to do,” he said.
Our crew was on Lake Michigan to celebrate Father’s Day, compliments of my father-in-law, Rich DeLisle. All three grandchildren who are old enough to fish absolutely love to, so it was a joyful time for all.
Our group spent that Sunday afternoon on Captain Dan’s boat, with all the fish coming in the final moments of the day. When we met Captain Dan at the dock, he was finishing up with his morning clients who boated nine coho salmon and a good-sized lake trout.
“I saw those fish on the dock and knew this guy can catch fish,” daughter Vivian said. “We had to wait for our fish, but Captain Dan kept saying it was just going to be five more minutes and that helped me stay positive.”
A few days prior, DeLisle was with a group that Captain Dan – of Fox Brothers Fishing Charters – guided and said they boated three king salmon in the 20-pound range, along with three good-sized Chinook salmon.
“Today was a slow day, but that’s fishing,” DeLisle said.
Water temperatures were in the mid-50s throughout most of the lake and Captain Dan said the fish are moving all over the place.
The harbor was loaded with alewives, and many more were just offshore. Being a primary food source, finding alewives can sometimes mean finding the salmon and trout, but they aren’t always hungry enough to hit a lure.
That was part of our challenge that afternoon as we worked numerous areas in search of fish. As the day was coming close to ending, I put my lucky Outdoor News hat on my daughter’s head and told her this might make a difference. Within five minutes of that fashion adjustment, Captain Dan was telling her, “Fish on, ladies first.”
Vivian reeled hard and battled a hefty coho salmon, but it got off about 20 feet from the boat after making an acrobatic jump and creating just enough slack to slip off the hook. The hat was then passed to the next-oldest child, my nephew Drake, and within another 15 minutes another coho bit, this one making it into the boat and livewell.
Our second fish of the day was Ronny’s giant lake trout, caught wearing that lucky hat, of course. The third fish of the day went to my daughter (again, with the hat) and was a good eater-sized coho. So each child boated a fish to take home for a fish dinner; none of the dads were too upset for not boating fish of their own.
Afterward, all the kids recommended giving Lake Michigan salmon fishing a try – and bringing along a lucky Outdoor News hat, just in case the bite needs a boost.