by Eric Siewert
(Big Rapids, MI)
It looked something like this.
It was a beautiful summer night five years ago when I had unexpected company stop by for a spontaneous fishing trip. My brother-in-law Guy, and his cousin Paul along with a friend (also Paul), decided they would pop in on me for a guided walleye trip. Paul(the friend)was a bass fisherman and had never caught a walleye before but had heard us talk about what great table fare they are so he was ready to get started.
Keep in mind that these city boys from Detroit never come prepared except for the beer. They had two poles between the three of them and very little tackle. After convincing my wife that they wouldn't keep me out too late we headed for the river.
After several hours of shore fishing, many beers between them, and many of "my" lures lost, we had not managed to catch anything in the first areas we fished. We packed up and went to a new location.
Of course, this required another beer stop. We reached our new destination around 11:00 p.m. It was a beautiful spot to fish due to a small island about 10 feet wide and 40 feet long that sat a very short distance from the shoreline. We walked across some rocks to reach the island which had a nice gravel drop off on one side and shallow water on the shoreline side.
The "fishermen" decided they wanted a campfire, so they went to the woods to get firewood. Upon returning, Paul (the friend) finally caught a fish. A beautiful 28 inch walleye. This fish gave him quite a fight and he was excited as he hauled this fish to shore. Did I mention he was a bass fisherman that had never caught a walleye before? I couldn't stop him quickly enough as he grabbed this toothy fish by the lips like a bass and held onto it for a full five seconds before realizing he should let go (alcohol may have played a factor). The fish fell out of his hands, back into the water and the fight was on again. As he brought it to shore again, I picked it up by the body so that he could proudly inspect his catch.
This sandy island had no place to tie a stringer, so I broke a branch off the fire wood and stuck it in the sand and tied the stringer to it on the shoreline side of the island. He was one proud city boy, bloody thumb and all. It wasn't long before it was time for Paul and Paul to get more firewood. Did I mention they had a few beers? As they headed for shore to get more firewood, one of them must have kicked the stick loose from the sand without anyone knowing. When they came back I heard one of them say "watch this", which I assumed meant one of them was going to throw a log or branch onto the island to try to scare us. Then I heard the splash. Ha ha, very funny.
After stoking the fire, Paul went to admire his great achievement only to discover the fish was gone. I pulled out my flashlight and sure enough the fish was no where to be found. The water at both ends of the island was only a couple inches deep with the middle being a foot or so. I believed the fish to still be trapped. Nope. Then we saw it. A fish swimming near the surface possibly injured or hooked to a stringer. At this point everyone was dry but now the search was on. I stood on the island with the only flashlight trying to see where it went. It surfaced again and they all ran for it. The water was only about waist deep, but it was cold (or so they told me). They missed it. It popped up again and Guy dove for it hoping to catch the stringer. No such luck, it was just too fast. After several more tries we realized that this baby muscrat must have been scared to death and the walleye was long gone. After they warmed by the fire, we headed home around 2:00 a.m. My wife was not impressed with the hour of our return but soon her eyes were filled with tears of laughter at hearing the story of the muscrat and seeing these drunk, shivering men trying to crowd around the furnace vent to stay warm. To this day Paul still reminds me of his walleye that got away due to my stick not being in the ground far enough, and denies the possibility of one of them kicking the stick loose. He still has never caught a walleye that he could take home. Maybe next time.