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The boat slid off the trailer into the Gills Rock marina at about 5:30pm. We organized all of the rods and rigged them with spoons, plugs, or flashers with flies. My father, Jim, and his friend Bob were eager to hit the water, in hopes of catching a few king salmon. It had been a very windy July in Northern Door County but this evening was calm and perfect for trolling Lake Michigan.
We powered out of Gills Rock, past Northport and Pilot Island to our fishing spot in about 120 feet of water. The lake was calm and gulls and cormorants made their way to and from the small gravel islands that line the peninsula just off of Newport State Park. We could see a few other boats fishing the same area in the distance and they were relatively spread out.
I dropped in the kicker motor, set it to 2.3mph and started dropping lines as my father kept the boat straight. Downrigger one went to 80 feet. Downrigger two dropped to 50 feet. A dipsy diver on each side of the boat, 300 feet of copper and a 10 color lead core on planer boards rounded out our spread for the evening. Six rods usually keeps up busy if the salmon are around and biting.
After about a half hour, a dipsy rod started to pound and drag screamed out. I grabbed the rod and handed it to Bob. The battle was on! Bob would crank in fifty feet of line and the fish would turn and run out forty. It was fun to watch. After about ten minute both the fish and Bob were getting pretty tried. He was finally able to get it close enough to the boat to land it. It was a nice 18-pound king salmon and a good way to start the evening.
I put the fish in the cooler, reset the dipsy and put my father in the catching chair. About 20 minutes later downrigger two went off. He grabbed the rod and brought a nice 10-pound king to the landing net after a five minute fight. Into the cooler it went and the downrigger was reset at 50 feet.
It was Bob’s turn again when the 300 feet of copper hooked up. He eagerly grabbed the rod and began the long battle getting the fish to the boat. When a copper rod is set out on a planer board, it is a football field or more behind the boat. No matter who battles a fish on copper, it is always a workout! Finally after 15 or more minutes, the fish slid into the net and Bob sat down exhausted from the battle.
Since I can catch salmon anytime I want, I let my father and Bob pull in all of the fish that evening. We found a giant school of Alewives, the small baitfish that salmon eat, and set up a trolling pattern through them. Every time we would swing by the area we would hook up on a nice size king and the cooler was slowly getting heavier. The fish continued to bite until we pulled lines at 8:30pm as the sun was going down. It was an amazing sunset!
We powered back through Deaths Door to Gills Rock, loaded the boat and headed to the fish cleaning station. Six big kings, 10-18 pounds needed to be cleaned. Half of the fillets were freezer packed and the other half were dropped off at Charlies Smokehouse in Gills Rock the following morning.
It was a great night of fishing, but it was even better because I was able watch my father and Bob fighting fish with the enthusiasm of little kids. I didn’t ask, but I bet their arms were a bit sore the next morning.
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