The hook and bullet club
Even though the weather for the second weekend of the 2005 fishing season wasn’t perfect, Megan and I decided to try our luck out on the water. We were slated to meet Mike, Mitchell and Bill in about the middle of Birch Lake. Mike had nailed a five-pound walleye the night before so he was fired up to get back out there. With off-and-on showers predicted for the day, Megan and I were determined to go but we weren’t really in the fired up stage.I had heard a hot tip about guys using leeches on Birch on the opener, so we added a couple dozen to our purchase at the bait shop. Then we headed down Highway 1 to put in on the north end of Birch Lake.The main landing is next to the Babbitt Beach, quite a haul from Ely, so we used the landing next to the campground. It’s small and has limited parking with no dock, but it’s often lightly used and easy to get in and out of.The boat rolled off the trailer and into the water without a hitch and the Suzuki fired up after a couple of pulls. So far, so good.Our luck changed right away. Just as we got up on plane and started heading out of the bay, the motor, slowed, sputtered and stopped. Dead. This was something that had never happened before. But we were safely drifting down the lake so we rigged up our lines and threw them in, figuring it wouldn’t take long to be back up and running again.Off came the cover on the motor and the diagnosis started. Stuck choke? Nope, everything good there. Loose wires? No, there isn’t that many to start with and everything looked like it was where it was supposed to be.I squeezed the bulb on the fuel line and heard a strange sound. It sounded like fuel was spraying out somewhere. Sure enough, the fuel filter was missing on the right side of the engine. The fuel was spraying out unabated.The good news was the filter had fallen straight down and was sitting below and behind the fuel lines. Five minutes later the filter was back in place, the fuel lines were where they should be and the motor roared to life. “Okay, reel up,” I said. “Let’s go find Mike.”This was fine with Megan because wind-trolling down the middle of Birch did not look too promising. We headed south, noting a few boats here and there but overall, a pretty quiet morning on the lake. I turned left and headed up toward the Stony River, weaving between the islands as the waters calmed. We found the boys fishing a few hundred yards before the rapids.“Got any fish?” I asked.“Grandpa caught two crappies,” said Mitchell.That wasn’t too surprising. I think Bill could catch crappies in his bathtub. He just seems to always be able to put a few slabs on the stringer. We dropped our lines in and worked the same area Mike had landed the five-pounder in the night before. Drifting back and forth, I thought about the reasoning of fishing where a big fish had been caught. Two schools of thought there, one being where there’s one fish there’s bound to be more. The other being that was the only fish there and you are now wasting your time. It seemed the second theory was in play today and with the graphs coming up empty we decided to move up into the current. I had already rigged up a spinner unit with a leech and figured this was going to do the trick. There were two other boats up there already but we found a spot and began working the water. Unfortunately, leeches were not going to be the ticket today. Our boat was the only one not to put a walleye on the stringer right away. Off went the leech. The jig and minnow were put back into play. We had already been rained on a couple of times and that was going to be the weather pattern. Sun, wind, clouds and rain rotated through like a travelling circus. This did not impress the fish, however, at least those swimming near our boat. Megan hooked one and I landed the perch with the net. “Are we going to keep it?” she asked.“Ahhh, no. This one’s going back,” I said.I hooked a couple of small northerns but at least there was some action between the rain spells. We circled one of the other boats and went into the current, but this is not like the power dam where you can find a nice trough to work. Here the rocks pop up and the depth is only four to six feet. We drifted back down and off to the side, fishing in eight to nine feet of water. I tossed a jig toward shore and bang, the line went taut and started moving away in jerks. Walleye. This one came in nicely, a great feeling as the rod tip bends and dips in response to the movements of the fish underwater. On the stringer it went and we were out of Skunkville for the day. Megan would catch another perch, nearly identical to the first and the northerns were still biting, but that was going to be about it.We headed over toward Bill’s boat and found they were thinking the same thing I was. Time to move. As the rain threatened again, we fished just off of Bob’s Bay. There was a group that had set up camp nearby, but they were in their tents eating lunch. This reminded me that we didn’t bring any lunch. “What do you think, Megan?” I asked.“Doesn’t matter,” she said. Bill offered some goodies but we declined, deciding to head back up the lake and call it a day. There was a baseball game and dance recital coming up that day and we had been rained on enough already. But we got out on the water, caught some fish and enjoyed some boat time. No matter what ails you, some boat time will usually help. Even if the fish aren’t biting and the rain keeps falling. Just make sure your fuel filter is on before you go.