It was 5:45 a.m. on Saturday, May 26, when I finally let it loose.
“WHOOOOO! HOOOOO!” I somewhat shouted, but not over the rumbling of the modest 25 horsepower Mercury.
Don’t want to wake people wasting a perfectly beautiful Wissota morning.
Some of them might take the opportunity for some early morning Memorial Day weekend water skiing. I’m not against anyone enjoying Wissota in their own way, but early morning belongs to us fishermen.
In truth, I am not much of a “whoo-hoo” guy, except for when Aaron Rodgers throws a perfectly placed pass to beat the Vikings or some such thrilling moment. But this is one of them, and it’s something of a tradition for me.
I am not an ice fisherman, but strictly an open water man. I don’t even have a trailer hitch to pull my 16-ftoot Bass Tracker on its rattley old trailer. A neighbor helps me launch it in the spring (Dick Howard in previous years, Tim Schemenauer this year) and bring it in in late fall.
After a winter spent next to the chain link fence of the dog pen, the St. Jerome (the name of my modest boat, after my late father) needs to feel the waters of Wissota, and so do I. I keep the boat moored to the dock in Mermaid Bay and that first time out with all my fishing gear on board is a cause for celebration.
So I give my little “whoo-hoo” as I power up and head away from the dock, thinking what I frequently do when headed for some hours on the lake: All of my problems are back there, on the landward side of the dock. I’m Wissota-bound.
The fates had conspired to make this my latest start to a season since I owned a boat. The late ice-out, a family reunion in Louisiana, our daughter’s college graduation and some perceived problems with the outboard pushed back the launch time a full six weeks from my usual goal. It would have been inconceivable to me back in February that I wouldn’t be on the water until Memorial Day weekend. But we play the hand we are dealt.
Wissota welcomed me back with open waters. The day broke sharp and clear, with a promise in the air of mid-day heat that reminded me of that recent trip Down South. A small flock of geese passed low overhead. I noted it will not be long before I see them on the water protecting fuzzy goslings. The water was as calm and clear as Wissota has to offer, except for some film of yellow pine tree pollen in various places.
I headed for my usual first-time-out spot, a rocky point opposite High Shores. The first time I fished Wissota from a boat was in a canoe, with my then-girlfriend on the bow seat with a book. She pointed and declared that that looked like a good spot, as if she knew anything about fishing. In training to be a good compliant husband and not having any better ideas, I paddled over, and ran into what is still today the hottest smallmouth action I ever experienced. It’s a good early-season spot, so I spend a few minutes there every first trip. Wissota is a place of memories that we will try hard to relive.
This time the spot graced me with wild lilacs in bloom right on the shoreline, their aroma extending well out onto the surface of the water. And one young smallmouth, which did me the favor of breaking water for a jump.
I caught a nice catfish and a couple of decent bluegills, neither of which I was targeting, so I would hardly call it a productive trip from a fishing standpoint. But the number and sizes of the fish brought into the boat is not the only measure of a productive trip, particularly for a first time out.
So, not a lot of fish made it into the boat, but none of those problems left back on shore did either. That’s worth a little “whoo-hoo” of its own.
A former Herald columnist and reporter, Mark Gunderman is a member of the board of directors of the Lake Wissota Improvement and Protection Association.