Noah Lindler discovers salmon fishing is tougher than pan fishing
King for a Day
story and photos by Matt Lindler
It was his first big trip.
While we’ve driven from our South Carolina home to North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida on various family adventures, Noah had yet to leave the Southeast, much less fly on a commercial airliner. He was just 9, but he was going on a trip of a lifetime.
When my friend, Mark Elpers from NWTF Outdoors asked if we wanted to fish for king salmon on Lake Michigan, I jumped at the chance. Really, who was going to pass up on one of the best king fishing lakes in the country?
Noah’s mom and I decided to keep it a secret and surprise him as a reward for his straight-A report card. I was excited to give him the good news, but I was able to keep my mouth shut long enough for the big reveal. His reaction was worth it.
Big eyes and a perma-smile drew the attention of his younger brother, Ben, 6, who knew something was amiss and that somehow he was getting the short end of the stick. Unfortunately, the trip was for two, but the promise of recompense settled the matter: He gets to shoot first this turkey season.
We boarded the jet in Augusta, Ga., with a nod to the pilot and a grin to the attendant, and bumped our way to our seats. There was no question who was sitting in the window seat.
Noah landed his first salmon with help from the first mate.
A quick connection in Atlanta, a flight to Milwaukee and an hour-long rental car drive to Sheboygan found us in king salmon heaven and face to face with our friend Mark, his two sons and a couple of their friends at the Blue Harbor Resort. Mark had rented one of the town house units with plenty of room for the boys to spread out and a kitchen to warm up the delicious one-pan “harvest meals” Mark’s wife had preassembled for us.
The resort in itself was worth the trip. Sprawling along the shores of Lake Michigan, Blue Harbor’s expansive property features luxury rooms, fine dining, beach volleyball and a year-round indoor waterpark to name just a few — all within walking distance of the charter fishing docks and an old-style ice cream parlor.
The waterpark was, by far, the favorite entertainment among the five boys, of whom most are several years older than Noah and practiced in the art of girl watching without being noticed. Mark and I favored the ice cream parlor.
Fishing started early. We meet the skippers at the docks well before daylight and split up the crew between the two boats. We putted through the no-wake zone in the dark, past the jetties with its flashing harbor light and into the lake just as the morning sun began to change the color of the sky.
Out on the open water, idle accelerated to cruising speed, and we cut through the chop to one of our skipper’s favorite fishing holes. The first mate and captain readied the tackle, using the light from their cell phones to charge the phosphorescent flashers that glow in the dark water to attract fish to the lure. The boys were rocked to sleep in the cabin, as I took photos of the sunrise.
That first morning was a bust for our boat, but not without trying every angle we could to snag a fish or two.
The next morning started the same as the previous, but this time our luck had to change.
With 10 lines in the water — some on free lines and planer boards to take them way out to the sides, four on downriggers — we rocked in the waves as the boat slowly trolled along a track marked on the boat’s GPS.
“Fish on!” quickly brought the boys out of their slumber. Noah plowed past the older boys shouting, “It’s mine! It’s mine!” The teens acquiesced and Noah was handed the rod after the first mate set the hook. Sometimes it pays to be the youngest.
At first, the cranking and pumping of the laden fishing rod and reel was fun for the first-time salmon fisherman. After several minutes, however, his muscles wore and I lent a supporting hand on the rod as he reeled and attempted to pull the fish from the depths of the lake. It took all the strength he had to finally land the fish with a little help from the first mate, who readied the net as the fish approached the transom of the sportfisher.
Once it was on board, we weighed Noah’s shiny trophy — a little over 8 pounds — and took pictures for the scrapbook and to email to his mom and brother back home. While between the two boats the group caught more than a dozen fish, no one could top this in his book, and the proud 9-year-old strutted around the deck for the rest of the morning. An expert salmon angler was born that crisp summer morning.
We celebrated with ice cream and an evening at the waterpark, ending a day that neither the boy nor his father will ever forget.
The flight home was old hat for the soon-to-be fourth grader. The excitement of flying had waned, but the excitement of fishing was still fresh on his memory as he recalled his story to anyone who would listen, even garnering a few seconds in the pilot’s seat and earning his own wings from the attendant, all of whom were proud of his ability to haul in such a massive fish.
I beamed at his inherited skill for telling a good fish story.