Have you ever wondered how good you'd be as a fisherman if you didn't have access to modern day technology?
Some anglers own boats that cost more than some homes. These boats are loaded up with electronics that would make some government agencies envious. The boats are equipped with lake maps and GPS systems that narrow things down for the owners, especially tournament anglers. Even I own some of the modern day stuff like a locator with GPS and a bow-mounted trolling motor. I love my 50 horse Mercury motor.
I have to ask, how good would any of us be as fishermen without these gadgets?
Revisiting my younger days, my buddy Jim Kuester and I would fish just about every day from ice out into fall. We also did some ice fishing back then, but not a lot.
We would start prowling the streams in Sheboygan County in search of steelhead, in March as soon as winter's icy grip let go enough to get on the rivers. We hoped each year to lay into some of the big trout migrating up to spawn. It was nothing fancy. We didn't use $300 fly rods. We went out with some light gear, a pack of spawn sacks, maybe some spinners, a pair of waders and some polarized sunglasses.
And we were packing the one thing a guy can't fit into any tackle box, determination.
We would work areas through spot and stalk techniques, or fish deeper holes competing to lay into fish weighing 10 pounds or heavier. And we were pretty good at it, too. Sure, some days were better and some years were better, but the simplicity of it and the success we had is what was key. Not a lot of fancy gear.
As the weather would get nicer, and limited for cash, we adapted to make our fishing season the best it could possibly be. Panfish and bass became our targets and we waited with breathless anticipation for opening day. We didn't have a boat and at some point we found out that Long Lake in eastern Fond du Lac County would rent boats cheaply.
Being the determined guys we were, we took advantage of it as much as we could. Jim's parents had an old 6 horse Mercury we would often borrow and take with us to get us around the lake without rowing. Not only did we have to stop to pick up the motor all the time, but we had to return it each day.
Did we want to fish bad enough? Did it beat rowing? No doubt.
So we didn't mind going to the extra trouble since it saved us a lot of rowing.
The boats we rented weren't exactly luxurious. These were 14 foot row boats with bench seats and the anchors they provided for us were nothing more than about 10 feet of chain connected to cement-filled coffees cans.
But we pounded the fish. We had no electronics and only a pretty primitive means of moving around the lake. There was a lot of trial and error involved. We paid attention to detail. We tried a lot of different jigs and baits. We took pretty basic fly fishing gear with us and caught both crappies and bluegills. We located where the bass were hanging around and caught a lot of them. We worked it well into the summer.
As the summer rolled on, we switched our focus to salmon and trout. Without a boat, we were at a disadvantage. But again, simplicity and determination were the only two pages we had in our playbook. We would get up early just about every morning and back in the 80s and early 90s it seemed the pier fishing was good to great. We would take a 5-by-5 dip net to catch our own alewives for bait and were ready for that hot, but often short-lived early morning bite. I can' t tell you how often we caught fish soaking alewives on the bottom and even caught salmon a few times using an alewife in about 3- to 4-feet of water under a bobber, if conditions were right.
In addition, we would often cast the standard little Cleo's, Mr. Champs or Krockodiles with some success. The early morning bite was normally over by 7 a.m. or so, but we knew the evening bite would as good.
This was simple fishing and some of the biggest fun.
Other times if we wanted to try something different we would go to the Sheboygan Marsh or Sheboygan River or someplace else to try for Northern pike. And normally we would do pretty well. We'd catch a lot of smaller ones, with some decent ones mixed in. We sat on the banks and just simply cast spinners, spoons or Rapala's.
Sometimes carp were the target at the power plant or up in the rivers. We always found something to stretch our lines.
When fall would roll around, I would chase salmon up the river. Keeping things simple was the key. The salmon never actively bite during that time of the year, but we still got them to do it if we could sneak up on them and aggravate them into biting. We used spawn and spinners and that was it.
We listened to parents and other people who had been fishing long before us and drew on their experiences. We read magazine tips and tried them.
Were we limited? Yes.
Did we have fun? You bet..
As I've gotten older, I have acquired some of today's modern gear and use them as best I can. It's nice to take a trolling motor and hit some smaller lakes or places like the Fox River. It's great to have a big enough motor to get me around a lake quickly. So yeah, I do take advantage of some technology today. But nothing compares to the early experience, experimentation,simplicity, determination and attitude I cultivated.
This is what makes a successful fisherman. Technology is good, but the key ingredients are the five attributed I just mentioned. And the greatest measure of success isn't always a fish caught, it's how much fun you've had.
Read more from Shawn Clark.