After 1,150 miles on the road over 2 1/2 days, we arrive early afternoon on Saturday at T & D Amisk Cabins along the Saskatchewan/Manitoba line. The lake looks rough. Gnats and mosquitoes are abundant, and after shaking camp owner Bruce Joa’s hand, I comment, “You still haven’t done anything about the bugs up here.”
“What bugs?” he asks with a smile. It’s good to be back, albeit for only a week this year. My driver and old friend Keith Mickelsen from St. Anthony, Idaho, couldn’t get away for a more longer period. So a week-long trip it is going to be. Laurie is along again as well as Oscar, our seven-year-old yellow Labrador. It is Oscar’s first fishing trip.
The wind is raging the next day and we don’t even bother putting my boat into the water. On the way to camp, I pointed out a spot where Keith could hike to the lake from the gravel road and fish from shore. That he does, catching a few small pike, until a rain storm drives him off the shoreline, back to my pickup and ultimately to the heated cabin.
It’s still chilly and blustery Monday morning when we motor the Lund Alaskan into Warehouse Bay. I cut the 90-horse Honda and Keith gets the 8-horse Mercury kicker going. I give Keith a black/silver jointed Rapala floater and choose a yellow Rapala Husky Jerk for myself — a lure I have used with uncommon success in this bay in the past. Shortly after I begin trolling up the bay we start getting strikes from pike and walleyes. Laurie catches a couple fish on a gold floating Rapala but spends most of her time netting fish, unhooking them, untangling lures from the net, monitoring the live well, petting Oscar and smoking a cigar.
I never tire of feeling the sharp strike of a walleye, nor the head-shaking battle of a northern pike, and I am able to enjoy a lot of it on this grey, stormy day.
Keith, who has never caught either a walleye or northern pike in his life, hooks a pike that gives him a good battle and ends up measuring 37.5 inches. It is bleeding so he keeps it, and later it weighs 12.5 pounds on the camp scales. I take 30 and 33-inch pike on the yellow Husky Jerk.
Several times Keith gets his line broken, losing one of my lures each time.
“You’re telling me that is 8 or 10-pound test?” I ask. “It feels more like 6-pound. to me. We’ll get rid of that line tonight in camp and I’ll spool on some Berkeley 8-pound.”
That I do, and Keith doesn’t get his line broken for the remainder of the trip. It’s been a good day. We’ve caught at least 15 pike in three hours of fishing, plus nine walleyes. We keep a few fish for the ice cooler and enough walleyes for a fish fry.
Tuesday dawns with a stiff east wind, so once again we fish Warehouse Bay, the closest bay to camp. And the excellent fishing continues. I catch 11 walleyes in three hours of fishing, Keith takes one casting a red-and-white Dardevle Cop-E-Cat, Jr. from the bow. Then he hooks a big pike on a floating chartreuse Rapala, which after a brisk battle, Laurie nets, gently unhooks and releases. It is a heavy, broad-backed fish that measures 39 inches and probably weighs 14 pounds.
During the morning while everyone is busy and looking away, we hear a splash and Laurie exclaims, “Oscar jumped out of the boat!” Oscar is swimming next to the boat, I put the trolling motor into neutral. Laurie calls him to the starboard rear of the boat. Keith reaches down, grabs Oscar by his chest harness and hoists him aboard. He shakes spray everywhere and otherwise unfazed. I think he jumped out; Laurie still thinks he fell off the bow.
A bald eagle appears overhead, dives toward the water, picks up a small fish of some kind and flies away. That night while lying in bed, I hear loons singing from somewhere on the lake.