Well it won’t be long, and fall will be upon us. Of course, hunting season is by far my favorite but the month of August is always good to me and my family. The first week of August always marks out annual trip to Birchwood Wisconsin. We have been going up to the same place for 8 years now and just love the beauty this area provides. My family loves to crappie fish and this is a trip we look forward to every year. When we arrived in Wisconsin the weather was absolutely beautiful. We started unloading our vehicles and boats to get ready for the week and it was a beautiful 80 degrees with a slight breeze. Considering when we left for this trip it was going to be 93+ degrees in Illinois so this was like getting out of the truck into the air conditioning. No humidity just a slight breeze to keep you cool. Of course, after getting situated in the cabin we unloaded our boats at the ramp and were ready to find the mass schools of Crappie. Since we have been coming here so many years we thought we knew where to find them. As with any fishing trip sometimes things change. We spent several hours looking for the big schools and just couldn’t seem to locate them in the usual haunts. It has been a unique year up there the ice was on the lake a month later than normal the water temp was several degrees cooler than we were used to, so it took a little time to figure it out. When we did we started catching the crappie.
In past years we have caught crappie from 9 to 12 inches with not many small fish mixed in. I always thought in the back of my mind if we don’t catch some small fish it may mean a couple of years of waiting for the next group of fish to mature. This year was different. For the first time in all of the years we had been going we were catching a lot of 7 and 8-inch crappie. I won’t even consider keeping a crappie unless they are 9 inches or bigger. It seemed when we did catch keepers they were 10 to 12inches. So, the past several years have shown me that there was a little break for a year or two where the fish didn’t fair well. The small fish were very healthy as were the large fish but there was just no fish in that 9 to 10-inch range. We didn’t catch as many fish as normal but hey… that is fishing and after so many years of catching fish one right after another there was going to be a week where we had to work for them. That was the case for the 2018 vacation. It really doesn’t matter how many fish we catch it is just a great time spent with family and friends and I wouldn’t change a thing. As our week progressed the weather began to change. We usually have our boy’s day of fishing and that was going to be Wednesday because of the temperature and conditions. Well that never stopped Al and I from going fishing so we threw on the rain gear and put the boat in reverse. It was 48 degrees with rain on its way. Little did I know if would rain every half an hour all day and I made the mistake of not taking gloves or rubber boots. As the day went on we were catching fish and probably a cold but we spent the day on the water and caught a few fish in the process.
As Thursday rolled around the temperature and condition were very similar. There was no way that my wife, Leah was going to sit in a cabin for a second day so she put her rain gear on and we headed out to fish. Once again it was 48 degrees with a heavy mist most of the morning, but we managed to catch a few fish. That was definitely not the story of the day. For the many people that do know me, my father used to call me the Master of Disaster and for the most part he was dead on. As we were running around the coves I looked down and realized my Hummingbird fish finders had went off. Not thinking much of it because I knew the trolling motor batteries were in need of a charge. I figured I would run them completely dry and put them on the charger that evening. As we finished up for the day, I pulled the trolling motor and went to start the large motor and nothing. I won’t give you the words I said but I was not a happy camper. I thought all of my electronics and everything was hooked to my two trolling motor batteries, but I was wrong. I had killed all three batteries and now I am sitting on lake with a rocky shoreline thinking how and the heck am I going to keep this off the bank and from hitting other boats. Of course, there must have been 50 boats in the cove. Not really more like 4 but I felt like I has going to try and play frogger and keep from running into someone. I really didn’t want to start yelling to everyone to move that would be embarrassing. Luckily Al got ahold of his wife Guylaine and she was going to drive the boat out and try to rescue us.
Unfortunately, she hadn’t driven the boat in several years and doesn’t usually go out in the boat but a couple of times of week. As we sat there waiting to see her come around the corner I was using the troll motor to keep us out as far as it would let me. It would give me a little boost each time even though there was not much charge left. After about an hour I see a boat that looked like Al’s, but it was across the lake. Luckily at the time we had cell phone service and Al was able to get ahold of her and luckily, we got the battery jumped and finally headed back to the cabin. If there wasn’t an adventure, then Andy was not around.
After that was over I figured that would be the last one of the week. I was so wrong. As Friday rolled around it was our last morning of fishing. Leah, Ella and I headed out for the last day. Of course we had Al out in his boat just in case anything would happen. That was not the issue. As we fished for a few hours and were catching some perch and crappie and hoping to cap off a great week with a limit of fish. As we sat there Leah was looking around and she says “it looks like we are going to get wet once again”. I was like “no its going to miss us it is heading in the other direction.” Like most men I should have listened to my wife, but I didn’t. It began to sprinkle so we all got on the rain gear and decided is was time to call it a week. As we started heading in, all hell broke loose. It started raining pretty hard, so I put the hammer down and was ready to go. As we were cruising it I put my head above the console and wack, something hit me in the forehead. All of the sudden I look down at my boat and there is pea sized hail coming down like there was no tomorrow. After riding through the hail for 10 minutes we were back to the cabin and ready to wrap up our family vacation for 2018. Yes, I did have a welt on my forehead from the hail. My wife and kid sure enjoyed my pain as punishment for not listening about the incoming weather.
After our Wisconsin vacation it was time to look at our mini four-day vacation to Reelfoot Lake Tennessee. This trip was originally planned because of my wife’s love for catfishing. Unfortunately, she ended up being the matron of honor for a wedding that was scheduled for the third week and August and she had to plan a bachelorette party for the weekend of our trip. So, I decided to make the best of it and there was going to be 8 of us who met at Reelfoot Lake for a couple of days of catfishing. Once again as we arrived the weather was beautiful. It was the upper 80’s but there was a great breeze to keep the sweat from drenching you.
We arrived on Thursday the 16th and began fishing. As usual the fishing was good, and we were catching fish every 15 minutes or so. If you’re a catfishing person and you don’t use Sonny’s Stink bait you don’t know what your missing. I have used many types of stink bait over the years but there is only one that produces consistently. As a matter of fact, I now buy the 5-gallon buckets because if I am catfishing there will only be one bait at the end of my line. We had so much fun with this group. I know bigger groups can be a pain at times but when you have the right group of people with you it makes for such a great four days. We laughed so hard we cried, and everyone enjoyed each others company. With us we had Tim Conover, his father Cliff and Cliff’s grandson Raymond. One group was Al, Guylaine and Bob Schackow and my group was Brandon Bach and myself. I don’t know if I have ever had that much fun in a four-day period.
Our host was Sportman’s Resort in Tiptonville, TN. Candy and Bill are the owners and they will do anything to make sure your experience is top notch. During August and November, they run a special of $99 for three days and three nights. The provide you with the boat, motor, gas, ice and bait for only $99. It is an amazing deal and if you like catfishing you really need to consider taking a trip like this. Not only do they have great catfishing but most people go there for the great crappie and blue gill fishing. The crappie and bluegill make the ones we catch in Illinois look like minnows. With three great species to fish you should really consider a trip to Reelfoot Lake and you won’t be disappointed.
There was one thing that has really stuck with me about this trip. As we were sitting outside our cabins just enjoying the lake there was a gentleman from Alabama there with his wife. He wasn’t having much luck with the fishing, so he came over to our group and was asking for a few pointers. As we sat there and talked he hadn’t done much catfishing and all he really wanted was a couple for dinner. I actually took him over to our cabin and gave him some stink bait worms, hooks and some stink bait. He was so grateful that someone would give him tackle and bait and tell him exactly were to go to catch them. The next morning rolled around and we saw him do exactly what we had explained for him to do and in the right location. He started catching a few fish and his excitement was contagious. As we all arrived back at the docks I was waiting for this gentleman to get in to make sure he had the fish that he wanted to eat and if he didn’t I was going to give him some of ours. When he arrived to the dock you couldn’t get the smile off of his face. He had boated 5 and broke the lines on a couple of more (unfortunately all he had to fish with was crappie poles and I didn’t have extras for him). He was so grateful to us for helping him catch a few fish.
Sometimes as fisherman or hunters we don’t like to give much information to people to help them out. If we all give and get advice we will all be better fishing and hunters. I felt so much happiness for helping this guy and his wife out. I wish more outdoorsman would be willing to help out strangers so they have a great experience as well. Sometimes people don’t have the experience that some of us have and we must be willing to share information with adults and kids alike. We are a community. So the next time you are out fishing and having success help someone who isn’t having success and the happiness you get from helping them have a great experience will be well worth it.
May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!