Dear Fish Diary:
Ron Koetje isn’t really a bragger. He’s not one to bend your ear for hours telling you hero stories of the monsters he’s caught. He won’t bore you with war stories about the ones that got away. Nope, Ron is much more subtle. By subtle, I’m saying Ron has higher standards than most of us, and for sure higher standards than what is set by our state.
I’m losing you aren’t I? Let’s just say if you’re fishing with Ron, the DNR regulations for size limit doesn’t apply. By Ron’s standards, a walleye should be 30 inches, a bass 28 inches, a channel catfish 24 inches, and a northern pike? Well, a northern must be 40 inches. If you don’t have your guidebook handy, that’s pretty much double the size of a keeper. Ron would toss a 70-inch muskie overboard like it was a nasty weed stuck to your lure simply because it wasn’t 80 inches.
People like Ron annoy me. A master angler size fish to me is simply a throwback to him. I couldn’t be proud for 10 seconds before he’d be telling me to throw that poor little baby back to its momma. With Ron as a Captain and guide, if you’re not catching something that looks like it came right out of Jurassic Park, well, you’re just wasting his time.
When Ron wrote to me with his unique fishing story, of course, I judged him. I put him in that elite class of fishermen. I’d be happy to catch most of the fish he turns his nose up to. Seriously, I’m usually just happy to catch something that isn’t weed or tree.
For many years Ron has had a tradition. Right after Labor Day, he’d begin to troll the west end of White Lake for big pike. He’d set out two rods and pull deep-diving Hot-N-Tots and Rapalas in 12 to 16 feet of water. He has a set area that he sticks to, and he routinely lands 34– 40-inch pike on nearly every pass. Given Ron’s continued success, he’s a pretty popular guy. Many were willing to bypass Ron’s elitist fishing status in hopes of catching something that even the master wouldn’t toss back to momma.
One of those lucky people was Art. Art is a good friend of Ron’s, but Art isn’t much of a fisherman, but that’s according to Ron. Realize, by Ron’s stature, most of us really aren’t much of a fisherman. But Art just wanted to catch a big fish and really didn’t care about much else. Ron was willing to treat Art to just such a fish. For Ron, this was a special occasion. He was breaking out a brand new 9-foot Shimano fishing rod that his wife had bought him for his birthday. He couldn’t wait to use it or maybe just show it off to Art. Either way, he put a large Rapala on, tossed it out, placed it in the rod holder, and turned around. It didn’t take long before he heard the clank of his birthday rod and rod holder being ripped out of place and watched with a broken heart as it sunk to the depths of the lake.
From that point, this is how Ron described the event. “I sat down, still not believing what had happened. I just lost my new birthday pole. I must not have had the rod holder screwed down tight. My heart was not in it anymore, and I told Art I wanted to go back in. He was good with that; I don’t think he wanted to fish in the first place.”
First of all, I’m pretty sure Art did want to keep fishing. If he didn’t want to fish in the first place, why would he have asked to go? Secondly, Art didn’t care what rod he caught the big fish on, and he just wanted to catch a big fish and make Ron proud. Thirdly, I understand being upset that a new rod got jerked overboard, but rods can be replaced, and unless Ron’s wife said she’d divorce him and take everything he owned if anything ever happened to that rod, Ron’s duty was to man up and keep fishing. Guide services lose rods all the time but don’t bring their clients back to shore every time a rod goes missing unless there is only one rod, and they have to go to shore to get another one, which never happens by the way.
What exactly would Ron and Art do when they got back to shore? Ron’s going to sulk, and Art’s going to go home because he can’t stand watching Ron sulk. Not to mention Art probably won’t ever want to go fishing with Ron again. This is sad all the way around.
About a week later, Ron picks up his dad and brother-in-law and heads back to the lake. Obviously, Ron was over his depression and ready to go back after the big pike. However, his dad was old school when it came to fishing for trophy pike. Pheeeewy on trolling artificial lures, dad wants bobbers and minnows, the old fashion way. So, Ron went from complacent Art to combative dad, but he wasn’t giving in to dad. Despite the nasty weather, meaning, clear sky, sunny and no wind, Ron rigged up the group with lures and began trolling, and trolling, and trolling, and trolling. Nothing, not a bite. Ron had been filling these two with trophy pike stories for years, and here they are catching nothing.
So, reluctantly, Ron caved into his father, and they all rigged up with large minnows and bobbers and began to drift. By now, the lovely spirit of “trophy fish Ron” was kicking in, and he was ready to call it quits. That’s when Ron’s bobber went down. Oh, of course, it was Ron’s bobber, who else?
At first, there was indecision as to whether Ron had a fish or some obstruction on the bottom of the lake, so the trio did some teamwork of rowing back and maneuvering the boat until there was no doubt he was hooked up with a monster. Of course, he was, it’s not like anyone else can catch a fish in this story.
At the tail end of Ron’s battle, his brother-in-law netted the fish alongside of the boat. In the net was an over two-foot freshwater drum. Ron noticed right away that the drum had a large Rapala in its mouth and instructed his brother-in-law to unhook his line, then unhook the Rapala and hand it to him. The drum was released, and Ron began pulling line that was attached to the Rapala. After some time, up from the depths came a brand new 9-foot Shimano rod. Now I’d like to say that it wasn’t Ron’s lost rod because that truly would add an extra umph to this story but, it was indeed Ron’s brand new birthday rod. You hear that, Art? You can go fishing with Ron again.
One thing for sure, Ron marches to the beat of a different drum, but he sure can drum up a good fishing story. The hero in this story is Dad because if it wasn’t for his old fashioned ways of using minnows instead of lures, that drum would still be towing Ron’s 9-foot Shimano along the bottom of White Lake.
Funny Fish Stories Wanted:Strangest thing you’ve ever caught
Send a short description of your “best or worst” fishing day, or worst fishing-related adventure, or strangest thing you’ve caught to me. You don’t have to write the entire story, just a brief outline of what happened. If it has some humor to it, I’ll be getting in touch with you, and we’ll work on the completed story together.
Contact – Woods-n-Water News columnist Ron St. Germain by calling 517-626-2814, emailing DaPhotoDude@aol.com. Visit the author’s Facebook page www.Facebook.com/BearwaveBooks