Big Fish, Little Boat

Back in July I met Lucian Gizel in Harbor Springs during one of the Outfitter of Harbor Springs Saturday kayak symposiums. Gizel is a Michigan guru of fishing from kayaks, and he was there promoting his favorite pastime.

Well, I had the opportunity to meet up with Gizel again on another Saturday recently when he was camped out on Sleeping Bear Bay for an annual salmon fishing get-together that he helps organize. Gizel had explained the event to me when we first met, and I had to see it in action. Basically about 20 guys meet for a weekend to fish Lake Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Bay each September when the salmon start to gather in the bay for their run up river to spawn.

I’m a fan of the kayak, but I’d never really thought about hauling a writhing 3-foot-long fish into one, so I had to check this out. In the dark before daybreak on a warm September Saturday I found myself wandering D.H. Day Campground, in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with a headlamp asking other guys with headlamps where Gizel might be found. Should have known: he was already out on the water.

As dawn advanced, I saw one shape after another come into focus on out on the water, each a kayak fisherman trolling slowly east to west and back again across the remarkably still waters of the bay. By the time I met up with Gizel he was paddling slowly along Sleeping Bear Point, the sun reflecting off a dune on shore and the Manitou Islands rising in the west. I floated up to him to say hi, and he flashed a big smile, reached into the water and hauled up a shimmering 3-foot Chinook. Nice!

Later that day, as the men gathered for lunch, they talked about kayak fishing events elsewhere, and how the sport is growing fast. It seemed a common refrain was that they liked the intimacy of the sport, just you and the fish.

Next fall, in a Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine feature story about the event, we’ll be telling you more about this new (and ancient) way to enjoy the water and fill your cooler with fish. We’ll get some how-to tips from Gizel and his kayak fishing crew and hear what they have to say about boats they favor. It’s one more great reason to remember that the good stuff up here goes on long after Labor Day is a memory.

Enjoy the autumn!

Jeff Smith is editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine

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