Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hottest Fishin' Hole:Part 1 "Catfish Phil"

I suppose at one time or another every fisherman hears a story about that perfect fishing spot. That hot spot where the fish just seem to jump in the boat. Of course hardly anyone fishes there because it's in some obscure location nearly impossible to get to. Even if you get back there the fish are so big there's no way to haul them back out. Every lake town has such a spot. Houghton Lake is no different.

I was coming home after another frustrating day of "if only", "thought I had a bite" and "should have stayed home", when I stopped at Catfish Phil's Bait Emporium (Phil thought emporium sounded more sophisticated than "shop"). Phil was sitting out front under the awning drinking a beer wearing his signature "lucky" fishing hat loaded with over $7 worth of previously owned lures, spoons, jigheads and flies purchased at various garage sales. Each one with it's own unique story of the fish caught and the challenging conditions of it's capture.

Now Phil was a real humanitarian in that he always released the trophy fish he caught and since he always fished alone there was never an eyewitness to his remarkable ability to locate and capture these elusive lunkers. He had a camera once but that went overboard during an exceptionally strenuous fight with a record breaking Largemouth Bass.

As I walked up to the stoop Phil told me, in true Phil fashion, if I wanted some bait to just get it myself and leave the money on the counter. And while I was in there would I grab him another beer. One of the cold ones in the back. He thought it was a waste of ice to put a few in a cooler next to him when the refrigerator had to be on for the crawlers. So to save on ice he kept his beer behind the crawlers. He told me if I wanted one just leave an extra $5 on the counter. I passed on the beer and opted for a $3 bottle of water instead.

I flopped down in the seat next to his and recounted my day. Phil listened quietly then took a long pull on his beer. He thought about it for awhile then he told me about the "secret" fishing spot that he had heard about from an old angler named Jake. The old man had made it clear to Phil he didn't want others to know about this "honey hole".

Now Jake hadn't been back since and Phil assumed he had moved away. So why not tell me? He would give me directions to the best fishing in the county, heck possibly the whole state. By this time the next day I could be dragging a creel of the largest and best tasting fish anyone had ever caught. I might have to let some go just to keep from sinking the boat.

Yes, sir. The secret fishing spot handed down through generations finally revealed to me. For $50 he would sell me a map and give me exact directions to the very spot where a 39 inch Walleye had been landed. It would have set state record only Jake wouldn't say where he caught it so the DNR seized the fish assuming it had been caught illegally in restricted waters.

Of course Jake had not had a chance to take a picture before the DNR had removed the trophy Walleye, never to be seen again. He had told Phil it was OK because there were bigger ones still out there. Something about the area just made the fish grow beyond normal size (or rational thought). I was hooked.

Next: Part 2 Restricted Waters

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