First of all, this is not a column about the Miami Marlins, or a very old card game geezers like me used play as a kid. No, this is a brief blog about the pastime of fishing, and it's importance to every red-blooded sports fan on the planet, especially this time of year.
With our local alleged major league baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, off to a 26-15 start, and perched atop the NL Comedy Central sitting 5 games ahead of the slumbering St. Louis Cardinals, the sports world in Wisconsin is, for now at least, akin to Bizarro World. The NFL draft finally came and went, and we are still weeks away from the real NFL training camps getting underway. Furthermore, without an NBA franchise to follow, (sorry Bucks, 15-67 doesn't qualify), the NBA playoffs are a mere distraction to the real sport that one can apply themselves to in this neck of the lake, fishing. With the exception of the unbelievable Brewers start, sports usually takes a back seat in the summertime here in Wisconsin, but not if you are one of the fortunate one's to enjoy the sport of fishing.
Madison sits on an isthmus surrounded by two of the best fishing lakes in the entire state, Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. The third leg of the "Madison Chain", Lake Waubesa, sits just a short boat ride to the south. Once in a boat or casting from shore, anglers can target any of the following; panfish, perch, walleye, crappie, Northern pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white bass, catfish, and of course, the resident king of all species, the elusive muskellunge, aka the musky. Bring your bow, there's carp in there too - if that's your thing.
Resurrected by my good friend Don Leaser back into the sport a few years ago, I am now, in general, the official photographer and net man for Don and his longtime fishing partner, Andy Steil. Don is in no small part responsible for my depleted savings account. Where once a small nest egg existed, there is a now a garage full of rods and reels, tackle boxes, and strange looking foot long lures that allegedly will trick the occasional musky. The thousands of dollars that once were available for weekend junkets to far away places like Las Vegas, are now invested in the hopes and dreams of the 50' musky, the 5 pound smallie and the 24" large mouth bass. As Don has aptly stated, "It's a disease, Pat, and you have it".
To say I am "hooked", pun intended, is a huge understatement. In a previous life, weekend mornings were reserved for the occasional late sleep- or runs in past 8am, breakfast with Cyndi and long walks in the local conservancy, or trips to the health club. Now it's a 4:30am wake-up call with a short ten minute drive in pitch black darkness to Don's home. Once he has launched his boat onto the water,it's a pretty sure bet we'll be one of the first five boats on a 90,000 square foot lake by 5:30 in the morning.
There's the $1 bet for the first fish in the boat, sports talk on the solar powered crank radio, a roundtable of sports talk among the two or three anglers in the boat, alcohol free lunch boxes, and hour after hour of repetitive casting, interrupted only briefly for the occasional necessary nature break or in Don's case, a smoke, in my case, a cigar, especially if they aren't biting.
Whether we catch one fish or 20, it doesn't matter, the hours spent aboard Don or Andy's boat are as valuable as any share of Packer stock one could ever imagine. Like the credit card ads, priceless. As the season evolves from the 50 degree water temperatures through the 90 degree heat, and then fall football on the radio in October and November, the scenery and the stories just get better and better.
No, some may consider this to be the slow time of year for sports, but for those that have discovered the world of fishing, it's prime time once again. "Focus", as Mr. Steil will remind you, for surely you don't want to miss that chance at a once in a lifetime trophy. As consolation, if indeed your targeted species does become the "one that got away", in reality, you're the one that's getting away from it all, and that's what really matters.
And For What