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2-11-05 - 6:45 AM and Capt. Mike already has the boat ready to go!
Randy Cochran is EXCITED but FREEZING!

Ice Berg Patrol duties are easy this morning...not much ice hanging around the harbor.

Now that we're clear of the ice flows, Capt. Mike opens up the throttle - the wind chill must have been below zero.
Sunrise over Lake Michigan.

2-11-05 - Screamin' Minnow brings in the MOST TROUT! MP defends his "Dinker King Title" while Randy boats a HOG - we're both in debt to Capt. Mike.

Waters Fished: Lake Michigan (Wisconsin Waters)
Fish Caught: at least 30 landed, probably over 50 on
Outing Date: 2-11-05
Weather: Sunny
Air Temp: mid-teens rising to 30's
Water Temp: varied from 31F to 43F
Water Level: Normal
Water Color: Blue, visibility at least 6'
Fish Species: Brown Trout
Pattern Fished: various stickbaits, crankbaits, spoons etc.
Pattern Color: having a variety in the water was key
Fishing Quality: PHENOMENAL, if not downright INSANE! YOU MUST TRY THIS!

All it took was 2 emails to set this trip up; the first being an invite from Capt. Mike Richow (Screamin' Minnow Charters) to join him on the water this winter, and the 2nd was to pick the date. This isn't the first time out with Mike; if you don't remember, read 1-10-04 as a starter. Capt. Mike has NEVER asked me to "push his service" - he's just not that kind of guy. By the same token, you know that when I find a real gem, I blabber it here! The coolest part perhaps is that Capt. Mike is all about teaching other boaters how to do it, so if you have a boat and you'd like to be on the water this time of year, you need to get out with him!

If you can't figure out from the headline, an invite from Capt. Mike is NOT an invite you turn down. Never. Call in Dead if you have to. Mike mentioned that there was room on the boat for a third on our Friday AM trip - who do I know who likes to fish and doesn't work on weekdays (unless he wants to)? Randy Cochran. I didn't invite Randy along so much as subtly imply that his attendance was mandatory ;) My email may have read something like "You're meeting us at 6:30 AM. Here's directions."

Of course, Friday morning was a wintery mix of sleet on the roads heading east from Lake Como - despite driving like a madman I made it safely to the launch around 6:45 AM. After first confusing a pair of guys on the launch as being Randy and Mike, I parked, got out and found Randy bundled up and shivering, waiting at the launch looking kinda lost. Meanwhile Capt. Mike was in the boat, in the water, anxiously awaiting us for departure!

Nothing else can really be written here that truly conveys the experience of getting out on the water before dawn in February in Wisconsin; ice covers the rods, your beard, everything. As you leave the harbor, at least one member of the party must ride the bow on Iceberg Patrol. With a 40 MPH boat ride to the fishing grounds, the windchill can easily be well below zero. As dawn approached, Mike rigged up mini planers with crankbaits and stickbaits on the starboard side while instructing me on the same riggin for port. In minutes we had 8 boards out in the V style, with baits running at depths of 18" to 8'

Sunrise breaks over the water at the horizon, and by then the browns (averaging 5-10lbs.) are biting like they're starved. As the sun first hits the boat, a wave of winter warmth (or perhaps the constant adrenaline rush from fish after fish) lets you know the personal sacrifice of comfort is more than worth it. Not quite the "all hell broke loose" scenario, but basically for most of the morning we had consistent action, at least a few hits on every pass. I did notice that despite being "rigged" identically, starboard seemed to just be working better. It's that pro experience that Capt. Mike brings - at least that's my guess. Basically, I'll let the pictures and video do the talking for a while....

The sun is up and already we have 8 planers out. This is Capt. Mike's side of the boat - my side, well, the planers weren't as nicely lined up. The experience shows on Mike's side.

FISH ON! Randy's in the hot seat already. Capt. Mike gets into position to remove the mini planer board.

It's almost time to pronounce the skunk DOA for the day...

And there it is - Capt. Mike and Randy seal the deal and rid our vessel of the day's skunk. But before I'm even prepared, Randy is back at it again!

Flash Video - 1 minute, this is roughly the first 1/2 of Randy's battle. (7.62 MB)

MORE Flash Video - 1 minute - a nice brown comes to net for Randy. (9.75 MB)

The resultant fish from Randy's videotaped battle.

Ear to ear grins and the fact that it's probably 20F out is totally forgotten. Man, I must be steering the boat (yup) - Randy is on!

So is Capt. Mike!

Our first double comes to net for Mike and Randy. The action just doesn't stop - another brown trout is moments away from being landed.

Yeahaa! Life is good when you've got a chromer in the hand..who cares if it's not a "chromer" in the steelhead sense!

As with most all of our fish today, C&R is the lucky fate of our browns. Still more browns to be landed; this one flashes in the deep, deperately trying to throw the hooks.

No dice - another brown is in the boat and right back out.

Hey, I got my fair share too!
(Copyright 2005 Randy Cochran)
Mike landed this acrobatic Brown - or is it something else (more later)?

Ice covers all our gear even though the sun has been beaming down for a while now.

Yes, more ice! MORE BROWNS TOO! Randy with another beautiful brown trout. My really nice Buck - easily 10 lb with a full on kype.
(Copyright 2005 Randy Cochran)

Basically, whomever was by the rod that went off got to grab it. Randy and I made sure that unlike a normal charter trip, we wanted Mike to get his own piece of the action!

Not ever fish comes to the boat though; Mike gave this guy a good shot before he threw the hooks. As dawn became "day", more boats showed up.

I'm hooked up and Randy has my camera; gotta love his unique eye for photography.

That's right, I'm puttin the screws to this fish - and apparently figuring out that I can break HOOKS. DAMN! Some of the browns that came in just looked so interesting - check out the patterning on this one!

Randy with his funky leopard spotted brown trout.

Seems like Randy got a LOT of fish to the boat today; man that brown looks awefully like a steelhead! Capt. Mike pops another brown that just goes ballistic - this one taildanced so long I actually had time to prepare and capture the show!

Sometimes the little ones are the most insane of all.

Time to change spots - ice flows are here and there on the lake. More ice berg patrol.

We all had a great morning trolling, and heck that would've been a fine way to end our day! Plenty of fish were boated. However, throughout the morning Capt. Mike had mentioned vertical jigging for browns as an alternate form of entertainment. Around 11:00 or so, we pulled lines and headed to a 2nd spot to try our hands at enticing bluewater browns without motor asist! Back to the spread ;)

We barely get our lines in the water and it's already time for someone to put 'em down so we can get the net for Mike!

Not every fish is landed - this guy makes a last minute dash for freedom and it pays off (for the fish). There are still some browns running around in spawning mode.

BROWNS BROWNS BROWNS!

Finally, Randy pulls up a brown. Are you TIRED of brown trout yet?
OH... MY...

GOD! WHAT A FREAKIN' HOG! The Boga weighed this one out at just a hair under 25 lbs. Randy's lifetime biggest brown and the largest for the year-to-date in the Screamin' Minnow. Mike has another 11 months left in 2005 though ;)

Heck, we were landing 'em so fast that most were just brought up, unhooked and dropped back in...several missed their photo ops due to cold weather battery issues.

More browns in spawning mode! BIG BROWN COMIN' AT YA!
(Copyright 2005 Randy Cochran)

Man these browns will go anywhere, including under the boat, just to avoid a net.

But hey, usually we have the skill and luck! Yeah, look at all these moster browns for Capt. Mike! He's definitely havin' a good time!

It's official, no trip would be complete without MP defending his title as the ultimate DINKER KING. Hard to believe this fish got his mouth around an entire treble hook!

After a great day on the water, it's finally time to wrap it up... Capt. Mike Richow (left) and MP (right) hold the 2 "grillers" we creeled while Randy (center) holds our trophy. All the other fish went back, hopefully to grow to the size of the HOG!

So there you have it. Something like 30 or more browns boated between 6:45 AM and 1:45 PM. INSANE action. I think the comments from another boat sum it up best. After Randy landed his 24lber, the guy shouted over, basically to the effect of "you think you're so great", specifically "So you THINK your a good fisherman?!". Mike's reply - "I KNOW I'm a good fisherman". Yup. Mike definitely knows his browns! And as for those browns, how about some more pics of that PIG! Yes, it was harvested to make a mold for taxidermy replica blanks.

When I ask for a fish like this to be harvested, it's because it will be molded to make replica taxidermy blanks. That means that the next 10 (or 100) people want a 24 lb. Brown replica, we already have the fish mold required. Replicas WORK for trophies, they last longer and let you C&R the fish of a lifetime. While Randy agreed to harvest this PIG, a future pig can swim free.

When I (or an angling buddy) lands a fish worthy of molding, I take MANY, MANY, MANY pictures for the taxidermists. Following are a sample of some of the closeup colorplates I have from this particular brown.

Let's check this hog out in detail from head...
...

...

...
 
...

...to tail! Detailed photographs like these are extremely helpful if you land a trophy and are considering a mount (trust me, a replica mount is better than traditional skin mounts in durability, realism, and sometimes even price - it all just depends on who you go to for the work!).

 

OK, so the top fish is 100% Brown. Care to guess what's on the bottom? I'm leaning towards Seeforellen or Atlantic Salmon...
Here's another shot - our bottom fish isn't quite the standard brown. Atlantic (?) or just the Seeforellen strain?

So I'll leave you with this personal observation - my arm was sore for a good 24 hours. Arguably the longest, toughest fight was not Randy's pig but the one I hooked into while trolling...hooked into SIDEWAYS that is. My god it took forever to get landed - I thought I was onto a new record until I finally got it up to surface!

One of the other interesting tidbits - we definitely boated at least one peculiar fish that may or may not have been an Atlantic Salmon. With identifying characteristics that more or less leaned both ways, it's perhaps most likely that it was simply an unclipped Seeforellen Strain, but that's just my take on the matter. Draw your own conclusions; here's the info

Rakers - - 17 by my count if I in fact had the right gill section. That would make it a brown

Lateral Line Scales - did 2 counts, not sure I know how to do it precisely. Came up with 119 and 109 - I think I just skipped 10 or added 10 in my counting. Both counts would make this an atlantic

Vomerine Head - no discernable teeth present on this fish (used a needle to attempt to hook into the teeth) - a series of "pores" suggest a diagonal line. Not really like either species description.

Vomerine Shaft - Seemed like one offset line of teeth with one offest to the other side. Leans towards description of Atlantic Salmon, but with the possibility that there were actually 2 rows (by the one offset to the side) it's definitely more towards a brown. Another tossup.

Tongue - When compared to a confirmed brown trout, the tongue of our specimen is more narrow and tapered (Atlantic) but i'd still consider it squared (Brown). Again, a tossup.

Maxillary - after further review, it's a tough call. As per the descriptions I've read, I'd say it matches the Atlantic, extending to the rear edge of the eye (of course, if you rotate the fish on it's Z axis the amount of extension behind the eye changes....)

Caudal Fin - When compared to a confirmed brown, our specimen does have a slight fork. Tips of caudal fin appear "sharper" and more "pointed" when compared to the confirmed brown. This leans towards an Atlantic

Caudal Peduncle - Again, no doubt about this one; the Caudal Peduncle of our specimen fish is much narrower and the fish is easily tailed. The length of the Caudal Peduncle (distance from adipose to first rays of tail) is noteably, visibily longer than on a brown of the same size. This again leads to Atlantic.

Adipose - The adipose has two spots; references cite Atlantics as having no spots, while others only say that browns MUST have spotted anal fins, Atlantics "optional" for spots. Overall, this leads to Brown.

Anal Fin - By My Count, 10. - Atlantics listed as 9...this leads to Brown.

General Conformity - our specimen is much more "streamlined" than all of the browns we landed in a similar size class - this leans towards Atlantic

General Coloration - most all spots, the few that are present, are above the lateral line. All spots are "X" type spots - skin pigment that shows through between scales. This leads towards Atlantic.

General Behavior - This fish was AIRBORN all the time during the fight. Tailwalked several seconds. This too leads towards Atlantic at first glace, except for the fact that our other small browns also went briefly airborn. Nothing like our specimen fish, but as the small browns were jumping too, there only difference is that this fish was much MORE airborn. If it's a trait of an Atlantic, I'm only slightly leaning towards the behavior has being indicative of an Atlantic.

Distribution - We were definitely in BROWN TROUT country, and based on this alone the changes are much more likely that this isn't an Atlantic, but rather an "Atlanticesque" Brown. However, we've had strays of other species show up down here before (i.e. Pinks), it's winter, the water is cold, there's no temperature barrier down here to keep a fish from wandering. Furthermore, there are Atlantics in Huron, it's not such a long trek for such a fish.

Looks like it's time to start the 2005 trophy gallery! That's it for something like a season's worth of fishing in one day! I'm OUTTA HERE!

  MP 

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