Breaking away from our busy filming schedule, I left the Bitterroot Valley of Montana for a much needed visit to my home state of Wisconsin. I always feel revitalized after spending time with my friends and family, soaking up the laughter and sharing stories of our most recent Skull Bound adventures. Staying with my Mom on Lake Koshkonong also has the perks of fishing at a momentʼs notice.
With Julyʼs record high temperatures and lack of rain in Southern Wisconsin fishing from the dock would be a challenge on this visit. Lake Koshkonong, one of the stateʼs most shallow lakes, is home to some great fishing including walleye, northern pike and white bass but with the water levels so low and the temperatures too high I had to change up my fishing strategy. I knew I would have better luck trading in my twisty tails for chicken livers.
After a fun family dinner in town I was excited to get back to the lake to watch the sunset and wet a line. Although my favorite fishing partner Jim was glued to the editing suite in Montana, I headed down to the quiet shoreline for some alone time on the dock. Rigging my pole with an egg slip sinker and wide gap catfish hook, I threaded the chicken liver and carefully casted out into the four feet deep mucky water. The sun began to disappear below the horizon and I could hear the lake beginning to hum with the sounds of a million lake flies, a common side effect of Lake Koshkonong. The harmless but annoying pests are also the reason you cannot use a lantern, unless you care to inhale them by the dozen.
A sudden jerk on my line got my attention and when I was certain the catfish had taken the bait I set the hook and the battle was on. Setting the drag tighter I walked the whiskered fish down the dock and onto the rocky shoreline. Clicking the ʻflashlightʼ icon on my cell phone, I was elated to see an eight pound catfish on my line! I was able to set the self timer on my camera and snap a photo before releasing the beautiful cat to be caught another day.
The next night I decided to double my chances, using two poles at once. Again the lake flies filled the warm summer air, creating a loud hum in the darkness of the night. An hour after the sun went down I had my first customer. Resting my other pole down on the dock, I set the hook and began the fight. Suddenly my pole on the dock flew into the water with a splash! Having to ʻpick my battlesʼ as they say, I fought the first fish onto the shore and walked back out to the end of dock. Unlike many of the clear, beautiful lakes of Wisconsin, Lake Koshkonong is better described as ʻSwamp Koshkonongʼ with itʼs black, dirty waters and mushy bottom. To put it mildly, I have never seen a swimmer in that part of the lake. Ever! But with my favorite pole lying somewhere in the muck, I had to attempt a rescue.
Keeping my tennis shoes on I lowered myself into the water, sinking six inches down into the murky bottom with every step. Thankfully the water was only four feet deep as I used my foot like a metal detector, swinging it back and forth blindly searching for my rod. Five feet out from the dock I struck gold as my shoe hit the reel. I lifted the pole out of the water and to my surprise felt the catfish still fighting itʼs way to freedom. Having spooled my reel, I set the rod on the dock and began wrapping the line around my hand until I heard the channel cat splash the surface nearby in the pitch black of the night. I grabbed the useless rod with my free hand and walked the fish onto the shore near the first catch, grinning ear to ear. Even though I was alone in the dark I let out a celebratory ʻWoo Whoo!ʼ and scrambled for my camera. Landing both fish was a thrill but taking a self timer photo in the dark holding two channel cats was the challenge of it all! The dog days of summer … were all about the ʻcatsʼ!