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Four Inches Shy

On Sunday at Odell Lake we decided to rent a boat and go fishing. We've fished before…caught some small rainbow trout at Detroit Lake, a handful of kokanee at East Lake…enough for a dinner or two. We have two collapsible rods (medium light) and some 10lb test, and some little lures and weights and bobbers and jigs and things.  Kevin cleans 'em and I cook 'em. Sweet deal. So…we get in our cool little rental boat at the marina and head out for a bit.  We check out the fish finder and it shows that right here where we are it's about 110ft deep, and that there are a bunch of fish near the bottom. I kill the engine and we put our lines in the water equipped with our newly purchased "Kokanator" jigs. Mine is pink and white. Kevin's is orange. We drop line down to about 100ft, and hang out there for maybe 15 minutes doing the thing where you jerk the line up smoothly to make the little fake fishy move and grab the attention of the kokanee. We aren't getting any bites so we put our rods in the rod holders and I make a turn back toward where we originally saw the fish on the fish finder, and after a minute or so Kevin says "you got a bite."  I put it in neutral and see that my rod is bending pretty heavily. I grab it and start slowly reeling.  It feels more like I'm hung up on the bottom, or a log. I keep reeling and feeling it, and it feels solid. Like the bottom.

"Did you hook a lawn chair?" Kevin asks. 

"I don't know…I think I may be hung up. But I also might feel some movement." I keep slowly reeling and letting up a little, reeling and letting up a little. At one point I feel like I'm dragging the boat toward whatever I'm hung up on. But I keep at it slowly and patiently and then this:

It's shocking. I mean, I know all of you who fish for real fish…well…not so shocking. But this is the biggest fish I've ever caught!  And we are completely unprepared. We have no net. We have 10lb test.This fish is more than double that. And big! Did I mention big???  

We decide to take the plastic insert out of the cooler we brought and Kevin puts that part way into the water as I attempt to slowly guide the fish into it, but we soon realize the fish is WAY too big for our cooler. Kevin asks "what if I try to grab it with my hands?" With his hands? Why not? So I reel in a bit more and guide the fish his way, and just as my line snaps, he grabs the fish and hoists it into the boat. With his bare hands!! Just as the line snapped!!!  

We both stare at it there on the deck for a second. What is it? Neither of us knows what kind of fish it is, but I read that there are bull trout in this lake and that they are an endangered species and are to be put back. So while Kevin puts on some gloves and works on removing my little pink and white kokanee jig from the fish's mouth, I've got my iphone out and I'm googling "bull trout" to see if we can rule it out. I keep pulling up photos and holding the phone out to Kevin asking "is this it? does it look like this?" but neither of us can tell very well. I recite the characteristics from Wikipedia and we think it's not a bull trout. But we still don't know what it is. We motor over near another boat full of men in camouflage (what is up with camo while lake fishing? I do not get it at all). We ask them if they can help identify the fish I caught, and they nod and tell us it's a mackinaw…a lake trout, and that they need to be 30" or bigger to be legal to keep. We thank them, look back at the fish, and best guess is 26 or so inches. So back he went. But not without a quick photo. 

 p.s.  He swam away not looking much worse for wear. Sorry buddy! Four more inches!

(Posted by Laura)