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Fish Are Biting

The rock bite has been heating up as our weather has cooled down, and plenty of large fish are being taken by vertical jigging or casting around structure. In the shallows, the top-water bite is in full swing. Trolling has been producing the best bites, with schools of larger rock with the blues in town — but spot gone. Dragging spoons, hoses and bucktails seems the best bet.
Terri and Danny from Breezy Point Marina report that at the Gas Docks, Captain Marty was catching rockfish ranging from 22 inches to 35 inches using bucktails and spoons in about 40 feet of water.

–Michael Ebersberger, sitting in for Dennis Doyle, who is hunting birds in Canada.

My First Boat

An Air Force surplus eight-man survival raft set me on a life of adventure

Boating mania infected me in my early teens. The first craft to fall my way was a U.S. Air Force surplus eight-man survival raft. A gift from an uncle, who was an FAA pilot, it was the envy of the neighborhood.

My parents apparently didn’t believe it would ever function and ignored us, but after my two younger brothers and some friends and I exhausted the contents of one or two tire repair kits and put in a whole lot of effort on a bicycle pump, it sat bright yellow, plump and proud in our back yard, just waiting to get wet.

While restoring the craft to its former glory, we had also discovered a side pouch that held a fishing tackle box (a feathered jig and a length of nylon twine), a radar reflection apparatus and a survival manual.

That survival manual was what sent all of us into paroxysms of imagination. The manual described how to rig a sail and set up a makeshift keel and how to collect rainwater and catch fish to eat. It even discussed the nutritional value of seagulls.

The raft couldn’t have arrived at a more auspicious time. Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft, written by the explorer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, had recently been published, and all the kids in the neighborhood had devoured the book.

It told the tale of a small crew of Norwegians who had traveled to Peru, built a balsa wood raft and sailed it across the Pacific. They had intended to prove that South Americans could easily have settled the Polynesian Islands.

An Academy Award-winning documentary movie followed, and for the longest time it was all anyone talked about. The connection between Thor, the Kon-Tiki and my eight-man survival raft was obvious to everyone except the adults.

Our family lived near Presque Isle Bay on Lake Erie at that time, and now that bay (only about two miles or so across) became our Pacific. We plotted for weeks as we created and assembled a sailing and steering rig for the raft per the U.S. Air Force Instruction Manual.

We gathered paddles, provisions, updated the fishing gear (monofilament, new hooks, sinkers and worms), laid in fresh water and kept a weather eye. We needed a south wind, or at least mostly south, to make the crossing from our mainland to the Presque Isle Peninsula that jutted out into Lake Erie, creating the bay.

Transportation to the water was volunteered by someone’s older brother, and early one Saturday morning with favorable winds, my brother Tim (our other brother was deemed too young), two neighborhood buddies and I launched our expedition.

It was glorious. Everything in the Air Force manual proved correct, and everyone in our small crew exalted in steering the raft about the bay in search of adventure on the way to the other side.

We were also hoping to see some incredibly large creature loom up under the boat, as had happened to the Kon-Tiki when a 60-foot whale shark cruised with them and under them for a couple of days.

However, as hard as we strained our eyes, we didn’t come up with any creatures bigger than a crappie and a couple of bluegills that we had caught and wrestled on board in case we were becalmed and ran out of food.

We finally landed on Presque Isle only to find that the promise of return transportation had evaporated. It was getting late; contacting my parents for a ride home was the only option left. They were outraged to find out what we had done.

Sometime over the next winter, the raft inexplicably disappeared. We all suspected the adults and their determination to thwart our adventurous inclinations. But everyone denied culpability.

However, it was too late. I had been irrevocably bitten by the boat bug, an affliction that would forever enrich my life.

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