Lick the Plate: Fish stories 2017

Lick the Plate: Fish stories 2017
My 38-pound halibut on the left and my 22-inch bass on the right. Courtesy of David Boylan

It’s been two years since my last fish stories column, yet after the fishing experiences I’ve had over the past month between San Diego and Michigan, it was time to revisit this topic. One needs actual fish stories to make for a good read and I’ve got a couple good ones for you.

First off, here is an update on my friend Mark Mihelich, my fishing friend who until about six months ago was angling primarily for pleasure while working a full-time job in the solar industry. I could sense for a while that Mark had been itching to make a living as a charter boat captain as he has had his captain’s license for a while. With his killer new boat and the support of his wife Joan, he made the move and Boundless Boat Charters is now his livelihood. Besides being a skilled fishing guide, able to provide half-, three-quarter and full-day trips, he also offers sunset harbor cruises, whale watching, fireworks viewing and special occasions like the recent spreading of ashes at sea and the occasional engagement cruise. His Triton 2486WA is a fishing machine but also built for comfort and speed and Mark also has access to a Blackman Fish Machine for larger parties. They are both beautiful boats.

With that, his business has taken off from the get-go. Besides being one of the most knowledgeable fishermen I know, Mark is just a fun, affable guy who has the ability to make even the most novice angler or boater comfortable on his vessel. I feel lucky to know him as a friend and from a fishing perspective as every time I’ve been out with him we have scored big. Which leads me to my first fish story.

We had planned a late Sunday afternoon excursion with Captain Mark to shoot some video for his website. Any fish caught during that trip, which was about 10 miles off of La Jolla, would just be a bonus. I’ve never been skunked fishing with Mark so I knew there would be something for the camera. I was joined by my cameraman Brooks and we started off by loading up with baitfish from the floating bait shop, which is an experience in itself.

We were going for halibut, and Mark knew exactly where to find them. We had about a four-hour window to fish and get the footage we wanted and as we came up on hour three, with nothing to show except a few hard hits that did not take the hook, I started to think that my luck with Captain Mark had run out. It was just after that moment that I saw my rod bend hard and that familiar sound of line screaming out of the reel. “Fish on” Mark yelled. “And it’s a big one.” Hot damn I thought, here we go! If you recall my fish stories column from a couple years ago, I had hooked into a giant tuna that I fought hard for 30 minutes, getting it about 10 feet from the surface when the rod went limp and I slumped to the deck, dejected and defeated. Not the best feeling in the world and that memory was in my mind as I felt like what was a giant log of a halibut on the end of my line.

Mark kept repeating, “This is huge Boylan, nice work, you got this one.” I will admit his encouragement kept my confidence up. When we saw the size of the fish near the surface, we all shouted at the same time “Yee-ha, it’s a giant.” Mark’s skill with the gaff secured my monster, 38-pound halibut, a very big fish for these waters and another thrill of a lifetime for me.

With a fish that size we had it professionally processed and sealed freezer ready for 70 cents a pound, a huge value given the quality of the fish and what you pay for fresh halibut. I have a freezer full of it now but had to cook some of it fresh and found a simple recipe online that was very nice. Google “Heavenly Halibut” and it will come right up. It’s a quick, easy and delicious way to prepare halibut or any similar fish for that matter.

My second fish story happened two weeks later in Northern Michigan on a small, inland body of water called Bass Lake. Years of fishing this lake have produced primarily small, but good fighting largemouth bass and bluegill. There has been the occasional lunker caught, but nothing sizeable in a few years. I should note that my fishing on this lake is casual at best. I basically troll really slowly on the pontoon boat with some music playing and a 4-inch Rapalla medium diver about 100 feet behind the boat. It’s always good for a few fun size fish and I do this until there is no light left in the Michigan sky, which this time of year is around 10 p.m. On this particular night I kept going as the moon was bright and it was a beauty of a Michigan night. About 10:30 p.m., the very light tackle rod I had leaning against the side of the boat flew to the back, and I yelled, like the big game fisherman I am (kidding), “Fish on!” I was ill prepared for this encounter with no net on board and no flashlight. When I heard the fish jump I knew I had a big one on. After a nice fight, I pulled it around to the front of the boat, leaned down to the water, and grabbed it under the jaw, which renders a bass frozen so to speak. After some fumbling, we got the flash to work on the phone and snapped the money shot. Not sure on the weight but we estimated 22 inches and it went back in the lake to grow even bigger.

For more information on creating a fish story of your own, go to www.boundlessboatcharters.com.

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