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The Problem With Fish: An Essay

Updated on March 7, 2016
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Chris practices free writing which often produces humorous or introspective results with practical applications to living life more fully.

Silver Carp in the Illinois River

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The problem with fish is they can be so damned antisocial. On one visit to Shell Lake they’re nowhere to be seen and the next time they’ll practically be jumping into the boat. There are a few places in the world where the fish actually do that, you know.

Take, for example, the Asian carp in the Mississippi River. The name tells you right away that these fish don’t belong anyplace near the center of the continental United States. When a motorboat goes by, these fish get frightened and jump right out of the water, occasionally landing in the speeding boat.

My Fishing Kayak

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But there aren’t any Asian carp in Shell Lake up here in northwestern lower Michigan. This lake is so small, even most locals have never heard of it. But it’s my lake of choice when it comes to bluegill, or brim, as some people like to call them. Shell lake is pretty well hidden in the forest near Lake Michigan on the property of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. A dirt road winds through the forest canopy for a couple of miles, then you go another half mile on a two track or, as it’s known farther north in the upper peninsula, a two-rut-road.

And there it is, a sparkling, blue jewel nestled in green, forest foliage where no internal combustion engine is allowed to sputter around in the clear water. A few will use battery powered motors, but I choose to silently stalk my prey in a me-powered kayak.

Shell Lake, Looking South With the Moraine on the Right

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Like I said at the beginning, the problem with fish is they can be so damned antisocial. I pack up all their favorite little morsels, like night crawlers and red worms, and as likely as not, the finicky fellows will be no-shows to the picnic being held in their honor. I paddle around, fishing deep here, shallow there, searching for the best tasting delicacy that fresh water has to offer, the bluegill. There are those days though, when no matter what you try or how long you try it, you leave empty handed.

But that’s the great thing about Shell Lake. You don’t have to catch anything to be completely satisfied with the time you spend paddling, floating and napping in the sun. On those days, my attention is sometimes captured by movement in front of the forested moraine on the west side of the lake. A bald eagle, camouflaged by the backdrop of the Laurentian Mixed Forest, soars as it searches the water for an unwary, smallmouth bass. Or it might be a pair of great blue herons moving to the north end of the lake to search the shallows for the same bluegills that have been eluding me.

Shell Lake, Looking North With a Sand Dune in the Distance

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As my eyes follow the flight of the herons, a distant, golden crown arrests my attention. Perched sand dunes along the Lake Michigan shoreline rise hundreds of feet against blue skies, reflecting the morning sun, while the honking of Canada geese and the song of the loon combine in a duet serenade for any who have ears to hear.

The plastic, red and white bobber dips, becoming a blurred, impressionistic image beneath the surface. I respond by setting the barbless hook, and the bluegill counters by fleeing into the cold depths. It never ceases to amaze me how much of a fight these relatively small fish can manage, but their flat shape allows them to slice through the water, resisting my efforts and bending my pole as would a bass or pike. But the eleven inch member of the sunfish family is soon in my fish basket which I drop over the side. I rebait the hook and hope that the school hasn’t been frightened away by the battle just waged.

A Pair of Loons

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I relocate to a cove that reaches inland from the main part of the lake. The water is deep in the middle of this protrusion, and I allow my line sink to the bottom, then pull it back a foot or two hoping to find the fish resting in the cool, deep water. A loud sound of something slapping the surface of the water startles me from my daydreams. I recognize it as the warning from a beaver who is protecting her lodge and very likely a couple of kits inside. I spot the four foot long beaver circling my kayak from about fifty feet. The lodge is hidden in cattails at the back of the cove. Again the female beaver slaps the water, and I take the hint. I’m not wanted here, and I in turn don’t want to upset the little family unit. I move out and decide to call it a day.

Bald Eagle

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With any luck, I’ve overcome the antisocial tendencies of the bluegill and filled my basket. I paddle toward shore, offering a silent prayer of thanks to the lake and to the fish in tow alongside my boat. Behind me the goose honks, the loon sings, the eagle soars, the herons wade the beaver feeds her kits and the dunes reflect the sunlight of another day in paradise.

Shell Lake, Seeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Leelanau County, Michigan

I thought about changing the name of Shell Lake in my writing in order to protect the fishing......But I trust you. ;-)

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    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Deb, whenever I think of Boomer Lake, I think of this lake. I'm sure they are nothing alike, but I think, we feel similarly about them. Thanks for visiting.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      It truly sounds like a day in paradise!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I'm not much of a fisherman but give me a kayak on a lake or (even better) a river and that's my idea of heaven.

      Loved the hub

      Lawrence

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      michael, I'm so glad to see you here enjoying my hub. Yes, an inharmonious beginning, but a sweet ending. Thanks for reading visiting.

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 2 years ago

      Hi Chris.

      Delightfulness of words choice - blew me away; then I came to enjoy beauty of interesting event. I won't ever forget our very first inharmoniousness - how courteously ended, Sir great writer.

      Voted beautiful.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Shauna, when I go there, I quite often have it to myself, but I am happy to share too as long as people are respectful, and most are. So glad you enjoyed the hub and the photos.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Eric, good to see you. So happy this was helpful to you today.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Mary, My father also would have loved this spot. He taught me how to find such a place and how to use it most effectively for my own, emotional/spiritual good. I'm glad you enjoyed the writing and photos.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Jo, I have no doubt that there are plenty of people trying to catch you. :) And I can't imagine you being antisocial. Thank you for reading, and I am happy the hub gave you a good start to your day.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      What a peaceful paradise you've discovered, Chris. It looks like you were the only human out there. Your photos are magnificent, especially the eagle.

      What a beautiful place to clear your mind and revel in the miracle of nature!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I was taken away to a place I needed to be. Your wording here delivered me. Thank you

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      What a great place to fish! My father would have loved your secret spot. The wildlife is amazing as are your photos.

      Chris you never disappoint. I always know when I read something by you I will be entertained. This was a great trip for all of us.

      Voted all but funny.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Chris, I'd be antisocial if people were trying to catch me. :) The photos are breathtaking, the bold eagle is simply magnificient, a wonderful way to commune with nature. A great read to start my day.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Ann, magical and heaven describe this place well. If you want more photos of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, I've got a couple of hubs that are loaded with more.....not to be self promoting, though. :) Nice to see you.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      You took me on a magical adventure through a wonderful place. I have absolutely no interest in fishing but I do love nature and for me this was heaven. Fantastic photos! Up, all but funny, and shared.

      Ann

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Fralnk, the photos are al mine except the first one. Glad you enjoyed them. The eagle was not one bit happy with me when I took that photo. I have soe of her with her beak open, screeching. I was too close for her comfort.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      I enjoyed your problem with Fish..LOL up here they jump into the boat.. they love the free ride..LOL.. the photos.. are they yours.. Love the Bald Eagle.. never saw one in the wild only in captivity.. the other phtos are amazing too Cam..:)

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Hi Bill, nice to see you here in my hub. You are right, as long as I keep my attitude and expectations in line, there is no such thing as a bad fishing trip.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for taking us along on a great fishing expedition and as a fisherman, I can honestly say they are all great adventures. I know you understand that.

    • Randy Horizon profile image

      Randy Hirneisen 2 years ago from Philadelphia

      Then it is hawks I see because they have the curved wings of hawks. But thanks for the info, now I know what to look for.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Eagles will have a very distinct wing pattern. It's referred to as a "Plank" because it is as straight as a board. There is no curve along the front or back of the wing. If the wings are flapping, it isn't an eagle unless they are just taking off.

    • Randy Horizon profile image

      Randy Hirneisen 2 years ago from Philadelphia

      I grew up in Berks County near Reading. When I drive up on Sunday to visit my mother I'll look closely and see if I can find one. I always see hawks, maybe some of them are really eagles?

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Randy, thanks for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I just wanted to put out something fun and relaxing after my previous two hubs. I do believe I see eagles every time I go kayaking out on the Schuylkill from Reading on downstream. It does take getting out a ways from the city though. We were kayaking where the Lackawaxen runs into the Delaware near the New York border and saw five at once. One was chasing a little duck but the duck dove into the water and escaped. Eagles are fun to watch, that's for sure.

    • Randy Horizon profile image

      Randy Hirneisen 2 years ago from Philadelphia

      Great hub Chris, beautiful fishing spot. And the Bald Eagle, I would love to see one in the wild.

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