An unexpected cat(ch)

MARISSA DAVIS STANDS next to Mike Norton and the 15-pound catfish she caught while fishing with the Green Lake guide June 1. Reagan Zimmerman photo

Reagan Zimmerman

Lake-trout fishing wasn’t always easy on Big Green Lake.

In fact, people couldn’t catch them at all.

From the time they were first stocked in 1886 until 1951, it seemed impossible.

In 1951, one Army major seemed to have solved the mystery.

This major didn’t even use a pole. All he used was a hand line with a specific rigging system.

The local guides were puzzled by his ability to catch lake trout.

When they would approach him in his boat to learn his secret, he would cut his line and row back to his cottage.

One day, the guides decided to settle the mystery once and for all.

Just as the days before, they approached his boat and he cut his line.

1, I didn’t know the difference between a trout and a bass.

Generously, two men agreed to teach my friend, Marissa Davis, and me the basics of fishing.

Mike Norton, owner of Captain Mike Norton’s Hunting and Fishing Adventures, and his guide, Steve Siders, took us out on the premier lake trout lake in Wisconsin, Green Lake.

We were both limited in fishing experience, but were anxious to give it a try.

Norton and Siders were kind and patient with us as they explained the “rig” and rules.

The “rig” or setup, was a lot more complicated than expected. I thought that we would be using regular fishing rods and worms.

Boy, was I wrong.

We employed many different rigging variations on specific lake trout rods.

Most of the rigs used a combination of dodgers, minnows, dipsy divers and silver spoons.

The most successful lure, however, was actually the major’s secret.

Our guides called them “Sutton Spoons.” They are long pieces of reflective metal, typically made of flexible copper or silver.

Bells were attached to each rod to alert us when a fish was biting.

Marissa and I split the boat in half; She covered the back, which had five rods attached, while I covered the front to watch the remaining four.

At all times, we had to be ready to reel in a fish. If we weren’t ready, which we weren’t at times, we would lose our prize.

That happened four times throughout our day.

I expected to be catching fish left and right, but the first two jingles of the poles came up empty.

About one hour into our day, a third bell rang.

I took the reins with the help of Siders and together, we reeled in a 21-inch lake trout.

Not even 10 minutes later, the same pole began to shake.

This time, it was Marissa’s turn.

As she reeled her fish in, she had lots of trouble.

That is when we knew that it was a monster fish. It was so large that she could barely land her trophy.

We were supposed to be fishing for lake trout, but Marissa reeled in a 15-pound catfish instead.

She and I each had one catch about an hour and a half into our adventure.

Unfortunately, we only caught one other trout that was too small to take home.

I wanted to catch a record-breaking trout, but that was a little too unrealistic for a beginner.

Currently, Joseph Gotz holds the record on Green Lake and in Wisconsin for the largest lake trout caught since 1957, with a fish that weighed 35 1/4 pounds.

Trout fishing was very different from the fishing I had rarely done in the past. It is a lot of sitting and waiting, and you have to be steady and not aggressive.

It was exceptionally difficult for me because it required me to be calm and patient.

That was especially challenging for me because I get excited easily and am not as patient as it appears a fisherman needs to be.