BRIGHTON — The plan had been to put the drift boat in the St. Joseph River and run plugs for steelhead, which is something Jim Romine and I have done, on or about St. Patrick’s Day, for more than a decade now.
But when we found a day in both of our schedules that would work, it corresponded with the beginning of flood season. The St. Joe was out-of-banks, dirty, debris-filled, unfishable.
Rather than not fish (unacceptable!) we went with Plan B and got out on the ice. It may officially be spring, but the weather gods sure don’t seem to have noticed.
I wanted to start shallow — last-ice bluegill fishing, to me, is often best in shallow water. But Romine shot down that idea stat and began drilling holes out where he thought we’d find 16 to 17 feet of water, which is about the outside edge of the weed line in this Livingston County lake, he said.
“We’re still in a late-winter pattern,” he said. “We’ve still got 20 inches of ice. In March! I don’t recall ever seeing that.”
It took a little while before we found fish — Romine had drilled about a dozen holes before we started and would drill more than that before we finished — but I finally caught an eight-inch ‘gill and followed it up with seven-incher from the same hole, and it was on. And though we rarely caught more than a couple from a spot at a time, our hole-hopping helped us stay busy.
“Keep moving,” Romine said. “Work at it. Hard work usually pays off.”
Romine, who just turned 50, is a serious angler. He comes from a long line of anglers — his great grandfather was Lou Eppinger, the creator of the Dardevle spoon — and when’s he’s angling, there is no detail that is too small. You could see it in our gear.