UNIONVILLE — Right at 4:45 p.m., Tom Goniea, who was staring at the depth finder in the portable shanty we shared five miles out on the ice of Saginaw Bay, announced: “There’s a fish.”
I turned and looked, just in time to see Goniea set the hook. Even before I could reach out and grab the transducer and get it out of the hole, Goniea slid a walleye through it and onto the ice.
It was our first action of the afternoon. Doug Deming, who was occupying a permanent shanty a few yards away, had caught one 30 minutes earlier. It was slower than I had hoped; we were out the first day that the thermometer showed above freezing after dipping below zero several days in a row. I’d hoped the heat wave — heck, it was in the low 30s — would inspire a bite, but I hadn’t even felt a fish breathe on my bait, let alone inhale it.
That changed roughly 25 minutes later as I felt a slight tick on the end of my line and I slammed home the jigging Rapala. I was in the plus column, too.
Sadly, that was it. Deming, our host for this fishing safari, said later that he had one more halfway up the water column before it got off. Goniea swung and missed at another. I never felt another touch.
“I think a lot of it had to do with the weather,” said Deming, long-time proprietor of Fish Point Lodge. “They were finicky. I marked quite a few but they just weren’t biting. I don’t know what the barometer was doing, but. . .”
There’s always a but, eh?
Deming said he caught four the night before and had been catching his five-fish limit almost every evening. Deming prefers the evening bite, which is not uncommon among walleye fishermen. If you go out in the morning, fishing conditions often get worse as the day goes on as walleyes are known as photosensitive fish.