Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Latonka Experience

The Latonka Experience

 Lake Latonka is a place some have heard of yet I found few know exactly where it is. The ones that know about it think it’s for the rich and local famous or at least rich folks who could afford to have a summer home there. Well I wasn’t rich back when I lived there so that rumor’s debunked.
 Like all private developments there are good and bad things that go along with living in a private development. I won’t dwell on the bad but will story tell about the good things. FISHING!
 The small confined lake is big enough for all the residents to enjoy. You have to be a member or a lot owner and pay the dues to launch a boat. There was not a horse power restriction when I lived there so fishing during the weekends weren’t the quietest easiest going. Once the yuppies, speedboaters, jet skis were on the water, well, enough of the inconvenient things. Even during a warm weekday after 3:00pm the water was disturbed enough by boaters the fishing was rough.
 There was a fish club when I lived there. We raised money through events that we were able to stock the lake with bass and walleye. Along with the bass and walleye, perch and nice size crappies lurked within the waters. It was a fishing paradise on a small scale.

Since the early weekdays were the best, no nonsense, quietest times to fish, I’ll tell my story about one of these typical outings.

 Waking early on Wednesday I look out the kitchen window. I see a light foggy mist engulfing the lake and I just know the water surface is as smooth as glass. I throw on some fishing cloth and put on a sweatshirt for the cool early morn. I wake the ol’ lady and tell her what I’m doing for the day. Down in the garage I grab the necessary fishing gear and put them in the van. I put a few drinks and leftovers in a cooler, enough for a full day of fishing. Down at the dock I load the fishing gear on the ‘APRIL FOOL’, My 20 foot pontoon. It came complete with live well, hard top, radio and 4 stroke motor.
 I mount the foot operated minn-kota in the hinged base, on the front of the boat, and lower it into the water. I lay my Country Mile rod and my spinning outfit against the rail beside the swivel fishing seat. Knowing the lake well only 1 tackle box is all I will need.
 The moist droplets of mist are cool upon my bare hands and cheeks as I look out over the glass smooth water. Aside from a car’s engine and the distant honk of geese, somewhere out in the fog, all is calm and peaceful. Not wanting to shatter my surroundings with noise I leave the 4 stroke boat motor up out of the water. I untie the ropes and drift out into the lake using the trolling motor.
 With little pressure on the foot control I attach a Mr. Twister to the swivel on the Country Mile rod. On the open face reel I attach a floating perch Rapala. Just near the first island, which leads to an inlet of a creek, I stop the motor and let the pontoon drift in the breezeless moist air. I pitch the white twister and it plops down just before the stacked railroad ties against the shore line of the $200,000 house’s yard. The third cast I hook into a black crappie. He tries to fight his way to freedom to no avail. I still swear they fight more aggressively than the white crappies. After catching 2 others I’m ready for a largemouth.
 Drifting back behind the island I cast the Rapala underneath the willow tree. This usually produces small largemouth that hang out near the creek inlet. I feel a few hits on the retrieve but no pick ups.
 Backing the ’APRIL FOOL’ into the gap between the island and a boat dock I drop the orange mushroom anchor, quietly. I sip the last of my hot tea and put in a quid of Levi Garret. Time to get serious! With a quick flip of my wrist the light Rapala dangles through the rising foggy mist. About a foot from the dock the ’Rap’ splashes down. Letting the ’Rap’ lay upon the flat surface water a few seconds I twitch it twice like a dieing perch on it’s last breath. A couple more twitches and I reel the ’Rap’ in fast like an escaping bait fish. The ’Rapala’ dives underneath the water away from the dock cover. The rod bends and I set the hook hard seeing a swirl beneath the water surface. The bass fights for leverage to take me under the dock. I move the rod to my right, parallel to the water, and coax him out. The bass swims out into the open bay. I reel in the medium size bass to the side of the boat and lift him on the deck. With a smile on my face, I spit a wad of tabacco juice into the lake and release the hook from the largemouth’s lips. 1 down!
 By now the ’ol lady should have called my work and gave them a legitimate excuse why I won’t be in today. I chuckle to myself.
 I sidearm my next cast just under the dock. Letting the ‘Rap’ settle like before and reeling it in I get no takers. Flipping the ’Rap’ towards the island results in nothing also. I pick up the Country Mile rod and zip the white twister just beyond my reach of the ’Rap’. The instant the twister disappears I notice the line start to slack as if the twister quits its decent. Setting the hook the big mouth top waters. My eyes open wide as the 10lb. test line gives. ’SNAP’, darn it!! I forgot to reset the drag. I know I must have hooked this big guy at least two other times without ever getting to bring him in. After a few more casts I pick up the anchor. Trolling the pontoon slowly around the island I cast out with a fresh Mr. Twister. Off the point of the island I catch a few white crappies in the 12” range. Fighting for dear life they have no escape from my pressence.

 The lake is actually a flooded field that they dammed to keep the lower reaches of Coolspring from flooding towards Mercer. There is no underbrush so the crappies just swim around the lake in schools and can be anywhere at any time. The dock areas are good spots where the bass hang out. The walleye can be caught trolling deep throughout the lake. Other than the submerged power line that crosses the lake, I can drag the bottom for walleye all day without a snag.

 Out in the deeper open water I troll the pontoon within casting distance of the shore line. I switch back and forth between the ’Rap’ and twister as I control the boat with my foot. Above the weedy section I get some hang ups but catch a small walleye along the edge of the seaweed towards the deep drop off.
 Getting near the boathouse I switch to a sinking Rapala. I toss it against the side of the boathouse and it drops into the water. After letting it sink I retreive it with constant even reel speed. Something grabs the ’Rap’ and takes me deep. With the rod bent he takes line off the reel as I try to keep him away from the dock posts. Not being able to coax him out I move the boat towards him, with rod bent, while not letting him take more line to wrap me up. The line tightens than slingshots the lure up out of the water back towards me. With hooks dangling I dodge to my left just avoiding being wounded in action.
 By noon I’m in my sleeveless shirt under the warm sun. Drifting around in the deeper part of the lake I check the depth finder to see how deep the thermocline is. I cast out a twister and count down to get the twister in the thermocline range before reeling in. My scouting eyes see air bubbles surface out a ways and to my right. I move within casting distance and cast the Country Mile to the outskirts of the bubbles. The white twister drops and I start to reel in. A sharp pull and I hook into a crappie. I know I’ll have some constant fun if I can keep up with the moving school. As long as I don’t cast into the middle of the school or they don’t go deep I can pass the time until the sun shades the other shoreline.
 In the afternoon I work the docks on the other side of the lake. The perch ‘Rap’ and combonation of other floating and diving lures account for a few more tense catches and misses.
 Early evening I head for the back shallows where the main stream enters the lake. I take it easy as the pontoon drifts just above the shallow bottom. I anchor in the mouth of the inlet and wait until the water surface turns smooth again. I attach a frog jitterbug to the spinning outfit and with force wing it out into the tree lined channel. Smoothly reeling the surface frog towards me I can faintly hear the gurgle as I watch the ‘V’ wake behind it. I catch a swirl from the corner of my eye along the right bank shallows. In anticipation, holding my breath, I try to keep an even smooth reel speed. WHAM, a largemouth rips out of the water and engulfs the lure. I yank back the rod and set the hook deep. The reel drag lets line out as I keep the rod bent high. The big boy heads for the shady underbrush taking line. I angle the rod in the opposite direction to keep my line from getting tangled in the overhanging branches. The tug of war is heart pumping exciting. My short rod with 10lb test line gives me no clear advantage against this hawg. The fight continues with congested waves surfacing every time the big boy turns in the few feet of water. Crossing the channel he rises and tries to spit the lure. Relentless he fights but my experience and patience pays off. Winning the war I get the big bass near the boat. Reaching down I thumb it and bring him to the deck. What a big boy! Its solid body and fat belly tells me it’s been eating well. I unhook the jitterbug and release him back into the shallows. I take a few deep breaths and take a drink to relax a little after that exciting battle. I cast a few more times to cover the area completely before pulling up anchor.
 Trolling around through the back waters I cast here and there against the banks. I finally anchor within casting distance of the long green grown up island. I tie on a sparkle tube bait to the Country Mile and reset the drag. The tube bait arcs through the air and plops a foot or so from the island shore. The tube should disturb the silthy bottom enough in hopes of attracting a largemouth. I pull the tip of the rod up and let the tube fall back down. Letting it sit a bit I start to lift the rod again when I noticed the slack in the line slowly pulling away. I grin and wait for the right moment.

By now the crest moon is high in the navy blue sky. The sun casts its last rays of light that reflects off the cotton clouds above me. Softly out of the speakers a Lynyrd Skynyrd ballad plays from the cassette deck. I can now feel the cool evening air on my bare arms. I spit….Yank and set the hook!!!

Oh, the secrets I’d tell for another day on that lake?!
Only with my fly rod next time……………..


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