There's a special thrill found in fishing that's difficult to explain, but when you experience it it can knock you off your feet. These thrills aren't encountered on every outing, but rather slam into you like a lunker brook trout hitting a French spinner.
I was fortunate enough to experience one of these special thrills last weekend while fishing out of Fairport at the tip of the Garden Peninsula. Rather than pursuing my favored speckled trout, it was big, healthy chinook salmon we were after - and boy were they hitting.
Large, fast and muscular they were, too, beginning on Friday night as an army of boats trolled the fertile waters of Lake Michigan in anticipation of the Saturday-Sunday fishing tournament run out of Dick's Marina.
Richard Burkman and his son Dustin, 11, are shown with the 13-pound chinook salmon Dustin hauled in last weekend while fishing in Lake Michigan off the Garden Peninsula. (Journal photo by Dave Schneider)
We caught several kings running up to about 15 pounds as the sun set over the Garden Peninsula and the sky darkened.
These extremely feisty fish with big "shoulders," as seasoned Fairport anglers are prone to say, gave us confidence that the next morning would find us hauling in big fish that would contend for some prize money.
We weren't disappointed, either, as we hooked, fought and landed a couple dandies, including a chunky 16.16-pounder that made it on the board - at least for one day.
But then something special occurred.
A big chinook slammed one of our lures and the fishing rod doubled over.
"Grab the pole Dustin, it's your turn," My host and captain of Reel Mission, "Uncle Richard" Burkman, hollered out as his 11-year-old son scrambled from his seat to the back of the boat.
And the fight was on.
Dustin had a real battle on his hands, too, but he held strong and wouldn't let the big king win, despite a few long runs when the drag on the fishing reel was zinging loudly.
The minutes slowly ticked by as Dustin and the chinook were joined at opposite ends of a couple hundred feet of fishing line that was strung taut from the rod into the choppy waters of Lake Michigan.
Dustin was tiring, but so was the king as it slowly started to lose ground against the determined young angler. It finally surfaced near the back of the boat and we realized it was a dandy.
A couple more short runs and it appeared beaten. It took a few stabs with the net, but the fish finally slid over the rim and into the netting as the captain hauled his son's trophy into the boat.
Dustin plopped down on a cooler - a 120-quart one that the fish would soon span from side to side across the bottom - to catch his breath and admire his trophy.
There were high fives and congratulations thrown around the boat freely as we estimated the weight and properly smacked the chinook a few times before placing it in the cooler.
What a battle, what a challenge for the young angler to haul in a trophy chinook, one that would weigh in at a little more than 13 pounds and put Dustin in first place in the kids category for the first day of the tourney.
His fish would eventually be surpassed on Sunday, but Dustin had his victory.
For a brief time the fish-catching episode also took our minds away from another challenge Dustin is meeting head on. He's in the midst of his second bout with leukemia, and he's working hard to win this one, too.
During such a challenging journey diversions are not only welcomed but absolutely necessary to Dustin and his family. Fishing has provided many of those diversions and will undoubtedly continue to do so as Dustin carries on with his treatment - and then provide special thrills for many, many years beyond his next big victory.
Editor's note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.