Today is a special day for two reasons.
First, it's my husband's birthday. Second, it's the opening day of trout season.
In the spirit of efficiency, we are combining the two and spending the day river fishing for trout.
It's my birthday present to him this year, along with some new fishing gear.
That's one of the wonderful things about my husband. Put him on a beach with a fishing pole and some bait for his birthday, and he'll be a happy man.
Neither one of us have really ever river fished, so he's particularly excited for the season to begin today.
Last year, we spent a lot of our summer on a lakeshore somewhere, fishing for blue gill. We came up empty quite a few times, but we managed to catch enough fish for a fair number of home-cooked fish fries with friends and family.
As a result, I have learned a wonderful life lesson: There are few things better than a freshly caught fish for dinner.
Before last summer, I had been fishing a few times, but the fish I caught were never meant for eating. The activity was more recreational than anything else. My husband had grown up fishing on a lake nearby his home, spending weekends camping with his parents and catching fish for dinner.
It was something the two of us wanted to do as a family as well, so I jumped on board the fishing bandwagon, trying my hand at a summer spent panfishing. I enjoy the outdoors, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I actually enjoyed fishing. It can be incredibly frustrating at times, when a fish wriggles off the hook as you're reeling it in, or when you pull your line out of the water only to find that some nimble little creatures have nibbled the worm right off the end of the hook without you noticing a thing, but those moments are tempered by catching that one big fish.
Call it beginner's luck - or, as I prefer it, natural talent - but I caught the biggest fish between the two of us that summer with a giant bluegill. My tiny fishing pole was nearly bent in half as I tried pulling the big guy out of the water. Afraid he would slip off the end of the too-small hook, I called for help from my husband, who was fishing just a little down the shore from me.
We managed to get him to dry land and we noticed he was missing his upper lip when we took the hook out of his mouth. I felt a little guilty not throwing him back. He seemed to deserve another chance at retiring in his own time - he had, after all, evaded a hook for this long. But the guilt didn't outweigh the thought of how delicious he would taste with a little breading and a few minutes in a frying pan.
It's become a running joke between the two of us now, but after catching that fish, my adrenaline was pumping and I cast my line back out into the lake, ready to catch this guy's biggest friend.
We have small fishing poles, so basically every fish that bites feels like a 10 pound walleye. The next bite pulled hard on my line, and I thought I was headed for fishing glory with a second massive fish, so I yelled, "It's happening again."
My husband had wandered back over to where he was fishing before and I heard him run back over to me. I slowly reeled the fish in, sure I was going to have bragging rights for years, only to find that the fish I had hooked wasn't even big enough to keep.
The rest of the summer, if fishing was slow and one of us got a bite, we would invariably yell, "It's happening again."
While last year we spent much of our time fishing on the shore, we acquired a small row boat for the last few weeks of the season. This year, the wide array of lakes throughout the area have really opened up to us now that we have a boat. And my in-laws - fish be warned - have just purchased a motor boat that can fit all four of us comfortably.
I'm looking forward to many weekends spent with the four of us on a lake, someone reeling in the fabled big one.
For now, I just hope my husband enjoys his birthday spent outside along a riverbank, fishing for some trophy-sized trout.
Editor's Note: Jackie Stark is a Marquette resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.