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Wishful Thinking?

Wishful Thinking? Doesn't the thought of a quiet evening on the pond bank or a dock appeal to most of us? This is what it's all about.

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Bass fishing

This column is about nostalgia as much as fisheries management. Let me set the stage.
   I took a vacation day in July last year. I met my adult son about an hour north of home, and we traveled to the nicest natural lake in South Dakota. Enemy Swim Lake, a 2,150 acre glacial lake that's deep, clear, rocky, has islands, plus a back bay with plenty of aquatic plants. As a result, it boasts a unique, diverse fish community including largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike, yellow perch, bluegill, pumpkinseed, rock bass, and many more less important species.
   I've got a 16-foot boat with a 40 horsepower tiller motor. Designed for smaller waters, the vessel has two comfortable seats, a flat floor, and an efficient, nice livewell. However, these days I usually find that mine is about the smallest boat on the water. Boat envy.
   Back to our trip: I was pleasantly surprised this day. I'm not sure why. but mine was about the BIGGEST boat on the water that day. Most boats were old 14 or 16 foot red Lunds (those of you in the North Country will know exactly what I mean!). Most had 15 or 25 horsepower outboards, and maybe a small electric trolling motor on the stern. Most contained a grandpa and a grandchild, or perhaps a retired couple. It was refreshing.
   Son and I were in heaven. To me, it felt like the "good old days" come to life. Smaller boats, simpler equipment, and happier people! Plus, we watched simple fishermen catching as many or more fish as those windblown drivers who roar back and forth across the lake with 225 horsepower outboards. Heck, they even waved as we passed!
   Now, I know this was only temporary throwback to a simpler day. Many other times I have seen far more of the big, modern boats here, skipping across the water at 40-60 mph. However, this was a morning before a big holiday, and maybe only the locals were fishing? Enemy Swim Lake still has some older, smaller cabins on it, rather than the truly expensive second homes. Many of these folks obviously still have the same boats that were in use two or three decades ago.
   Is bigger always better?
   This lake is relatively large and the wind does blow "once in a while" in South Dakota. The diverse habitat allows different species of fish to thrive. Open water, sheltered areas, deep, shallow.
   A local fishing report told of great catches of bluegill one week, then several nice stringers of walleye. Other reports tell of nice catches of smallmouth bass near rocky areas. In this lake, habitat makes the significant contribution to a balanced fishery.
   Maybe the big boats are justified. However, what do you think? Is there any validity to my concern that bigger is not always better, or am I just turning into a crabby old cuss? Perhaps the BassResource community forums might be a place where I can find some sympathetic listeners? Are we as a group more committed to keeping things simple? Maybe, but maybe not? The boats and equipment may be simple, but fish community complexity sure can vary across individual anglers. However, doesn't the thought of a quiet evening on the pond bank or a dock appeal to most of us?
   Of course, I'm typing this on my 100 kazillion gigahertz computer. Philosophical questions never are simple, are they?

Reprinted with permission from Pond Boss Magazine

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