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We put the fish smell in Andy Mikos’ new cooler Sunday.
‘‘I didn’t sleep much last night,’’ said Mikos, who was giving his 22-foot Thompson, Bismarck, its shakedown cruise.
Mikos, Dave ‘‘Stan’’ Stamer and I met at the Diversey launch. Mikos floated the Bismarck off his trailer all right. But with record-low water on Lake Michigan, the problem was the calisthenics needed to get in.
‘‘They need ladders,’’ Stamer said.
He wasn’t kidding. Ladders are needed.
Spring is needed, too. For goodness’ sake, snow pellets spit as we loaded.
The motor started. The boat floated. All good things in the 6 a.m. dark.
Going out of Diversey, the water was cloudy. Then we spotted the end of the mud line around North Avenue Beach, with clear water to the south.
At the north breakwall, I steered as Mikos and Stamer set rods in cold water ranging from 41 to
43 degrees. An 18-inch coho christened Mikos’ cooler at 7:45 a.m. It hit a purple Shad Rad on a flat line as we rounded Baldy’s Point, the northeast corner of the breakwalls.
For years, Mikos and a handful of hard-core Lake Michigan fishermen have trolled tight to the Chicago breakwalls in early spring for the first coho, brown trout, leftover lake trout and the occasional bonus of a Chinook or steelhead.
That was about our day. Very quickly, a 24-inch brown came on Mikos’ green-and-orange version of a ‘‘Patrick spoon.’’ A small brown hit a Dodger and peanut fly. A Rebel Fastrac took a small coho.
Building waves chased another boat in. Those fishermen radioed that ‘‘waves are confused’’ at the mouth of Diversey.
Stamer trolled us to the end of the north breakwall as Mikos pulled and stashed rods. At 9:30 a.m., Mikos’ ‘‘Patrick spoon’’ came through with a solid 8-pound lake trout near Oak Street Beach.
It was time.
‘‘We caught fish,’’ Stamer said. ‘‘It was a good time to get out. Boat runs good.’’
I’m glad the boat ran good. At the mouth of Diversey, cross-hatched waves crescendoed to
7 feet. Mikos, who admitted to being shaken, had one chance to wrestle the Bismarck through the washing machine to safety. It was good to reach shore.
As I shucked my all-weather duck-hunting camo, runners in shorts and T-shirts ran along the lakefront path.
Nothing beats spring in Chicago on southern Lake Michigan. Nothing tastes like fresh-caught coho.
The South of the Border chapter of Muskies Inc. holds its second lure-swap
meet Wednesday at the Antioch Moose Lodge. Doors open at 5 p.m. Contact Jim Stella at (847) 343-7221 or email email@example.com. . . . Smallmouth expert Jim DaRosa speaks to Fish Tales Fishing Club at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Bremen Township Building in Oak Forest.
Wrigley Field renovations or not, I’ll take 5-2 odds I catch a 6-pound smallmouth bass from southern Lake Michigan before the Cubs win a World Series.