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A (very) early morning on Lake Waukewan

Reporter's first fishing expedition in the Lakes Region proves a success

Fishing guide Chuck Kenney (left) and I show off two of the fish I reeled in during last week’s trip to Lake Waukewan. Rick Forge - Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
July 11, 2011
MEREDITH – I rolled over in bed and looked at my clock. 5:30 a.m.

Time to go.

It was a couple months ago that Moultonboro Academy girls' basketball coach Chuck Kenney and I talked about the possibility of going fishing for a series of stories. So just last week, Kenney, who guides trips for Meredith Bay Guide Service (www.cwkenney.com), and I made plans to fish Lake Waukewan in Meredith. Add in Gilford High School girls' hoop coach and fellow long-time guide Rick Forge (www.rickforge.com), and I was guaranteed to learn more about fishing than I ever had before.

That wouldn't be hard, however. See, my fishing experience isn't what you would call extensive. As I rolled in to Waukewan, I decided to let my two mentors know exactly what they were dealing with.

"So before we get going, you've got pretty much a beginner on your hands," I told them before we hoped on Kenney's 20-foot boat. "I'd say I've gone fishing only about a dozen times and not in the last five years. And I've never actually caught a fish before in my life."

Now that I had that off my chest, Kenney offered some encouraging words for my angling future.

"Well that's gonna change today," he said.

Did I mention it was still just 6 a.m. when we hit the water? The last thing in the world I can be confused with is a morning person, and my work schedule varies almost daily, meaning my sleep schedule is not very reliable. But if you want to catch fish, bright and early is the right time to do it.

It doesn't take long for me to reel in my first-ever fish however, as trolling with downriggers leads to a nibble about 10 minutes on the water. After some initial reeling awkwardness, I bring a small rainbow trout into Kenney's net.

"Nice fish," says Forge, although he's probably just pumping me up for the day ahead.

With my first fish secured, they start coming in fast and furious. All told, 17 fish would be caught (I reeled in 15, Forge took care of the other two), consisting of 12 rainbows and five bass. We landed two additional fish, but I may or may not have been guilty of losing them. One of the two was quite a big fish, with Forge estimating it as a 20-incher. That one hurt a little bit.

We did get a glimpse of an eagle at one point, and he took full advantage of the fishing taking place below him. Just after I released one of my rainbows into the water, the eagle quickly snatched it up, attempting to carry it away.

There were hardly any boats out on Waukewan that morning, as temperatures were relatively mild on an overcast day. The sun did poke through the clouds at a few points, but my sunglasses weren't put to use all that often.

Being the inexperienced angler that I am, I spent much of the morning asking questions. I'm sure most of the questions weren't very bright, but I have little shame in asking them regardless (reporter instinct). Kenney and Forge were happy to oblige, regaling me with all sorts of fishing stories from their pasts in the process. Perhaps the biggest thing I took away was our use of 'the brown owl,' proving to be our secret weapon for snagging fish. Forge contributed that little guy to the cause and it was one of our most successful lures. We also counted an orange and black DB Smelt lure as a successful piece of hardware, purchased at A.J.'s Bait and Tackle in Meredith, home to where my fishing license was purchased just the day before.

With the fishing community consisting of many superstitious people, Forge clued me into one piece of information that I hadn't noticed until the end of our trip at 9 a.m.

"See how the downriggers are set at odd number depths," he explained while motioning towards the back of the boat. "And that we had 19 fish on? And that we landed 17? All odd numbers."

Okay, okay, I'll buy into that one just a little bit. But I had two cups of coffee. Does that mean if I had a third, my haul of fish would have increased even more? Those are the burning questions that bounced around my head as we rode back into shore.

But the morning absolutely flew by, something I wouldn't expect from any activity taking place at 6 a.m. For my first time fishing in half a decade, I'd say it was a resounding success. It'll prove to be a tough act to follow, as 'The Three Musketeers,' which I'm nicknaming us without their knowledge or approval, will take to the water again this week. Next week's story on my first time fly fishing will likely serve as a comical entry, as I can't even imagine what will happen when I step foot into the waters up north. Luckily I'll have the two experienced anglers watching my every move, making sure I don't float away into the abyss.

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