In 2012 I repatriated from South Africa. It was not as simple as just returning to from where I had left. Company headquarters was no longer in the Philadelphia suburbs, it was now in Southfield, Michigan. Most Easterners, especially those of us native to the Boston-Washington D.C. metro sprawl, secretly look down our noses at the land west of the Amtrak/I-95 Corridor. When we moved from Hanover, NH to Chicago in 1983, and subsequently to Minneapolis, I felt as Daniel Boone must have felt when he left Pennsylvania 200 years before to explore the Wilderness Road. And so it was when, for the second time in my life, I found myself moving to the midwest- this time to Detroit.....Motown, the Motor City.
Let's face it, Detroit has a bit of a reputation. A city known for its high incidence of violent crime, and for being the example Webster's Dictionary provides for "urban blight" - not to mention convicted Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and the whole bankruptcy thing. With such a reputation, I was pretty much set on not liking Detroit or its host state Michigan. But, two years after setting up my apartment in Southfield, I have to admit, it is pretty nice here. Like most cities, Detroit does have more crime than the suburbs and its share of urban jungle that just needs to meet a bulldozer. Certainly the auto industry that created the fortunes that gave rise to the mansions of Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills had to be reinvented post the bankruptcies of 2009. But, for the most part, that re-engineering has been a success, the job and real estate markets have come back. Comerica Partk and Ford Field, home to the baseball Tigers and football Lions are stadiums easily rivaling the most beautiful in the country. A fantastic downtown farmers market, a revitalized Belle Island, riverfront Indy car and hydroplane racing, the Henry Ford Museum and Village, and of course, the original Motown Studio are just a few of the many things Detroit has to offer.
And then there is the fishing. Ah yes, the fishing. With Detroit, as with many aspects of my life, a river runs through it- the Detroit River, connecting two world class fisheries, Lake Erie to the south and Lake St. Clair to the north. Today's expedition was on Lake St. Clair, arguably the best smallmouth bass and muskie fishery in the country. Less you doubt the proximity of the lake to Detroit downtown........below is some of what I saw today.
A view of the Renaissance Center, Downtown Detroit
The Ford yacht Unity at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club
Today I was the guest of Kevin Long, a former professional fisherman on the FLW Tour. Kevin guides on Lake St. Clair in the summer and out of the Roland Martin Marina on Lake Okeechobee in the winter. A native of Michigan, Kevin has been guiding on St. Clair for over 15 years and was featured on Scott Martin's TV show competing against the host on the waters of St. Clair. We launched from the Blossom Heath Boat Ramp in St.Clair Shores. Just outside the marina my first views of the St. Clair waterfront were of the Ford Mansion and the other mansions of Grosse Pointe. After a short run towards the mouth of the Detroit River, we were fishing. It was a beautiful sunny morning with a light refreshing breeze from the south. Kevin has a Ranger Z520 with a 250 HP Mercury OptiMax that fished very comfortably. He uses St. Croix rods with Shimano Sahara reels, both my personal favorites. I used a 7 ft. Mojo stick for the first time and was very pleased with how it handled.
We spent the day fishing rock reefs in 11-14 ft water both on the Michigan and Ontario sides of the lake. One of the best locations was the ridge created by the shipping channel. I am always amazed at how the Great Lake freighters slide through the water. You can not see one of these ships without thinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald......then that song is stuck in your head all day.
We initially fished pumpkin colored tubes on 1/4 ounce jig. When we moved to the shipping channel ridge, Kevin switched me to an Erie Darter on a round jig head
This was the ticket for me. Although I had caught two smallies on the tube, when I switched to the Darter, I immediately had a muskie bite off follow by many smallies boated on this little gem. Ah the muskie. It hit like a ton of bricks and began peeling drag. Just as I realized this was not a smallmouth.... SNAP! the line was bitten through by the unseen predator. We later saw two more muskies. One just jumped as we were approaching a waypoint, The other took a swipe at a bass Kevin was reeling in close to the boat. I am quite confident I will be trying muskie fishing with Kevin on October. In total we boated 28 bass, split pretty evenly between us, and three sheepshead.
Pound for pound there is no fish more exciting to catch than the smallmouth bass. They hit hard, run for the surface, leap, dive and shake their heads during a heart stopping, acrobatic fight. I had set out to catch my personal best smallie. I did not achieve that,but for sure I have never had a haul of smallies equal to the quality of what I caught today. The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and Marvin Gaye each had a string of amazing hits during Motown's golden years. Today, on Lake St. Clair I added my own string of Motown hits to my collection of fishing memories. Thanks Kevin.