Fish tales reel in reverie


It’s springtime and baseball is in full swing, the prepsters are getting ready for playoffs in tennis, soccer, lacrosse, golf, track and field, baseball and softball and many anglers on the Olympic Peninsula are getting ready for opening day of trout fishing.

Opening day of lowland lake trout season used to be a big, big event in these parts, but, alas, it doesn’t have the spark it used to.

How many of you out there remember the “good old days?”

Opening day was the time to take the kids out fishing for the first or second time on Lake Sutherland or Lake Crescent. Forks anglers hit Lake Pleasant hard, Jefferson County bait-tossers flocked to Anderson, Tarboo, Leland and Crocker lakes like flies to a piece of raw meat left on the barbecue.

I guess the main reason for all the excitement was that fishing licenses were cheap, you could use all kinds of bait, you could chum for the elusive trout and lakes were not open year-round like they are now.

Some of my fondest memories were opening day trips to Lake Sutherland … (cue the light fog as the dream sequence begins ….)

Planning for opening day was three weeks in the making — gathering rods and reels from the garage and lamenting that I didn’t get that “bird’s nest” out of my favorite casting outfit.

Finding the net and then making a run to get one without a big hole in the middle.

Finding the gear for the kids, then making plans for the big opening day potluck food fest and adult beverage party came next. Remember Maple Grove? Remember Lake Sutherland Resort and Snug Harbor Resort?

All three rented boats with oars. It was bring your own trusty outboard and each resort had launch facilities way before the state put in a ramp. For a number of years, the Port Angeles Evening News’ sports department rented the old log cabin from Hal Finley at Maple Grove each year and I think some of my old fishing buddies still owe me money for the cabin rental.

Opening day was always on a Sunday. The Chapman party used to arrive about noon on Saturday, loaded with groceries, fishing tackle, outboard motor and gas can, and then went on the search for Wild Rainiers lurking in the woods around the resort. Then it was time to try the outboard to see how much it smoked with last year’s gas. Visits to several cabins gave the motor a test and provided visits with longtime friends.

I always made a run in the car to Lake Crescent to visit Jim Widsteen and George Ellis to get tips on how to catch really big fish and to arrange for picture shoots Sunday afternoon of big Beardslee trout.

The clan started to arrive in late afternoon and the annual food fest began, along with the trusty poker game. That was long before Texas Hold ’em was introduced.

Big day

For those who didn’t have Saturday night hangovers, it was up at dawn, get the boat going and head for the elusive “favorite hole” to capture the trout that had been planted a couple weeks before.

Before first light, the lake was alive and each little cove had six or seven boats anchored with bait in the water. I remember one time off the old Lee Kreider cabin when three guys, fishing in a good-size rubber raft, tore a big hole in the raft with the first cast. Their opening day ended in a hurry.

It was always the hope to land one of those lunker cutthroat trout, but, alas, I never did get one. It didn’t take long to get a limit of eight fish — gad, I’m going back a long way — and head back to the musty, dusty, breezy cabin for scrambled eggs, hash browns and trout right out of the lake — so fresh their little tails curled up when they hit the bacon grease…

The wives and kids used to arrive about noon, then it was out to get the kids their limit. Only once did a Chapman lad get a big cutthroat and that was one bitter April afternoon with the wind blowing and half snowing. It was a bigger thrill for dad than it was for No. 2 son Kevin.

Finley used to let us stay long into the afternoon to clean up the cabin, put away the gear, load the car and head home with some great tales of opening day of fishing season.

One tall tale that wasn’t a tall tale: One year brother Jack brought his own trusty boat and launched the craft at Maple Grove about noon, then as I drove the boat to the dock, he moved the car and trailer to a parking spot beside the big log cabin.

I thought I heard several screams as a resort crew, clearing some trees for additional parking, managed to fall a tall, quite large alder and the tree fell right across the parked boat trailer. Needless to say, brother Jack was a bit miffed, but Finley paid for the trailer and I think he even took it to the dump.

Now Lake Sutherland is open year-round, the limit is far fewer and fishing pressure is much less. No big throng on opening day. No resorts left. No place to rent a boat. One launch ramp.

Oh well, I probably still have that bird’s nest in the old reel anyway.

Columns by KONP 1450 AM sports announcer Scooter Chapman appear weekly in the Sequim Gazette. He can be reached via e-mail at