Dawn Patrol

Successful guerrilla angling requires stealth, perseverance, and an insatiable, what-the-hell willingness to hunt for fish in some damn weird places

May 1, 2000
Outside Magazine
But time heals, and here I was in front of my house, in the wee hours of a chilly June morning, waiting for Drost. As his truck drove up, I thought about how good a lone set of headlights can make you feel when it's dark and you're waiting for someone. Drost was on the sad downslide from Saturday night into Sunday morning. He grunted hello when I climbed in the truck.

We bought gas, coffee, and maggots at a gas station, drove under the footings of International Bridge, which crosses the Saint Marys River into Canada, took a bridge over the power canal, and turned to parallel the Sault Locks. We passed a bar that used to be called the Horny Toad; after it burned down it reopened as the Satisfied Frog. Then we crossed the power canal again where it curves in toward the Edison Sault dam and widens to a quarter-mile from bank to bank, the full width of the hydroelectric plant. The dam and the building sitting on top of it don't look so much like an electricity production facility as they do a medieval castle set upon an outlandish moat.

A skiff owned by the university's aquatics lab was moored at the west end of the dam. We piled our gear in the bow and headed across the downstream face of the dam, where the water runs out and mixes in with the river's flow on its way to Lake Huron.

Across the river were the lights of Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, population 85,000. I've always been amused by the contrast between the two identically named cities that border this river. The U.S. side of the river feels like a northern outpost, inhabited by rural people of Nordic descent, while the Canadian side is a southern city of that nation, largely Italian and industrial. Each side has a tendency to regard the other with a dismissive shrug. Cruising those boundary waters in a boat with no running lights feels dramatically smugglerish.

Whitefish from the great lakes average about two or three pounds. Their colors vary a little with locality, but they have greenish backs and bluish-silver sides tinted with purple iridescence. This sounds like an interesting palette to paint a fish with, but the most remarkable thing about a whitefish is how utterly nondescript he looks. He has a small mouth that points down and forward. He has a forked tail. He resembles, in shape, other freshwater fishes like herring and smelt. The word that comes to mind when I see a few whitefish together is "Biblical." If I imagine someone turning five fish into enough to feed thousands, I imagine them to be whitefish.


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