Day 44: One fish, two fish, Olivia catches, blue gill

Sunday at the cottage is usually a lazy day. Even for a place where days are nameless and time is measured by meals, Sunday is always the day when we all sleep later and the pace is usually slower. July is warm, sunny, and the days are longer at the cottage with the sun setting near nine and darkness coming closer to ten. The month of July usually brings the best sporting events and this year is no different. July is the month of countless auto races, the Tour de France, and this year, and every four years, the World Cup. The month of July ends with a local sporting event – the Ausable River Canoe Marathon. The canoe marathon takes place on the Ausable River starting in Grayling and finishing at Oscoda where the Ausable drains into Lake Huron – 120 miles away.Grayling was established in the 1800s as a logging town and became a summer vacation destination for well to do outdoorsmen of the late 1800s from downstate Detroit and northern Ohio and Indiana. The area boasts three trout rivers and the town, Grayling, is named for the native fish, the Grayling, which once populated the Ausable River. In the early 1900s, overfishing and the logging industry fouled the streams with silt, pollution, and other debris resulting in the grayling becoming extinct. A few men of the time, including an influential industrialist named Rasmus Hanson created a hatchery to breed the grayling and restock the rivers with other species of trout. Despite the hatchery’s failure to revive the grayling, a century later the Fish Hatchery still operates but mainly as a tourist attraction operated by the Grayling Recreation Authority. We have visited the fish hatchery many times where they breed and release three species of trout: brown, brook, and rainbow none of which is native to the region.

We had a few jobs Sunday – errands and a trip to the dump. Sunday’s trip to the dump, as all trips to the dump, passes the Fish Hatchery. Olivia remembered feeding the fish at the hatchery and asked if we could visit once we were finished at the dump. As we left the dump, a few raindrops began to fall and then more, suddenly it was another summer downpour and we waited outside the hatchery for the rain to stop. It seemed as if it would never stop and rather than wait I drove to fill up the truck and run another errand. By the time those tasks were finished, the rain had stopped and we drove the short distance back to the fish hatchery. It had been long time since I had visited the hatchery and was surprised by what I saw. The trout runs were the same, but they had renovated adding signage to explain the various parts of the hatchery including the history of the hatchery and reasons for the demise of the grayling to educate us about our place in the community. We paid our entrance fee and bought a bag of fish food. The trout, conditioned by the sound of fish pellets striking the surface, break the surface violently to feed as Olivia tosses food in. The hatchery is divided into four runs fed by water diverted from the Ausable, each run has different species as well as different sizes of trout and some of the runs are subdivided. One run is brown trout 6” to 9”, when Olivia tosses food in there is a feed frenzy as the fish fight for the pellets. Another run is labeled brook trout 12” to 18” and there fewer fish, but they are larger and needed more room. Olivia had fun feeding the fish and hatched her own idea of saving some of the pellets to feed the fish at the lake later in the afternoon. The hatchery had a kid’s fishing pond as well as an artificial river to allow visitors to visualize the trout’s habitat. The renovation had really done a good job of restoring and upgrading the site. As we left, Olivia asked if we could go fishing and asked to stop and get worms so we could fish on the lake.

Sunday was the final of the World Cup and I wanted to watch; by the time, we had run errands and returned to the cottage the game was its final minutes.  Tied zero all, the game went into overtime. My only interest in the game was watching what I had seen in France when it had just begun. We left for France on the second day of the tournament and were there when Mexico beat France. The games were on and people watched much like we watch the Super Bowl, the World Series, or March Madness. It was exciting. I wanted to watch the game and I told Olivia we would go fishing once the game was over. The game was exciting and Spain scored with four minutes remaining in the second overtime and won. Yet, another Olivia blamed the game for the delay and I reminded her that had we gone when she wanted we would have been wet. She failed to see the logic and we waited for the storm to end.

Olivia's catch, one of her two bluegill

Just as the storm subsided, William and Beth returned home from their trek and William joined the expedition. We loaded the boat, the pontoon, and motored across the lake to a fishing spot. Not being an angler, nor knowing the lake, any spot was good and I slowed the boat at the entrance to south bay where a sandbar crosses the bay. We drifted with the light breeze and all of us cast our lines into the water. William and I were fishing with lures and Olivia was using her worms. We were not particular and were just hoping to hook a fish, any fish; I felt a couple of nibbles but did not hook one. Olivia was the first to feel a nibble, a real nibble and reeled in the first fish of the evening, a small bluegill. It was not a keeper but it had swallowed the hook and in the process of removing the hook, gave its life for the birds of the lake. Olivia wanted to show momma and we tossed it in the live well, despite its condition – terminal. William and I had not more than an occasional nibble and it was beginning to look like Olivia had the right idea – worms. We moved the boat and Olivia re-baited and tossed her line back in. William and I stuck with our lures. Before long, Olivia pulled another bluegill in and this one survived, it joined the other in the live well and we continued fishing. Olivia was a happy angler. It was getting close to sunset and we headed home. Momma greeted us at the dock and Olivia shouted about her catch – two fish and excitedly showed momma her fish. Momma got the camera and we recorded the moment. The living fish was returned to the lake and the first fish was taken to the woods where it would join the food chain.

It was a great day. Olivia had two fish. William and I had none, but that is fine. There are more days ahead and even more fish. Monday is another day and William and I will return to Wheaton late in the afternoon. I have a meeting Tuesday at school and both of us will attend the troop meeting at night. We will reload and be back at the cottage Wednesday afternoon. Tomorrow will be a great day, possibly the best day ever.

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