It was rock and rolling fishing on Yellowstone Lake.
We all stayed aboard on a recent breezy and wavy afternoon. No maydays, though I would have liked a chiropractor appointment.
After apprising us of how the wind had increased since his morning trip, Bill the Guide on the Grady White 22-footer said he had never had anyone fall into the water.
Our party, daughter Alison, grandsons Malachi, 17, Britain, 12, and I, glanced at the choppy water and agreed swimming was better done another day.
Yellowstone Lake may not be a Great Lake, but it is a great lake. Much bigger than a bathtub, or the Rec Center pool, it is beautiful at all times, especially in sunshine. It can be a ornery if the wind is up and the temperature is down.
Objective No. 2 was to catch fish.
The deal with Yellowstone Lake, as everyone around here knows, is that the cutthroat trout living in the 87,040-acre lake are under a years-long siege from invasive lake trout.
The fishing basic rule is that caught cutthroat must be released and caught lake trout must be killed.
Handwritten on a map outside the Bridge Bay Marina backcountry ranger station was an update: 102,375 lake trout removed by gillnetters so far this summer.
Anglers chip in.
Yellowstone Lake has 110 miles of shoreline and at its deepest the bottom is 394 feet below the surface.
“That’s super deep,” Malachi said.
We determined it possible Yellowstone Lake could be the summer vacation home of the Loch Ness Monster, though how it traveled was speculative.
“He probably turns invisible,” Britain suggested.
The water temp was advertised at 50 degrees. The number did not faze the boys because they live in Alaska and the temperature in lakes near their Anchorage home barely tops 60, though is perhaps higher this summer due to an extraordinary heat wave.
The original plan would have put four rods out simultaneously, either by casting or trolling. Bill the Guide gauged the wind and said the only way to go was trolling with just two rods at a time. Otherwise, the boat would toss and twist the rods’ lines into one another, resulting in fish escapes.
We took a four-mile roar across the lake to a distant shore, feeling every bounce in our sacroiliacs.
Britain squealed as if riding a rollercoaster. Malachi laughed. Alison got soaked. Call it the splash seat, or whatever, spray decorated her face and clothing.
Once we paused, fish began biting. No bait is allowed on Yellowstone Lake, and only barbless hooks. One hooked fish immediately freed itself. But swiftly, Malachi reeled in a lake trout.
Since he wanted to cook it, the fish went into a live well, a blue bucket holding water.
“I spent a week learning how to cook fish,” Malachi said of a culinary course he took.
This was the first time I’d fished with the boys in a few years. Previously, we had fished together in Illinois and Alaska. I was with them when they caught their first fish, blue gills, Malachi at 4, Britain helped reeling in while sitting in his mother’s lap. Pleasant memories.
Britain followed by bringing in a colorful cutthroat, which posed for a picture before being released. Alison followed with a 17-inch cutthroat, trumping the kids. I completed the round by catching a cutthroat.
The biggest challenge was staying upright. I was no ballerina even as a youth. But we obeyed the first commandment to stay in the boat.
Alison looked into the bucket, noting the lake trout swimming in small circles. She complimented it.
“We have to be nice to it,” she said. “It’s going to be someone’s dinner.”
Malachi replied the fish was “on death row.” Reciting a recipe learned on halibut, he promised a lake trout dish coming out of a frying pan, coated in soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
Back at the marina, Bill the Guide analyzed the water conditions with, “That was a bit of an adventure,”
Then he filleted the fish.
“He was executed right in front of us with an electric knife,” Malachi said.
Now the pressure was on the cook.