By Andrew Cremata
Three years had passed since I’d walked the narrow trail leading to the lake. Water levels were unseasonably high for mid-June but little else had changed. Angled mountains carved a blue sky, their peaks covered with patches of white snow. Two loons swam toward the mouth of a turbulent stream, its sandy banks swollen with meltwater.
As I’ve done a thousand times over the years, I tied a Luhr-Jensen Krocodile spoon to my fishing line. The Krocodile is a classic fishing lure — a carefully crafted hunk of polished metal weighing fractions of an ounce, with a hook on one end and a swivel on the other. My Krocodile also sported an orange racing stripe.
As a general rule, fish aren’t inclined to eat slabs of stainless steel. The Krocodile spoon catches fish because of its clever design. The metal is bent into a shape that caused the lure to mimic the swimming motion of a small fish. The shape resembled a spoon to someone with terrible eyesight. The back-and-forth motion of the spoon emits weak vibrations that travel through the water.
Trout (and many other fish) are equipped with a lateral line, a sensitive sensory organ that runs along the fish’s flanks on both sides of its body. The lateral line is capable of sensing minute vibrations emitted by small swimming fish.
The lateral line also senses chunks of metal designed to mimic swimming fish. Lake trout sense the spoon’s vibration and approach for a closer look. However, if the lure doesn’t look like food, the trout will not bite.
Entirely deceiving a predatory fish also requires a touch of artistic license. Spoons are adorned with reflective properties and an entire spectrum of vibrant colors. If the trout believes the chunk of metal is a small fish, it’s predatroty instinct triggers and it attacks the lure. The trick is to use spoons that match the size, shape, and color of the fish’s normal prey.
Years of trial and error assured me that tying on a polished silver Krocodile spoon with an orange stripe is the undisputed June lake trout catching champion at the aforementioned Yukon lake.
My technique is simple. After casting the lure and letting it sink, I reel it back in very slow, occasionally letting it bounce on the bottom.
On my third cast of the day, a tangle in my line required me to pause my retrieve. While I worked diligently to unravel a tiny yet stubborn knot, my orange-striped spoon settled on the bottom of the lake.
A few seconds later, my rod tip started twitching like a nervous groom on his wedding day after drinking too much coffee. Suddenly, a fish was firmly tethered to the other end of my fishing line, rendering it impossible to untie the difficult knot. A minute later I was dragging my first fish of the day onto the shore — a beautiful 18- inch lake trout.
Confused, I began to wonder whether my first fish of the day was a particularly stupid trout. A spoon resting on the bottom of the lake is nothing more than a hunk of dead metal. If predatory fish began eating slabs of steel laying motionless on lake bottoms, the fishing lure industry is in big trouble. I’m also fairly certain that painted metal is not part of a healthy trout’s nutritious breakfast.
Fully convinced that trout number-one was an anomaly, I got back to the business. After casting the spoon, I let it sink and immediately focused my attention back on the knot. Barely ten seconds passed before the rod started to violently twitch. It felt like thirty fish were all taking shots at the alloy hardware lying motionless at the bottom of the lake.
Yet another trout managed to hook itself. At this point, I was barely a participant in the fishing experience other than casting and reeling in a fish — another 18-inch laker. I chjecked to make sure the trout had eyes, because the water was crystal clear.
Trout are revered around the world as one of the most important and wily game fish. Anglers spend countless frustrating hours in lakes, streams, and rivers chasing taunting trout that simply refuse to bite anything and everything. Lake trout have a reputation as being one of the most difficult trout to catch from shore.
Yet somehow, in only three years, it seemed as though lake trout in one particular Yukon lake got sloppy. Heck, even the lowly, bottom-feeding catfish have enough sense not to eat metal. And catfish will eat just about anything!
Having lost all interest in the tiny knot, I cast my Krocodile spoon yet again and let it sink all the way to the bottom. The strike was immediate, as though the trout knew exactly where it would mysteriously appear. This was the same piece of metal responsible for the sudden mysterious disappearance of two finned members of its own school.
There is little doubt the fish I’d just hooked saw them pick up the hunk of metal and suddenly fly into a frenzy, struggling against some invisible enemy only to be pulled from the water against their will. The next thought that entered the trout’s tiny fish brain was, “Wow! That looks delicious!”
The third laker of the day was a lunker, topping the 23 inch mark on my tape measure. Three lake trout is also the legal limit so there was little reason to keep fishing.
The cause of the day’s events remain a mystery. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a fishing story that most people relegate to the barely believable, or an outright fabrication meant to deceive fellow anglers into wasting time by pursuing questionable fishing techniques.
Trying to figure out why fish do what they do makes as much sense as trying to apply logic to many human endeavors. What I do know for a certainty is that a lot can change in three years but grilled lake trout are still delicious.