Smallmouth bass and ships’ graveyard


G. Sam Piatt - PDT Columnist



Most fishermen are creatures of habit, especially when it comes to returning year after year to camps where smallmouth bass are promising a rambunctious fight.

James “Pete” Peveto of South Shore first visited The Harbour Resort at Long Point, Ontario, with family and/or friends in the early 1970s.

Last summer marked his 44th consecutive year to rent the Boat House, located right on the water near the launching ramp and the dock.

“I don’t like having to trailer my boat in and out every day,” Peveto said. “There I just step out of the cabin, into the boat, start the motor, and we’re off – all of our gear already loaded and ready to go.”

Located on Lake Erie’s North Shore, the camp is about a 350- to 400-mile drive from the Ashland-Portsmouth area, but he says it’s well worth the drive to get to spend a week battling smallmouth.

The “lake” is actually a shallow bay located in behind the long spit of sand and pebbles and storm-ravaged, gnarled trees reaching out into Lake Erie.

The bay used to be known more for largemouth bass, but Peveto said the smallmouth are “taking over more and more.”

Bass season opens the last Saturday in June. The limit on smallmouth is six a day, if you want to keep some for a fish fry.

The bay is also noted for walleye, which the locals call “pickerel.” That’s what they go for. They don’t fish for smallmouth, which they sometimes refer to as “those old brown fish.”

“I have never caught a walleye there,” said Peveto.

The smallmouth fight just as they do on Dale Hollow Lake or Kinniconick Creek, leaping out of the water several times in an attempt to throw your lure right back at the boat.

The bay has big populations of fat and feisty bluegill and rock bass nearly a foot long.

I WAS THERE

I’ve been to Long Point at least three times, the last visit coming 10 or 12 years ago.

I and my wife, Bonnie, and our friends, Fayne and Nancy Robinson, usually rented a two-bedroom cabin several doors back from the ramp, and each trip provided lasting memories of a vacation well spent.

One morning Fayne and I stepped into my boat, flicked on the electric trolling motor, and went up along the boat docks built to accommodate each of the private homes located at the water’s edge.

We tied on purple plastic worms, with a small barrel-shaped slip sinker above the hook to allow bouncing the lure along the bottom. We cast them in between moored boats or flipped them in under the docks.

We were surprised by the number of 2- to 3-pound largemouth we caught.

One afternoon Fayne and I, casting artificials near where the millionaires had built their duck lodges, got into school of smallmouth in the jumps. We battled 2-pound smallmouth on just about every cast.

FILLETING BLUEGILL

Bonnie and Nancy are bluegill anglers. A buoy is located almost in the center of the bay, four to five miles out. I tied off to the buoy. Baiting with redworms, they were continually pulling in bluegills the size of my hand. I quit fishing in order to rebait their hooks and take off their fish.

They must have had 75 in the baskets when I cut them off, realizing that Fayne and I were faced with filleting all these fish.

Both women were afraid of rough water. They had been so busy pulling in bluegills they hadn’t noticed the wind was up and whistling, even though it was a cloudless day.

We started back in the 16-foot aluminum boat with the 18-horse outboard, into the wind, plowing through whitecaps and swells. I noticed the women’s knuckles were white where the gripped the under edge of their seats. The spray doused us all, but not enough water came into the boat to pose a threat.

The next day they said they would just bluegill fish from the dock.

SHIPS’ GRAVEYARD

The sandy point that shelters the bay reaches miles out into Lake Erie, out to the lake’s deepest point at 210 feet.

In the 1800s, before a lighthouse was built to warn them off, many sailing vessels were grounded on the point’s shallows, left to be pounded to pieces by high waves driven by fierce winds.

According to research by Dave Stone in his book, “”Long Point Last Port of Call,” approximately 175 to 200 vessels were lost off the point. In some instances, entire crews lost their lives.

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G. Sam Piatt

PDT Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at gsamwriter@twc.com or (606) 932-3619.

Reach G. SAM PIATT at gsamwriter@twc.com or (606) 932-3619.