It was that time of year again. My family’s annual summer trip to our beloved East Lake Resort. This would be the 8th year that we have made a trip up to Newberry Crater during the summertime. My children and wife have grown very fond of this place. Often during the year, my boys will say “Dad, when are we going to East Lake again?” That’s when you know you have something special.
We arrived mid-afternoon on Sunday. To keep with tradition, we unload the truck and then take the boat out for a tour of the lake (and to wet a line). It’s a nice way to change the scenery after a 4 hour long drive, especially for the kids. We cruised around the perimeter for the lake for about ½ an hour to no avail, but I didn’t care. It was just good to get out and to absorb the peace and beauty that East Lake has to offer.
That evening, my oldest son wanted to go out with me to get some “big ones”. We fished for about 1-1/2 hours. We had a couple of drive-by’s but nothing to show for our efforts. Legal fishing time was shortly approaching and I said “Alright Jack…let’s bring the rods in.” As I said that, I noticed the downrigger rod was bouncing. I popped it out of the release and handed it to Jackson to fight. A few minutes later, he was rewarded with a handsome 23.5”, 5lb hookjaw brown. Great way to start the trip.
The next morning, I went to do some scouting. Some neighbors of ours, Jason and Katie Furgison, would be coming with their (2) boys to join us for the day and I wanted to be able to get them into some fish. I was looking for koke schools. Out in front of the resort in 31 to 38’ of water, the kokes were loaded up. I checked to see if they were willing to snap at my kokanee jigs. They didn’t disappoint. I caught 4 in about 10 minutes. I said to myself “Well, that will work…let’s see about the browns.” I checked out a couple other spots for ½ an hour and caught a 3 lb brown. After that, I finished off my limit of kokanee pretty easily and reported back to my family about my results.
The Furgisons arrived later that morning. We took them to our favorite beach on the West Side of the lake. After a hamburger and hotdog bbq lunch, I asked the Furgisons two boys Noah (6) and Adam (aka Cubby; 2.5) if they wanted to go fishing. Cubby, my youngest son Zachary (4.5) and daughter Alexis (2) were all about it. We hopped in the boat with Jason and went out for some kokanee. We ended up catching 4 and losing a few in about 30 minutes. They had a good time.
Next up, it was Noah and Jackson’s turn. Zachary stayed on with Jason and I and I asked what they wanted to go for. Noah wanted to go for “Big Ones”. I told him we may not catch anything but we’d give it our darndest. We trolled from the Red Fissure past the White Slide, down to East Lake Campground and then back. In 50’ of water, I noticed Noah’s rod in the downrigger started bouncing. “FISH” I yelled. I handed the rod to Noah and said “Here you go! This one’s yours.” I noticed it was staying deep (great sign) and was giving some headshakes. A few minutes later, I saw the silhouette of a fish in the blue water. I noticed it was decent size but the coloration of the back was off. I thought it was a brown until it started to thrash when I saw a beautiful pink stripe. Holy Cow! It’s a nice rainbow! We netted the fish and it ended up being a 23.5”, 5 lb rainbow! That’s the largest rainbow I’ve ever had to my boat, let alone East Lake. We snapped a few photos and Noah was BEAMING! Even folks at the resort were saying that was the largest one they’ve heard of in years!
After the Furgisons left, we had some dinner. I asked the boys if they wanted to go after big ones in the evening. Both responded with a resounding “YEAH!” We trolled for about an hour with a couple of driveby’s, but to no avail. Zachary said he was getting cold so I started to troll back to the resort. I looked over at my rod and it was bent over hard and I started hearing the sweet sound of my clicker going “ZZZZZZIIIIIINNNNGGGGG!” “FISH ON!” I screamed. I pried the rod from the grips of the rod holder and handed it to Zach. He was pumped. He then started saying “I need help!” Jackson got right behind his brother and helped support the rod as they reeled together while I cleared the other rod and downrigger. Total team effort.
After everything was cleared, I told Jackson to get the net and I’d help Zach. This fish was powerful. I checked the drag to make sure it wasn’t too tight and it wasn’t. Zach was grinning from ear to ear as I helped support his rod. The fish made (3) runs of 30 to 50’ spurts during the fight. I thought to myself “It’s either foul hooked or it’s big!” Finally, in the twilight, the fish revealed itself. It was a THICK brown! Jackson situated himself on the stern of the boat with the net and waited patiently for us to get it close enough to where he could scoop it up. Splash…swoosh…”Dad, I GOT HIM!” He hoisted the beast into the boat and Zachary cries out “IT’S A MONSTER DADDY!”
After I unhooked the beast, I admired the thickness of the fish as I put him in the livewell to revive. As I pulled him out, Jackson says “Dad, the livewell water is orange!” OH NO! The fish had all three hooks in him and one was right underneath the spot where the underside of the two gill plates come together where there’s a huge vein. This fish was bleeding out. I was upset but know it happens. I told the boys “Well, let’s weigh him.” After putting him in my 4 lb net and getting my boga grip scale, the weight read 12.5 lbs. I said “8.5 lbs boys! Great fish!” He was just shy of 26.5” long and had a girth of 15.5”. A heck of a fish. We kept him as he was in dire straits and plan on smoking the filets.
Tuesday and Wednesday, I think we fished a total of maybe 2 hours for browns. The boys wanted kokanee to eat. Limits were easy to come by and they had a ball jigging for them. This is by far the most I’d ever gone for kokanee. But, it’s about the kids and I wanted to do what they wanted to do. However, we did land a couple 3 to 4 lb browns while we’d troll to and from our beach where we swim, play, barbeque, and just hang out.
Wedensday evening, I asked the boys if they wanted to get up at 4:30 AM to fish early for big browns with me. They both said “YES!” Thursday AM came quickly. Jackson was really groggy so I let him sleep. Zachary was pumped. It would be his first time doing the early morning drill with me. We headed out at 5 AM. We missed a big hit right off the bat and a couple of driveby’s. Zachary fell asleep shortly thereafter. I had to snap a pic because he looked pretty darn cute.
As I snapped the pic, I noticed his rod was going off. I grabbed it, set the hook and it was “Fish On!” I gently woke up Zach and said “Hey buddy, we got a fish on!” That woke him right up and he was on the rod in no time! After a good 3 or 4 minute fight, he had a handsome 5 lb, 22” Hookjaw in the net! Way to go Zachary!
Zach was really happy and wide awake now. I got our gear back down to the appropriate depths and went over the same spot again. WHAM! FISH ON! To help Zachary while I was clearing the other rod and downrigger, I just placed his rod in the rod holder and said “Just keep tension on the fish and don’t stop reeling. He looked like a pro. After that, he had a 23.5”, 6lb hookjaw to the boat! It was pretty great!
And like any 4.5 year old, Zachary says “Dad, we got some good ones…let’s get some kokanee.” The brown trout enthusiast that I am, I’m thinking “NOOOOO!” But, with lil’ guys…who cares. I said sure. We caught a couple kokanee in short order and then Zach said “Okay, let’s go back and show Jackson. I hope he’s not mad that he didn’t come fishing with us.” Jackson wasn’t.
Our final morning, both boys said they wanted to go out. This time, however, Zachary was the groggy one and wanted to sleep. So Jackson and I went out! We had a couple short strikes to start off…just like the morning before. As we passed over the same spot where Zachary had caught (2) nice browns prior, BOTH our rods go down! Jackson goes “Dad, we got a DOUBLE!” Yes we do buddy! A couple nice fish to show for our efforts, but nothing huge. The next pass, Jackson landed a nice 4 lb hookjaw. After that, he wanted to catch a few more kokes, for the effort. We did and decided it had been a great trip!
Although this was probably the least amount of time that I’d fished for browns on this trip, it was still very good. In 8.5 hours of what I call “Hard Core” fishing, we caught 10 browns, with only 2 being under 20” long. We also caught 35 kokes and then 1 large rainbow. It was a successful trip. And you know you’re doing something right when you’re only halfway through the trip and your kids are going “When can we go to East Lake again?”
Most importantly, we had a great time as a family. Dance parties on the boat while we were jigging kokes, barbeques on the beach, sandcastles, playing baseball, getting popsicles at the store every afternoon, flying kites, taking nature hikes, trying fly fishing for a bit….that’s the good life right there!
Huge thanks to Bruce and the East Lake resort staff for making our stay so enjoyable! We will see you next year (if not sooner) for sure!