|Josh with his 25-inch walleye|
|Nathan and Josh with Nathan's 25-incher|
|Josh with dad Scott's 29-inch walleye|
Scott and Amy Manni have been coming to our camp for a few years now along with their sons Nathan and Josh and Amy's dad -- the boys' grandfather -- Tom.
Every once in awhile I would hear a splash as they netted or released a fish and sometimes one of the boys would run a keeper-walleye over to the fish house. I think I bumped into Josh as he was on one of those latter errands.
"How's fishing off the dock tonight, Josh?" I asked.
I wasn't expecting the depth of his reply which revealed reams about this extraordinary fishing family.
"The bite tonight didn't start until 8 o'clock," said Josh. "We've got 12 so far. The bite the first night we were here started at 6 o'clock and we got a lot more."
I did a double-take. I'm not sure of Josh's age but he is a young guy and here he was using terms like "the bite."
When you talk about "the bite" it means you are cognizant of the fact that walleyes have spells when you can catch them and other periods when you cannot. It also means you possess the most important quality any angler can have -- patience.
The Manni family had been fishing off the dock this particular evening without success at first but had stuck with it because they knew that sooner or later, "the bite" would begin. And they were correct.
The Mannis use slip-bobbers and leeches, the primo method for fishing from shore. They are a quiet group, another indication of their fishing expertise. You could be sitting on the porch of your cabin right next to them all week and never even notice that they were rhythmically catching and releasing lots of fish every night.
I noticed that their bobbers were only a few feet from the dock. Last year they were casting them farther out and even anchored their boats sometimes about a cast's length from shore.
I asked Scott about that later. He said yes, for some reason, the best spot this time was indeed right beside the end of the floating dock, likely only in eight feet of water.
There probably were fish in those other places this year too, he said, but for some reason they would come to this one spot on shore whenever they fed.
So, they had obviously tried their bobbers in the other locations this year and then picked up the pattern of the fish biting mostly near the dock.
Contrast this entire scenario -- experimenting on micro-locations and waiting for the bite -- with so many other anglers who give any spot a single try and sometimes won't even drop a line unless they can first "see" the fish on the fishfinders.
The Mannis don't spend the entire day sitting on lawn chairs on the dock, just the evenings. The rest of the time they are out on the lake back-trolling more or less like other people. But even out there they are experimenting -- and learning-- watching their fishfinders and "feeling" the bottom with their sinkers.
Before long this year Scott saw a pattern that no one else at camp had found -- the biggest walleyes, the 25-29-inchers, preferred an aggressive presentation of the spinner and leech. He sped up his trolling speed and caught some of the biggest walleye of the year.
The Mannis are one of only two groups at our camp who do much dock fishing. Both catch more fish off the dock then most people do out in their boats. Both fish off the docks either in the early morning or after supper. The other group uses tiny jigs with bits of worm.
Watching Josh and his brother, Nate, it is pretty obvious that these boys have done a lot of fishing already. I would suspect they have just about grown up with a fishing rod in their hands.
It makes me think about our youngest son, also named Josh. He might be the best angler in our family. He just seems to have an instinct for it. Could that have come from the fact that his first fishing trip took place hours before he was born? For a fact. When Brenda was nine months pregnant we and another family had gone ice fishing on Hazelwood Lake, near Thunder Bay. We had walked out on the ice about half a mile, caught some fish, including some nice walleye, just at dark and had taken them back to our house for supper. Right after the Camerons went home, Brenda announced we had best go to the hospital. Josh was born soon thereafter.
To this day Josh's favourite type of fishing is ice fishing.
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