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An adventure aboard the Kingfisher

Sep 13, 2019 06:33AM ● By Editor

Mark and Chris Mathieu are the owners/operators of the Kingfisher.  Submitted photo

By Dana Sanders - HTF Contributor from hometown - September 13, 2019

In July, I attended a Chamber of Commerce event with some colleagues from work. After some engaging hobnobbing, I congregated back to my table of associates and began visiting with my friend and colleague, Chris Mathieu. It was so great to reconnect as we both work for the same organization, but our career paths led us to positions in different departments.

While visiting, Chris shared her latest pride and joy with me. She and her husband, Mark, bought a deluxe fishing boat. Chris said they keep it at the Silver Bay Marina and had been staying on the boat every weekend over the summer as there are living/sleeping quarters below the deck. Chris said she and Mark have been enjoying Lake Superior for the past few years and decided to upgrade to a bigger boat as fishing and cruising the lake has become their favorite pastime with their black lab, Goose.

They recently started a charter fishing business, Kingfisher Charters. They thought it would be fun to have others share in their love of the lake and amazing fishing. She said the lake has the best king and coho salmon and lake trout one could ever dream of. This sounded enticing to me as my husband Jeff and I love being on the water and absolutely love to fish.

Sunrise aboard the Kingfisher with Dana and Jeff Submitted photos

Sunrise aboard the Kingfisher with Dana and Jeff. Submitted photos.

At the end of the evening, Chris asked if Jeff and I would like to join her, Mark, and Goose on their boat for a day of fishing before the summer’s end. I told Chris to give us a date and time and we would meet them on the dock at sunrise! Chris laughed and said she would talk it over with the captain (Mark) and be in touch.

It was mid-August, and Chris reached out and asked if we were still up for a day of fishing aboard the Kingfisher as they had availability on Sunday, Aug. 18. I told Chris that Jeff and I happened to be free that day and would be more than happy to join them. I asked Chris what we needed. Her reply was, “Just yourselves, layers of clothes, sunglasses and snacks.” She said the boat is fully equipped with a variety of fishing rods and tackle. She said they would set up all the rods and that Jeff and I could just kick-back and wait for a fish to take a line, and then we could fight over who gets to reel it in! She and Mark would man the landing net, remove the fish, take prize photo ops, and reset and cast the lines.

Dana holds the lake trout she caught

Dana holds the lake trout she caught.  Photo submitted

This sounded completely foreign to me as our Lake of the Woods fishing excursions were a much different experience. I’m not going to lie—I was a little apprehensive and thought I might get bored. I am not one to sit still or have others do things for me that I’m capable of doing myself. This truly was going to be a new adventure and experience. I had never fished on Lake Superior for salmon or lake trout, let alone been on a charter boat.

For the past eight years, my husband and I have made annual trips to Lake of the Woods during the first week of June and stay at Arneson’s Rocky Point Resort. It’s our most favorite lake to fish for walleye and sauger. We have caught monster walleyes off Garden Island and have had non-stop action off Arneson’s Reef. We fish sunrise to sunset and our days are filled with baiting, casting, catching, releasing and netting. I also journal all our fish! In the past eight years, we have caught and released anywhere between 100 and 230 fish in a four-day span. We love being on the water and the sport of fishing.

Jeff holds his king salmon

Jeff holds his king salmon.  Photo submitted.

The alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 18. It was time to rise and shine, grab our coffee, and make our two-hour trip to Silver Bay for a day of charter fishing with Mark, Chris, and Goose.

While driving up there, it was pouring rain. Chris contacted us and asked if we were up for fishing in the rain. Jeff and I have acclimated to all weather conditions when it comes to fishing. Wind, cold, and rain never hold us back from fishing or a day on the water. We told Chris we were prepared with rain gear and would see them soon.

Upon arriving at the Silver Bay Marina, the rain let up and the sun was beginning to rise. The sky was the most beautiful color of vermilion, which is a cross between a vibrant fire red and orange (my favorite color).

Second Mate Goose watches for a bite

Second Mate Goose watches for a bite.  Photo submitted.

Jeff and I were walking the docks in the marina looking for the Kingfisher. When we spotted it, Jeff and I both stopped and looked at each other, eyes wide with disbelief. We were expecting a humble, weathered fishing boat. What was docked in front of us was a 38-foot Tiara that was 14.5 feet wide. The width of their charter boat is just a few feet shy of our Lund fishing boat!

Mark and Chris greeted us, introduced us to their black lab Goose, and welcomed us aboard. For a moment, I felt like I was onLifestyles of the Rich and Famous and was doing my best Robin Leach impression. After a few laughs, they gave us a tour of the boat. Everything was immaculate and shined. The entire boat was a pristine white with tan leather accents and cushions throughout. The stern of the boat was equipped with 14 rods, a high-tech GPS/ depth finder, coolers, and comfortable cushioned leather benches. The upper deck consisted of an enclosed cabin with the captain’s chair, wheel, and dashboard of controls.

Dana poses like Rose on the Titanic

Dana poses like Rose on the Titanic.  Photo submitted

Behind the captain’s chair was a cabinet that housed three large tackle boxes and many smaller tackle trays. I have never in my life seen so much tackle. For Jeff and me, it was like looking into a treasure chest, as it contained an array of different sized and colored spoons and Rapalas that sparkled in the rising sun. This truly was every fisherman/woman’s dream. The other side of the enclosed cabin contained a luxurious wraparound lounging area. The bow of the boat was a railed-in sunning deck. The quarters below contained a kitchenette, dining area, spacious berth (sleeping quarters), and a bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower.

Teasingly, I said, “An actual toilet! You mean I don’t have to relieve myself in an altered laundry jug today!” Mark laughed and said, “You truly are a skilled and diverse fisherwoman!”

Mark pulled up the anchor and we made our way out of the harbor. With daybreak and overcast skies, we set off on our Lake Superior (Gitchee Gumee) adventure aboard the Kingfisher.

Over coffee and delightful conversation, we drove a few miles out of Silver Bay. Mark and Chris then began setting up our rods. We would each be fishing with two lines in the water. For a girl who likes to do everything on her own, I realized this was completely out of my league of fishing thus far.

Chris began assembling boards, and I asked what they were. She said they were planer boards that two fishing lines would run through on each side of the boat. She and Mark then set up rods on downriggers and dipsy divers on each side of the boat as well. I found this so interesting and impressive to watch. It was apparent Mark and Chris not only were very familiar with navigating the lake but orchestrated the equipment with ease as it was second nature to them.

After all lines were in the water, Mark took the wheel and began trolling while Jeff, Chris, and I watched the lines and took in the extraordinary scenery as we made our up the North Shore to Taconite Harbor. Goose stood perched at the stern of the boat waiting in anticipation for the big catch.

Within the first hour of trolling, there was a fish on! Chris grabbed the rod, set the hook, and asked Jeff and me who was up first. Jeff gave me the honor of reeling in the first fish.

Reeling in fish on Lake Superior is a completely different experience than Lake of the Woods. On Lake of the Woods, we are accustomed to reeling in walleyes and saugers in 20 to 30 feet of water. On Lake Superior, we were in water ranging from 50 to 130 feet.

As I was reeling in, I was beaming with excitement and anticipation as to what was about to surface. Mark left the wheel and grabbed the landing net and stood by my side. He was just as excited as I was, since this would be my first catch on the enchanted Gitchee Gumee! After a few minutes of reeling, Mark netted a spectacular three-pound king salmon. I was reeling with joy and posing for photo ops with my very first king salmon. It wasn’t a monster, but it was the perfect size for eating. My husband had an ear-to-ear grin enjoying the moment with me knowing how ecstatic I was over this new fishing experience and the absolute thrill of the catch.

After casting my line back in the water, it was only a matter of minutes before another line had a fish on. Jeff was up! Taking a stance next to Goose, with Chris standing by with the landing net, Jeff easily reeled in a beautiful king salmon. They really are a gorgeous fish, as their scales have a tint of a shimmering emerald green. We were two for two! This was so much fun! I was not bored at all!

Mark again took the wheel, and we trolled onwards up the North Shore. Jeff and I have spent a lot of time throughout the years in the Tofte and Lutsen area in the fall to embrace the vast blanket of color the landscape has to offer. It is a very different experience viewing the shoreline from the lake.

Jeff and I were in awe of the various rock formations, random waterfalls, and mountain terrain. At one point, Jeff pointed out a mountain in the distance and said it reminded him of a trip we took to Glacier National Park some years back. At that moment, life couldn’t have been better. We were so relaxed cruising the mystical lake, taking in the extraordinary scenery and enjoying the company of good friends.

I was also learning and becoming quite entertained with the Coast Guard lingo that would occasionally chime in over the radio. Mark was explaining the different distress words and terms. He also said they always say each word three times.

Fishing had slowed down, so Jeff and I decided to venture to the bow of boat. To get there, one walks the narrow ledge between the cabin and the outer rail. My imagination was taking over at this point. While cautiously walking the narrow ledge, I was expecting Jaws to break through the waters below at any second! One wrong step or twist, and I would be overboard entering the abyss below. I could just hear it: “PAN-PAN-PAN” would be alerted to the Coast Guard, meaning someone aboard a boat has a situation that requires urgency.

Safe and sound at the bow of the boat with my husband, I couldn’t resist walking out on the plank of the boat to spread my arms and pretend I was flying like Rose on the Titanic. My husband sat and shook his head while Chris took photos and enjoyed participating in the silliness of the moment.

Back at the stern of the boat, we again settled in to watch our lines. We had made it up to Taconite Harbor and were now turning around to troll our way back down the North Shore.

Throughout the course of the day, Mark had a variety of pop and rhythm and blues playing over the impressive sound system on the boat. I asked Mark if he had any classic Gordon Lightfoot as we needed the ambiance of the Edmund Fitzgerald to be playing. Ask, and one shall receive aboard the Kingfisher.

With the unforgettable sounds of Gordon Lightfoot playing over the sound system, fishing again picked up. There was a fish on, and I instinctively jumped to Chris’s side to grab the rod! As I was reeling in my line, there was another fish on another line. Jeff and I were side by side reeling in our fish with Chris and Mark both standing by with the landing net. I reeled in a coho salmon, and Jeff reeled in another king salmon. We were both experiencing an absolute adrenaline rush!

The coho salmon had a bluer tint to its scales versus the emerald green scales on the king salmon. The king salmon also had a black mouth. Each salmon was approximately three pounds.

Jeff and I were already talking about how we were going to prepare our fish. We thought we would prepare some on the grill with lemon, lime, and onion, and we would smoke the rest to eat with cheese and crackers. Our mouths were already watering.

As our day was coming to end, we were just getting ready to call it a day when there was another fish on. Jeff again gave me the honor of reeling in the last fish of the day. This fish felt different than the salmon. Chris was certain it was a lake trout. While reeling in, the pressure of the rod was pushing into my stomach. All of a sudden, Chris was behind me placing a fishing belt harness around my waste to set the rod in. I exclaimed: “Oh My God! It’s like an episode of Wicked Tuna!” Living in the moment, while reeling in, I was speaking my finest Wicked Tuna lingo. “This is wicked awesome! I’m sure I have a squeaker!” With my rod secured in my belt and my fellow mates sharing in laughter, I gave a final reel and tug and landed an amazing four-and-a-half-pound lake trout. Certainly not a monster, but a prize to me, as it was my very first lake trout.

With a cooler full of salmon and my lake trout, we made our way back to the Silver Bay Marina. It was 5:00 in the afternoon. The day went by so fast! We had been on the water since 6:00 that morning. I didn’t want to leave. I was so envious of Mark and Chris and the life they lead every weekend in the spring, summer, and fall. I was also very grateful they extended this extraordinary opportunity to Jeff and me and shared their boat and love of the lake with us.

Mark and Chris said they were heading to Isle Royale the following weekend for a four-day fishing trip. They said Isle Royale National Park is gorgeous, and the fishing on that part of the lake is incredible. They said there is a lot of action, and that is where you will catch the monster salmon and lake trout. They asked Jeff and I if we would want to join them next year on a four-day trip to Isle Royale. There was no hesitation as Jeff and I exclaimed we were in!

Whether a seasoned fisherman/woman or new to the sport of fishing, I highly recommend an excursion aboard the Kingfisher.Captain Mark, First Mate Chris—and we can’t forget Second Mate Goose—will make it an unforgettable experience and cherished memory to last one a lifetime. I know Jeff and I are hooked, line and sinker! 

Dana Sanders lives in Zim, MN. She is a regular contributor to Hometown Focus.  

To read the original story and read related reporting, follow this link to the Home Town Focus website.

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