As often as we can, my family gets together and enjoys a charter fishing trip on Lake Michigan. Though back home for the Millers is Sheboygan County, a popular port, we’ve landed on a go-to charter in Capt. Scott Gutschow’s Reel Action out of Door County. He and his team operate out of the Quarter Deck Marina in Sturgeon Bay. If you’re ever looking for a Lake Michigan salmon and trout charter, I can’t recommend Reel Action highly enough. They know how to take care of their clients from the normal groups of fishing buddies, to young families, to our crew that includes my 75-year-old mother. She is arguably the most hardcore of the entire group.
Some folks talk down Sturgeon Bay a because the run-out from the marinas and even the public launch includes two long stretches of no-wake zone through the shipping canal and past the coast guard station. It takes a full 30 minute ride to get to the prime fishing grounds called the Bank Reef. From some other Wisconsin ports, the ride to prime fishing areas takes just minutes.
But for me, I wouldn’t miss that long slow ride for anything. While the rest of the family often gathers around the table in the galley or stretches out on the couches since it is only 4:00 in the morning, I take a big mug of steaming black coffee out on the deck and stand with my face into the breeze. Even in the prime fishing months of July and August when overnight lows only drop into the muggy 70s that ride out the canal is October refreshing. Even with the excitement of the fishing to come, I often wish the ride were longer.
Sometimes Mom joins me, but just like in my youth when I hunted and fished with my dad, seldom is a word said. We just stand there, face east toward the lake and experience awe. With the difference in the water and the air temperatures the air is often heavy with thick fog. Capt. Scott guides the big boat safely from the flying bridge with the assistance of the radar sweep, but we just stand on the deck below and stare off into the fog.
I have to admit, many times the visibility doesn’t matter a whit to me. I’m standing there with my eyes closed. To me, it’s one of the best places on earth—that slow ride out to the Big Lake. I want to do nothing more than stand there and make every nerve bundle, every pore, every synapsis appreciate the place and the moment. I want to completely feel it. I wish it would go on and on.
And now, what I’ve realized is, out on that deck, I’m praying! I’m thanking God for putting me in that place at that moment. For allowing me to share it with my family. For creating a natural world that is truly so awesome and awe-inspiring. For instilling in me the ability and sensibility to appreciate it.
I think there are also some requests for good fishing slipped in there along the way, and though I neglect to specifically include “thy will be done” it is always so. Sometimes we fill up the coolers, sometimes not. Yet even though we’ve pushed out into some pretty rough seas, He has always answered the request to bring us back to port safely … and more deeply awed by his power over nature. The ride creates understanding that He is nature.
I know, I know. The fighting deck of a 41-foot Viking fishing boat is not a house of worship. Technically, Mom, the scurrying mate preparing the gear, and I aren’t gathered there in His name. Yet it’s one of the places I feel closest to God. It’s one of the places in his incredible natural world that is a church for me. My mind, my heart, my spirit are open there like in few other places. I feel connected there. I have clearer vision there … whether fog surrounds me or not.
The ride out of the Sturgeon Bay shipping canal is long, slow and often densely foggy. The reward awaiting those who make the journey is a brilliant sunrise over an incredible piece of creation, understanding, and some days a fisherman’s paradise.
Hmmm … does that remind you of any other foggy journeys?
“Thank you God for putting me here at this moment. For surrounding me with a supportive, loving family. Thank you for giving me the awareness to appreciate your incredible creation. Thank you for giving me many natural churches where I can see, feel, and hear you so clearly. Help me gain that appreciation and feel that connection in more places and more often. I need the clarity of those moments with you every day.”
“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” – Psalms 65:8 (New International Version)
If you enjoyed this reflection, please check out the book, “Reflections Under the Big Pine” by K.J. Houtman and Bill Miller. It’s available at: Amazon (both paperback and Kindle editions.)