Sunday, April 18, 2021

Dock sitting a favored summer past time

| August 13, 2020 1:00 AM

It’s mid-August and summer is winding down. For those of you that know me, I am usually searching for that elusive trophy rainbow trout or some good-eating kokanee salmon at this time of year.

But today, I want to share with you one of my other favorite summer activities or perhaps a non-activity. I call it dock sitting.

I am lucky to own a cabin on a lake in the Thompson Chain of Lakes.

On many summer mornings, my favorite activity or non-activity is simply sitting on my dock and looking at the lake or more correctly, looking down into the lake.

I am a morning person and I am usually up by 5:30 or 6 in the morning.

Normally, I like to jump into my boat and go fishing. But for many other mornings I just simply enjoy sitting on my dock and enjoying a quiet time with my good friend, Mother Nature.

On most early mornings, I have the lake to myself. Not another soul on the lake. After building a cup of coffee, I grab a comfortable lawn chair and go sit on the dock to watch the lake wake up.

If I look over the lake to the surrounding forested Salish Mountains, I can see where I have harvested many deer and grouse over the past 40 years to help feed my family.

I can also see Crystal Lake where our family has caught hundreds of good-eating kokanee and rainbows and where my sons and grandkids have learned to water ski.

But most of my morning time is spent looking down into the lake. Our lake, like most Western Montana lakes, has very clear water.

It is easy to see 5-10 feet deep into the lake and see fish.

At this time of the year, the near-shore shallow water has warmed into the 70s. Not only does this make for great swimming, but this is also very inviting to warm water fish species that live in our lake.

On a typical morning, I will see largemouth bass, sunfish and perch while dock sitting.

Fish species that prefer colder water, such as the rainbow trout and kokanee salmon seldom venture into these warm shallow summer waters.

It is interesting to watch these fish and their interactions with each other.

This must have been a good spring for the perch hatch.

This summer I have seen several large schools of young-of-the-year perch, about 2 inches long.

Those that don’t get eaten by the larger predatory bass or larger perch, will provide good fishing and good eating in 4-5 years.

The other morning there were two large schools of young perch and two larger bass, about 15 inches long. The bass

would swim through the schools of perch, without attacking or eating any perch.

The small perch did not seem to take any evasive action to escape the bass. I can only assume the bass were stuffed full of little perch, so weren’t hungry.

Somehow, the remaining small perch seemed to be able to detected the non-aggressive nature of those bass.

There is also an abundance of small bass and sunfish most mornings. Our lake is too infertile and the water too cold to allow non-native sunfish to grow to eating size.

In our lake, a 4-inch long sunfish is a big sunfish.

The sunfish were constantly dipping down to the bottom and picking up some micro-organism from the bottom for their breakfast.

Only rarely will a kokanee or rainbow swim through. During my early morning dock sitting non-activity, I usually see mom Merganser with her six little ducklings and a grebe with two young ones.

Occasionally, a loon will fly overhead as they move between their nesting lakes and feeding lakes. Turtles, crayfish and a goose family usually fill out my morning wildlife scene.

Watching the morning wildlife is very enjoyable, but most of all, I soak up the peace, quiet and tranquility of a summer morning on “my” lake.

The recent nightly protests, riots, fires and civil disorder in many American cities seem like another world.

How lucky we are to live and enjoy American life in a wonderful place like rural Western Montana.