MOBRIDGE, S.D. — Fishing, a form of relaxation for many, has always been anything but for me.
If it were not (as hoped) exciting or even thrilling, then it was frustrating or even boring.
On a recent trip to South Dakota, however, with good friends and a great guide, I learned to relax.
On most self-guided, out-of-state fishing trips, you have to think about boats, trailers, tackle, fuel, bait, ice, food, drink, lodging, launching ramps, lake maps and fishing reports.
Our guide, Kerry Konold, proprietor of Outrageous Adventures, took care of all that and more, all the while making the six of us feel like old friends rather than clients.
Actually, four of us — Gary Dasch and Doug King, both of Mason City, and brothers Rick Sibbel of Ankeny and Mick Sibbel of Lincoln, Neb. — are old friends, having fished and hunted with Kerry on many earlier occasions. Only I and Joe Roberts of Palatine, Ill., were new friends.
Kerry wants his friends to catch walleyes in carefree comfort. Toward that end he provides a spacious lodge surrounded by fields of grass inhabited by cackling wild rooster pheasants; three home-cooked meals per day, one of which is prepared without any interruption in the fishing on his boat-mounted grill; an abundance of live minnows and night crawlers; onboard snacks and cold drinks; state-of-the-art rods, reels and terminal tackle; and, of special interest to us retirement-age anglers, a Wiffle ball bat, with both ends cut off, to extend our range in case anyone has to relieve himself.
He also nets and cleans all the fish, prepares them for transport and fries some up for one of our evening meals.
The piece de resistance, however, is his boat — a 25½-foot pontoon powered by a 225-horsepower four-cycle outboard, which of course ran smokeless and whisper quiet. With six captain’s chairs each eight feet apart, we seldom tangled our lines, and claustrophobia never crossed our minds.
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With a drift sock off the bow to act as a brake, Kerry could back troll at speeds as slow as half a mile per hour, precisely following depth contours at which his electronics indicated the presence of fish. But when moving from one spot to another, the boat easily came up on plane and cruised at 35 mph.
Here in Water World, where the Missouri River has long been awash in rain and snow melt, Kerry’s 29 years’ experience guiding on Lake Oahe, the fourth-largest artificial reservoir in the country, proved invaluable.
When we were there May 31 and June 1, Oahe at Mobridge was 12 feet higher than the normal pool — a condition that disrupted walleyes’ normal seasonal patterns and rendered most of Kerry’s traditional late spring haunts too deep for walleyes’ comfort.
Further lowering angler confidence and success, the water at Mobridge, discolored by chronic runoff, was at best murky and at worst opaque.
On our first day out, those conditions, combined with a midafternoon thunderstorm that drove us prematurely from the lake, left us a little short of our four-walleye daily limits.
Though we were happy with our catch, it bothered Kerry, who spent his evening tying new rigs, consulting other local anglers and revising his game plan.
The next morning we launched farther upriver and cruised farther yet until we passed the confluence of the Missouri and a major tributary, the Grand, which Kerry had identified as the source of much of the sediment clouding the water downstream.
There we found cleaner water, more aggressive walleyes and the limits Kerry takes pride in providing for his friends.