On June 13, Jeff Turner and his son Taylor, 17, started on a nationwide quest -- a quest to fish 50 trophy waters, in 50 states, in 50 days. Their journey will span 15,000 miles by land, 6,000 miles by air (Alaska and Hawaii), and 500 miles by water -- with no shortcuts.
"Our hope is that our adventure will inspire others across the nation to realize their dreams for adventure and connect once again," Jeff Turner said. "To find and live out that adventure in their lives -- to build a lasting memory -- to rekindle that long lost relationship -- to leave a legacy."
You can follow the entire journey on the pages of ESPNOutdoors.com and on www.fish5050.com.
Day 48: Hawaii
By Jeff Turner
July 30th, 2009 - it is finished it is done! The end is bitter-sweet as we put the finishing capstone on our journey but also say goodbye to the hundreds of people across America who have supported and followed our journey since we left home on June 12.
But first, let's talk about Hawaii. When we landed on the big island of Hawaii yesterday we were working on less than three hours of sleep through our Anchorage to Seattle to Hawaii red eye flight. After grabbing our rental car and finding our way to the Kona Seaside Hotel we finally crashed. Taylor and I both hit the pillow at 1:30 p.m. and didn't wake up again for nearly 14 hours the most sleep we've had in 50 days. At 3:30 a.m. we were up and showering. Our bodies were working off of west coast time so we felt good and anxious to get the day rolling. I had spotted a Denny's restaurant nearby that was open 24 hours so we thought we would have a big breakfast before we met Captain Jay Lighty of Mariah Sportfishing Charters at 5:30 a.m.
Captain Jay was rigged up and ready to go by 5:45 a.m. and we were off on the Mariah and after the trophy of salt water fish the Blue Marlin. Before we even had all of the lines out we had our first hit. The fish hit light, took some line out, and then off our first miss. An hour went by before we would have our biggest strike of the day. The fish, probably 500 pounds or more created a crater the size of a Volkswagen when he hit one of the big top water squid lures being trolled closest to the boat. It was a spectacular strike, but again no hook-up. We would go on to have six misses in a row before we would finally have our first full-blown hook up with a blue marlin in the sixth hour of our charter. The fish hit one of the long lines and took off drag screaming out line fast. After scrambling around the deck to pull all of the lines in Taylor was finally able to don the fishing vest and jump in the fighting chair. 5 minutes of battle ensued - the fish took line out at will. Then, with nearly 500 feet of line streamed off the marlin went for the surface. It was a magnificent display of power as the fish exploded through the water. For nearly 10 seconds the fish danced across the ocean surface an awesome sight. Then the fish went deep again. We would go on to fight the fish for several more minutes then……nothing. He was gone. It was catch and release today the release happened a little sooner than we would have liked. To some this would be a disappointment. For us, we will not steal defeat out of the jaws of victory we had caught our marlin.
In the coming weeks we plan to put together some closing thoughts on our adventure, compile the "Best of 50-50" for people to see and read, and to thank the many people who helped make our adventure a reality.
Final fish count total: Taylor (484 fish); Dad (472 fish) with a Grand Total of 956 fish through all 50 states.
For those of you who wish to live out your adventure please know that many people told us this could not be done and that so many things would go wrong. Some things will go wrong but if you are committed and persevere great things can happen. I leave you with the words that inspired us on this adventure and pray that you too will find and live out your grandest adventure one day.
"Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, a beauty to rescue." [John Eledredge Wild at Heart]
God Speed my friends.
Jeff & Taylor Turner
Fish 50 Trophy Waters in 50 States in 50 Days
"Leave a Legacy"
Day 46: Alaska
By Jeff Turner
Summer days in Alaska start early or maybe they are just a continuation of the previous day as it never gets dark up here in the summer. Our seaplane pilot, Mike Laughlin of Regal Air Service, called us the night before and asked us to get to the base on Lake Hood around 6:45 a.m. for an early takeoff. We were anxious for a full day of fishing and wondered what 10 hours of fishing would feel like after 48 states of four hours each. It was not meant to be. The fog on the Yetna River was not lifting and we were grounded as our plane and pilot only navigate by visual flight reference so if you can't see the water from the air you're not taking off. Hour by hour passed and we wondered if the weather would ever break. Around 11 a.m. we finally got the go signal. The flight northwest in our Beaver aircraft was as smooth as could be. We made a quick drop in on a lake on the way up to pick up a day fisherman that would be joining us Howard Feldman, a geologist from Houston.
We landed on the Yetna River around 12:15 p.m. and our host Jeff Woodward of Lake Creek Lodge met us at the dock. He was as excited to see us as we were him but insisted we first come in and have lunch in the lodge's dining hall with all of the other guests from the lodge. Lee, our guide, joined up with us as well. By 1 p.m. we were heading for our boat. The Yetna River, was a milky brown color from the glacier runoff and so I wondered if we were fishing this water Lee was quick to say his job was to find us clear water at the mouth of one of the many tributaries. The four of us (Lee, Howard, Taylor, and I) jumped in the boat and within 5 minutes we were sitting over the biggest pod of salmon I've ever seen in my life thousands of salmon everywhere.
Five hours later Taylor and I had tallied 122 salmon (3 Sockeye; 7 Coho; 112 Pink). Although the Chesapeake produced 129 fish there was no competing for size as Taylor and I estimate the average size of the salmon to be about 5 pounds each (600 pounds of Salmon). We were worn out. At 6 p.m. we said "No more." Alaska had delivered. BIG time. We kept a couple Coho and Sockeyes to have smoked and shipped home we can't wait.
The fish race, for all practical purposes is over, as Taylor hammered me 71 to 51 to take a commanding lead in to Hawaii. Here's the fish tally:
Dad (472 fish); Taylor (483 fish) with a Grand Total of 955 fish to date. Note that Taylor is now leading me by 11 fish with one state to go.
The best analogy I can come up with relates to a marathoner who has lead the race for 25.5 miles and is passed with less than a mile to go I just didn't have any kick left to go after him. He was "on" today and showed me, ultimately, who is the better fisherman.
Our float plane picked us up dockside at 6:30 p.m. and we were back in Anchorage at 7:30 p.m. We quickly made our way back to our hotel for a quick shower, dinner, and two hour nap before we caught our red-eye flight to Seattle at midnight. As I write this we are sitting in the SEATAC Airport in Seattle waiting for our 8:30 a.m. flight to Kona, Hawaii. We're tired with only about three hours of sleep under our belt. We land in Hawaii around 3 p.m. today so we are hoping to get recharged before morning.
Tomorrow we go after the famous blue marlin and who knows, with the blessed journey we've had so far, we just might catch one. State No. 50 here we come
Day 44: Maryland
By Jeff Turner
Today was REBOUND DAY! After a tough night of fishing in Delaware just nine hours earlier, we were due for a rebound. How does 129 fish in three hours of fishing sound? It is hard to believe but the fish finder today was marking new underwater islands made of fish. The striped bass and bluefish were so thick we literally had fish fighting over our lures and flies as we retrieved them.
Taylor caught 67 and I caught 62 fish bringing our total numbers to the following: Dad (421 fish); Taylor (412 fish) with a Grand Total of 832 fish to date. Note that Taylor is now trailing me by single digits only nine fish down with two States to go.
Taylor made the best comment today when he said, "I don't know where they are but I can hear them coming." The top water feeding frenzy was so crazy at times that literally you could see fish flopping on the surface for hundreds of yards in every direction.
Today's fish count of 129 beat our previous best day of 69 which was set in Maine just a week ago on the Penobscot River.
Our guide today was Captain Russ Wilkinson of Chesapeake Bay Fly Fishing out of St Michaels, Md. We met Captain Russ at 6:30 a.m. today and spent the first 45 minutes in hunting mode as we searched for the tell tale birds that mark the bluefish and striped bass that scavenge the bait fish of the Chesapeake all year long. Three hours later we were wore out and anxious to put an exclamation point on today by driving home to see the rest of the family before departing for Alaska tomorrow morning. The RV made it!! As we pulled into home we noticed that our odometer just crossed over the 14,000 mile mark. Everything about today was a beautiful ending to the journey of the lower 48 States Maryland delivered big time.
The only other note I'll make was the spectacular thunderstorm the night before in Easton, Md. We decided to make the Wal-Mart parking lot our final overnight location. When the air-alert/tornado sirens began to sound around 11 p.m. we quickly went into wide area search mode looking for signs of trouble luckily the scariest moment was the shock of the sirens going off.
Next stop - Anchorage, Alaska - State #49 here we come!
Day 43: New Jersey and Delaware
By Jeff Turner
Our last doubleheader day is finally here. It looks like today will be a 20 hour marathon before it is all said and done. Hopefully this will be one of the last days we set our alarm clock for something in the 4 a.m. hour.
After a 10 mile drive from our campsite we met up with our guide Chris Gantly of Ardent Angler at 6 a.m. on the Delaware River in Frenchtown, N.J. He was rigged and ready to go within seconds of our parking. The weather was clear and the water looked great. We were a bit worried that we might hit another swollen river with the rain in the northeast but everything looked good.
We tossed the big rigs (plastics, cranks, rattletraps) for the first hour before Taylor turned to Mr. Dependable the little No. 3 gold Blue Fox. I was down 10-3 before I cried "uncle" and looked for my blue fox as well. I made a good run at him in the last hour but he clipped me again 15 to 13. He also chewed into my lead a little more and now only trails me by 14 fish with four States to go. He also got another skin and is making that contest interesting too as I lead him 18 to 15. He has a chance to beat me there too if he sweeps the remaining states.
Dad (359 fish); Taylor (345 fish) with a Grand Total of 703 fish to date.
I think the Delaware River set the record for most tubers on the water at one time. There were hundreds no exaggeration.
By 11 a.m., we were on the road again and heading for the Nanticoke River in Delaware where we will fish for largemouth bass tonight.
This evening we fished the little known Nanticoke River in southern Delaware for largemouth bass. There may be a reason this river is not well known and it may be lack of fish. I'm not serious, we were just skunked this evening as everybody has a bad day once in a while. But, we don't feel so bad as there was a local bass tournament that lasted 10 hours today and the top prize went to a pair of local fisherman that boated two fish totaling 3 pounds with one of them being less than 12 inches long. Hmmm. I'm sure this river has fish in it just not sure where they went today. It looked fishy and we did have one blow up on a lure so we at least have some evidence.
We tried just about every lure in the boat. In fact, Taylor couldn't even get a rise on his lucky Blue Fox so you know something had to be off.
We would like to thank our new friend Rick Messick from Maryland who joined us tonight. He's a Maryland guide that fishes the Nanticoke River there. He volunteered to host us tonight on the Delaware side because we were not able to find a guide for this river out of Delaware. We had a good time made fun of each other most of the evening as we put more lures in the trees than in the water half the time. Maybe that's why we didn't catch anything. Our presentation was a bit too terrestrial.
The weather was beautiful as we fished our 45th State out of 47 with no rain.
Our total fish count remains the same: Dad (359 fish); Taylor (345 fish) with a Grand Total of 703 fish to date.
By 10 p.m. we were back in our RV and headed for Maryland. Tomorrow we will tackle the mighty striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay and conclude the RV portion of our journey through the lower 48 States.
Day 42: Rhode Island
By Jeff Turner
Narragansett Bay was our destination today and the mighty striped bass that call the Ocean State's water home. But the old man of the sea didn't cooperate today. It rained 2 inches overnight and the already record rains for this month were added to once again. But it was the winds that would bring small craft advisories into the forefront and prevent us from going out with Jim White of White Ghost Charters. What to do? What to do?
My first thought was to try to find a tail water river that wouldn't be impacted significantly by excessive runoff from the rains this week. Bingo 25 miles to the southwest of us was the Wood River the No. 1 trout fishery in the state. It was also reported to have bass and pickerel in some of the back waters. We asked Jim White if he could recommend a put-in location for our SeaEagle inflatable Foldcat boat "The Plan B". He suggested we target Wyoming Pond.
When we arrived at Wyoming Pond which is actually just a wide stretch of water on Wood River we were pleasantly surprised. This water looked good. It was an exciting challenge and we were up for it.
If you've never seen someone deploy a FoldCat boat it is actually quite amazing. Literally 10 minutes is all it takes to go from your trunk to the water. It is probably the best fishing equipment I'll never be without again.
We weren't exactly sure what to try for trout, bass, pike, perch. So we began an assault on our tackle box to see if we could get any action as we switched from lure to lure looking for a sign. Taylor got a fish to blow-up on his Rapala top water lure first, but before long he was back to his proven Vibrax Blue Fox No. 3 (Gold). Bingo he had two nice largemouth bass in the boat before our first hour was up. We weren't sure if there were trout holding in deeper water so we decided to settle for the warm guys and head for the backwater. It started paying off by the as we began to get some top water action on various floating rapalas. It wasn't a world record day but anytime you show up on a stretch of water you've never seen before, not knowing what fish are present, and catch something, you feel pretty good. Two largemouth, four chain pickerel and one sunfish. I caught three and Taylor caught four. He has now beaten me eight days in a row. Our Skins count is Dad (18) and Taylor (14) with five states to go. Taylor also closed the gap between us to just 16 fish.
Dad (346 fish); Taylor (330 fish) with a Grand Total of 675 fish to date.
On the drive down to New Jersey, Taylor had the wheel when we hit New York City and had the pleasure of driving through during rush hour. I think it left a lasting impression.
Tomorrow marks our final double header day as we tackle New Jersey in the morning and Delaware in the evening. We're catching our second wind which we'll need for tomorrow as it will be a 20 hour day.
Day 41: Connecticut
By Jeff Turner
When we arrived at the Housatonic State Park in western Connecticut last night it looked like this week's heavy rains in the northeast had taken its toll on this world-class river.
Fortunately, Connecticut is not limited to one legitimate trophy trout fishery to choose from. Just 40 minutes to the east is a tailwater river known as the Farmington that would be clear and with the heavy rains the flows would be ideal for a drift float.
Ironically, eight months ago I was literally at the point of tossing a coin to figure out how to choose between these two rivers. This morning the choice was easy.
Our guide, Rob Nicholas of Housatonic Anglers, was more than happy to vector over to the Farmington as he knew this was an awesome river for fishing and for history as the Farmington is one of the six National Wild & Scenic Riverways in New England.
On our drive to the Farmington, Rob thought he would take the route that used the famous Cornwall covered bridge. I always wanted to see this famous covered bridge. I just didn't want to get stuck inside of it.
Why do I say this? As Taylor was fetching the camera I yelled back to Taylor "How high is our RV?" The sign at the bridge's entrance read 10 foot, 11 inches. Taylor yelled out we're 10 foot, 11 inches. Hmmm -- a dilemma. Long story short, we made it, just barely -- even backed up some traffic in the process. For those who might be worried, we were very careful as Taylor shimmied up the ladder to make sure there was no danger. For the historically minded people, I truly was more concerned for the bridge than for my RV.
We launched Rob's drift boat around 8:30 a.m. and were quickly off on a six-mile float. Let's cut to the chase. Taylor beat me 27 to 13 and closed the gap significantly. He is now only 17 fish behind me and has won seven straight states with only six states remaining.
• Dad, 343 fish
• Taylor, 326 fish
Grand Total: 668 fish to date
Before today, our two biggest trout on a river were 19 inches and 19.5 inches, both from the Madison River in Montana. Taylor not only beat that record by catching a beautiful 20-inch Brown trout, he caught two of them that size. He also caught a 17-incher just for good measure. He was on fire today. In total we caught 20 browns, five rainbows, and 15 Atlantic Salmon for the four-hour outing. WOW!! The Farmington is on the map as far as I'm concerned and can stand toe-to-toe with nearly any trout river in America.
By 1 p.m. we were back in our RV and headed for Rhode Island where a storm is brewing. Tonight we're supposed to get two inches of rain -- tomorrow could be dicey.
Day 40: Massachusetts
By Jeff Turner
Like many people, our impression of Massachusetts was solely based on our experiences in Boston and even Logan Airport -- not much sign of wilderness in those images. Although I once lived in Andover, Mass., for a few months, I had never been to western Massachusetts and so a trip to the Berkshires was a highly anticipated journey.
Just two hours from the hustle and bustle of Boston is a New England get-away called the Deerfield River. It had been reported to us that the Deerfield River could give many western trout waters a good run for their money in not only quantity and size of fish but also in beauty, as it is a magnificent river. I saw a few YouTube videos this spring that showed some smallish 7-10 inch trout being taken, so I didn't have the highest expectations upon arriving.
As we began to enter the Berkshire region, the beauty was unmistakable and my anticipation was growing. We met our guide, Jim Dowd who is associated with Zoar Outdoors in Charlemont, Mass., around 9 a.m. Our first order of business was to check the water release schedule for the dam upstream. You see, the river is not floatable unless the dam is releasing significant water.
Fortunately, the release began at 9 a.m., so by the time we would get to our put-in spot the water would be in great shape. As Jim was readying our boat, Taylor grabbed his spinning reel. Jim mentioned to Taylor that this was a PhD section and didn't offer much hope that we would catch a fish from shore here. On his second cast, Taylor landed a beautiful 14-inch wild rainbow -- game on!
Throughout the course of our three-plus-hour float, we landed one pig after another, rainbows, browns, stocked and wild trout, and even brook trout. Taylor had the hot hand again today, boating 12 beautiful fish to my six. These fish weren't scrawny fish, either -- football-shaped trout and fighters. If you're tracking our fish count you'll note that Taylor is making a serious run at catching my fish total for the trip. He is now just 31 fish behind with seven states to go. He has beaten me soundly five days in a row now.
• Dad, 330 fish
• Taylor, 299 fish
Grand Total: 628 fish to date
In conclusion, I can honestly say I was not only pleasantly surprised by what we caught today, but I would tell you this is a world-class river and the people from Massachusetts should be extremely proud of what this river offers.
We also had the pleasure of having Gary Waleik, of National Public Radio in Boston, join up with us today. Waleik is the senior producer of "Only a Game." He is hoping the taping of our conversations will be a feature story on their broadcast on Saturday morning, August 1.
We left the Deerfield River with great memories -- great fish stories, and the friendship of a great guide, Jim Dowd. I'd also like to thank Karen Blom of Zoar Outdoors for hosting us today. Karen and her husband run a top-notch adventure operation out of Charlemont that would be the highlight of any vacation, whether you'd just like to float the Deerfield or go after some trophy fish.
Day 39: Maine
By Jeff Turner
I'm not sure you can't find fish anywhere in Maine. The fishing season is so short that there is virtually no fishing pressure anywhere.
Today we fished the Penobscot River about 30 miles north of Bangor, Maine, where you might think you would see someone on the river. In our four-hour float we didn't see one single fisherman. Maybe that's why today was a fish-fest as we caught a journey-record 69 fish, besting our previous record of 50 from North Dakota.
Our guide, Kevin Tracewski, showed us some new tricks with some Rapala lures and we in turn showed him some new tricks ourselves that paid off big. Kevin's drift boat had a 5-horsepower outboard mounted on it, which gave us some big advantages in covering a lot of shoreline as we zigzagged down the river, hitting the hottest spots for 10 miles.
The television stations in Bangor came out in force today, as all three major stations caught up with us at the boat ramp. Taylor is certainly getting some great public speaking experience that will pay off later in life, certainly much more than he ever imagined or wanted.
Tomorrow morning we will be meeting up with a journalist on the Deerfield River who is out of Boston representing National Public Radio. We still haven't heard from Oprah yet: Does she like to fish?
The competition is heating up between the two of us to see just who will win the fish-count race with just eight states to go.
Here's the fish count so far:
• Dad, 324 fish
• Taylor, 287 fish
Grand Total: 609 to date
Taylor is just 37 fish behind me and knows that the states coming up favor him, so he's got a decent shot.
Last night we arrived at our RV site near Bangor in late afternoon, so I decided to treat Taylor to a movie out. We went to see "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Taylor liked it. It put me to sleep, but just about anything would at this point, I guess.
On our drive south to Massachusetts we hit some hard rain around Portland, Maine. I've been to Portland three times and it seems to always be raining here. Today was also our last long drive, at 350 miles, a huge relief. We've traveled 13,150 miles so far. We're starting to talk about what we need to take with us to Alaska and Hawaii next week.
Day 38: New Hampshire
By Jeff Turner
In 1972, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act, which would begin the process of restoring polluted rivers across America by enforcing pollution controls on industries taking advantage of our nation's riverways.
The Androscoggin River in New Hampshire and Maine was Exhibit A on Capitol Hill. It has been 37 years since the Clean Water Act was signed into law. Could one generation restore a river?
After four hours on this river I would offer a resounding "YES." Had I not known that the Androscoggin River was once virtually dead with regard to fish, I would have never known. The fish are now thriving in these waters.
Taylor and I caught the Androscoggin SLAM of fish today (six species on one float). Atlantic "landlocked" salmon, brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, smallmouth bass and a fish we have yet to identify that we are calling a Suk-Chub.
We caught 22 fish this morning, which brings our grand total to 540. Taylor is 46 fish behind me and vows that he will catch me by the time we finish in Hawaii -- and I am starting to believe he will.
He did have a good day today, besting me 15-7. He caught a beautiful 2-pound Atlantic salmon; a 3-pound Suk-Chub; and a 3-pound smallmouth bass. My best fish of the day was a nice 16-inch brown. Most of my day was spent fly fishing while Taylor was mostly spincasting.
Our guide, Rick Gerber, took us out in a handmade wooden drift boat, which was without question the most beautiful boat we've been in so far.
We left Errol, N.H., around 1 p.m. and chartered our course for eastern Maine, where tomorrow morning we will fish the Penobscot River just above Old Town.
On the drive, we passed three hikers who looked like they could really use a lift. They were two guys and a girl hiking the Appalachian Trail. They began their journey in March and were just 250 miles and two weeks from completing their journey.
They were in need of restocking their supplies, so we drove them to the nearest grocery store 10 miles away. Between our journey and theirs, it was an entertaining drive of swapping stories. Not that they could help it, but they left a little of themselves behind in the RV when they departed, if you know what I mean.
Our miles driven now stands at 12,800.
Day 37: Vermont
By Jeff Turner
We rolled into Vermont, three miles south of the Canadian border, at 10 p.m. on July 19, 2009, with the hopes of experiencing a great day on Lake Champlain the next morning.
Lake Champlain is rarely mentioned when people speak about great bass lakes as the southern giants such as Seminole, Lake Fork, Pickwick and Guntersville often steal the show. But let me tell you, four hours on this Vermont gem will change your mind in a big hurry.
In two hours, we boated 25 smallmouth bass averaging 2 pounds each with several well over 3 pounds.
Amazing!! We may have seen a few lakes with bigger averages, but none could compare to the nonstop action that Champlain provides. In fact, after two hours we decided to give the smallmouth a rest and try our hands at catching some pike.
Another hour of fishing later and we had caught numerous northern pike, chain pickerel and largemouth bass casting rattletraps. In total we boated 36 fish in just more than three hours, which outside of North Dakota was the most productive fishing we've seen in 40 states.
Gil Gagner of Bronzeback Guide Service was at the helm today. Catching 75 pounds of bass in three to four hours seemed as routine for him as getting the mail.
Fish Tip: If you are ever fishing a hump where there are lots of bass, put the fish you catch in your livewell until you are finished on that hump. Captain Gil told us that a caught fish when released excretes a pheromone that spooks the other fish and turns off the bite.
Taylor beat me soundly at 21 fish versus 16, but I was lucky enough to catch the 500th fish of our journey around 8 a.m. We've got a fair number of smallmouth waters in the remaining states, so we're wondering now if we might hit the 700 number before it is over.
The weather was overcast with some pretty strong southerly winds at 20 mph making the big lake pretty rough, but the fish didn't seem to mind.
We are starting to get a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel with only eight more states in the RV before hopping a plane for Alaska and Hawaii. But the northeast U.S. has some amazing water to explore, so there is still more adventure left. We need to dig deep.
By 11 a.m., we were headed east for New Hampshire and the Androscoggin River.
Tonight we have the pleasure of sleeping at the Bethel Inn in Bethel, Maine, just over the border from where we will fish tomorrow morning. We would like to extend a huge thanks to Wendy Gray and the Chamber of Commerce in Bethel for their hospitality in providing us a complimentary room for the night.
Day 36: New York
By Jeff Turner
When I began thinking about fishing New York, a lot of possibilities came to mind. There are countless bass and trout locations in New York to choose from in the hundreds of trophy lakes and rivers. But it was the lure of catching a Chinook (king salmon) that intrigued me the most, and Lake Ontario was where I hoped Taylor might catch his first king.
There are hundreds of charter boats that work these waters, but it was Jeremy Sage of J.D.'s Custom Charters that caught my attention. Here was a young man with fire in his belly -- a guy who loved to fish, was apparently good at it and was inspired by our journey -- and most importantly has a personality I enjoy sharing a morning with.
Like any young entrepreneur, Jeremy was hoping he could get some good press from our relationship on the water, so a good showing would really be great.
The day began early -- 4 a.m. is when my alarm went off. Crawling out of bed is getting tougher each day, but I knew some eager people were waiting. I find that the best way to wake Taylor up is to move the RV's slide out back in while he's on it -- seems to motivate him.
We got a bit turned around in our drive to meet everyone, but luckily a Rochester newspaper reporter, Leo Roth (who would be coming along with us on the water) saw us pass by and ran us down.
Between the two of us we found our rendezvous point with Capt. Jeremy and his first mate Dan Hess. A local television station out of Rochester was also present and set up for a 5:40 a.m. interview. We're not exactly sure what we said, but hopefully they can edit something useful from our sleepy babble.
Jeremy had been working hard on the salmon patterns leading up to our outing and had determined that we needed to trailer our boat about 40 miles to the southwest and launch out of Olcott, N.Y., in order to have our best chances.
His assessments were spot on. In the end, Taylor and I would both rank today's fishing experience in the Top 3 of the 39 states we've fished to date -- an awesome showing for Capt. Jeremy.
By morning's end, Taylor would land a 20-pound king salmon, beating my 14-pound king soundly, and top it off with a Lake Ontario citation trophy steelhead of 10 pounds. All I can say is "UNCLE!"
We boated nine fish in just more than three hours of trolling with kings of 20, 14, 10, 8, 3 and 2 pounds; and steelheads of 10, 7 and 5 pounds. We also had about 10 other short hits and fights that didn't net a fish.
There weren't many moments of relaxation, but when we were Jeremy was feverishly working the downriggers, lure patterns, motor speed to maximize our chances -- it was simply impressive. If you find your way in the Lake Ontario region of New York, please do me a favor and give this guy a call. You won't regret it.
Although the water was as rough as Lake Erie the day before, we both experienced no signs of sea sickness and thoroughly enjoyed our outing under blue skies. We even had a faint, distant view of Toronto's skyline on the horizon to the northwest.
Today was a day of wonderful memories and a place we will definitely return to for the fish and for the company of the friends we made.
Day 35: Ohio
By Jeff Turner
Mention the words Lake Erie and there aren't many fishermen who don't immediately think of walleye fishing. This is as much the capital of walleye fishing as any water in the world.
Choosing Lake Erie to represent Ohio was easy, but finding a guide sure wasn't. Virtually every charter boat within 100 miles of Cleveland is set up for six clients and a price tag to fit them.
Being there were only two of us, what were we to do? I probably spent more time trying to find a guide on Lake Erie that any other. I then stumbled across Lenny Miller's "Get Reel Guide Service" whose motto is "Walleye for two." It was perfect.
We met up with Lenny and his wife the night before, as he had decided to bring his RV trailer up to the Turtle Creek Marina & Campground in Oak Harbor, Ohio, to make the most of a few days on the water. Lenny fixed us a batch of deep-fried walleye and hush puppies to die for.
Around 2 a.m., a band of thunderstorms moved in. We awoke at 5 a.m. It was still raining but the forecast looked like it might break in a few hours. Lenny picked us up at 6 a.m. and we were headed for the big water within 30 minutes.
The winds had died down some, but it was still a very rough ride seven miles out. Unfortunately, Taylor made a bad decision and decided to sit down in the back of the boat -- the equivalent to sitting in the back seat of a car when driving on a mountainous road.
By the time we pulled the worms out he was looking a little green. A few minutes later he managed a big tangle in his line. He should have just cut it but decided to try to unwind it. Not a good decision as he lost his equilibrium, was full blown sea sick and would not recover before we put our feet on land a few hours later. He did manage to keep his breakfast down.
I always look for the silver lining in everything, so in spite of Taylor struggling through a few hours of sea sickness without complaining, we did manage a Lake Erie SLAM, which consisted of catching five species (walleye, catfish, yellow perch, white perch, and sheephead).
After we got 10 fish in the boat we decided not to push Taylor's patience any further and headed for shore. Although Taylor had taken some Bonine that morning and was wearing wristbands that usually work well, it just wasn't enough today.
Tomorrow we plan to be fishing big water again on Lake Ontario, so we plan to stop and get some home sea sickness remedies consisting of ginger and lime. Thankfully we won't be drifting tomorrow, which will help.
Fish count to date:
Dad (269 fish); Taylor (206 fish); Combined total (473 fish through 38 states)
Day 34: Michigan
By Jeff Turner
The Au Sable River in north central Michigan is without question one of the most beautiful rivers in the world -- fish or no fish. But this river has fish -- lots of them and big ones. In fact, the lore behind this river dates back more than a century and is hailed by avid fly fisherman the world over as a must fly fish river once in your lifetime.
Bob Linsenman, a prolific fly fishing author, speaker and expert in this part of the country, rarely guides anymore, but when he told us he would be our host for the day we were humbled, honored and excited. We would later find out we were the first new clients he's accepted in more than two years.
We met Bob at his fly shop in Mio, Mich., at 7:30 a.m. along with some local television reporters who had asked if they could film a short piece on our adventure for the nightly news at our launch point. It took a bit longer than we had planned to do the filming, but by 9 a.m. we were afloat.
The top water action the first few hours was hot. Fish were rising all around us and we were getting plenty of hits and boating a good number of rainbow and brown trout.
At Bob's urging, I switched to a big streamer rig and tried my hand at raising some of the larger fish of the river. It certainly worked -- they rose -- but I wasn't as skilled at getting them to strike. I had a few near misses but seemed to always lose them shortly after the strike.
Lunch was a real treat as Bob graciously provided a smorgasbord of smoked salmon, cheese, crackers, fried chicken and strawberries.
The afternoon was a bit tougher on us as the fish seemed to slow down a bit, but in the end we boated 17 rainbow and brown trout. No monsters but truly a day to remember. Even if you don't fish, a canoe float would be a must if you ever find your way here.
The culminating highlight of the day came on our drive south in Michigan. You see, a few days ago we received an e-mail from a Michigan resident (Kent Aven) who was excited to see our route was passing by his home town. He went on to say how he was inspired by our journey and asked about the possibility of meeting us.
The logistics seemed to be working out, so we hooked up with Kent at the nearby Cracker Barrel at 3:30 p.m. Besides the great conversation, we enjoyed for an hour, he also sent us on our way with some of the best cuisine Michigan has to offer. Some legendary Cogle Bologna, Verner's Ale, Clemento Napolitano Bread, and Traverse City Black Cherries -- an awesome ending to a blessed day.
Day 33: Indiana
By Jeff Turner
The sea was angry today, my friend, and the rainless streak is over at 35. It was a good run.
We awoke at 4 a.m. to the sound of distant thunder and the knowledge that today would be our first test in the rain. Unfortunately rain, lightning, and Lake Michigan are not usually good bed fellows. We met Capt. Mike Schonveld and his good friend and mate Mike Ryan at 5 a.m. near the Portage Indiana Marina to first learn that Plan B was already in action.
We would not be going out on Lake Michigan this morning after the famed Skamania steelhead. We were relieved to escape the uncertain danger of navigating 15 miles offshore in a lightning storm.
Instead, we would make a trek up the Salt Creek to find our steelhead there. Salt Creek is as similar to a northwest steelhead stream as I've ever seen. Steep banks, winding switchback channels, and lots of flood debris to navigate.
We hopped into their vehicles and drove about five miles to our first hike-in location. The rain was now heavy and the stream bank was as slippery as eel snot. Falling flat on our butts was the order of the morning followed by trying to figure out how to get back up the stream banks after we had climbed down.
It was literally a four-man operation as we formed human chains and used loose limbs and sticks to fetch each other up the banks. Mike Ryan was an avid steelheader, but admitted most of his stream fishing was in the winter months and the stream was very different this morning.
After 30 minutes at the first spot we jumped in the vehicles again and went up stream another five miles. That stretch of the stream also proved to be poor. It had rained so heavily that the stream was a total mud hole -- bummer.
We weren't to be defeated just yet, so we went to Plan C: the piers. At the mouth of Salt Creek on Lake Michigan are the fishing piers in the Indiana Sand Dunes State Park. This actually looked pretty fishable. The skies were clearing, the water was calm, and within minutes of arriving we could see action in the water as an occasional steelhead would leap.
Unfortunately they seemed to be just beyond our casts. We used a spinning rig as well as some shrimp-bait rigs to test their interest, but to no avail. By 10 a.m., we were declaring victory and concluding that today was just one of those days.
I want to commend and thank Mike Schonveld and his friend Mike Ryan. Their commitment to our journey was honorable and heart warming. They did everything they could to put us on some fish -- and under the worst of weather conditions. We've met a lot of wonderful people along the way -- and these men are what make this country great.
They went above and beyond in the face of adversity today -- with nothing to gain. God bless you guys!
Day 32: Illinois
By Jeff Turner
Musky -- "The fish of 10,000 casts." Ten months ago I recall a few hecklers in the musky blog circles laughing at our decision to fish Illinois' Fox Chain o' Lakes for musky. After fishing Lake Vermilion in Minnesota three days earlier, I began to think -- maybe these guys were right.
Could a series of lakes on the outskirts of Chicago really hold enough musky to give us a fighting chance? Ben Modica of Musky Fix Guide Service has made a living catching musky from these waters, so I felt our chances were better than average.
I called Ben the day before to get his thoughts on when the musky bite might be happening today. He was really hoping we could fish later in the day, but given our schedule the best we could hope for was 8 a.m. to noon.
We met Ben at Barnacle Bob's in Antioch, Ill., and were off. Roughly 45 minutes later we had our first follow -- a smallish-sized musky about 35 inches followed the lure to the boat and quickly swam away. This was a good sign. At least they are moving, we thought.
Thirty minutes later another musky approximately 42 inches came crashing in on the boat following my lure -- I furiously tried to entice a strike with a figure eight pull of my lure through the water but the fish only made one turn and then swam away. Strike two.
A few minutes later a really big guy came cruising in on Taylor's lure. We estimated this one to be 48 inches long but it didn't hit. Was this strike three?
No, a fourth follow would come before Taylor would get the thrill of a lifetime when a heavy, 39-inch musky came crashing in. It was an awesome sight as the musky furiously tried to keep pace with the sweeping lure at the boat's edge before sinking his teeth into the lure.
With only 18 inches of line between the fish and the rod tip it was literally like having a tiger by the tail. Ben was quick with the net and had the fish safely lassoed within 15 seconds.
I would later have a 45-incher on the line only to lose him. In total we got one in the boat, lost one on the fight, and had six other followers to the boat. Our heart rate varied from 72 to 144 most of the day. Eight muskies spotted in four hours. We were excited and relieved as the Fox paid off.
We departed Antioch around 1 p.m. and were off to Indiana. The traffic around Chicago was pretty bad, given it was early afternoon. Today's drive was our second shortest of our journey, at just more than 95 miles. Tomorrow we will fish for Skamania steelhead in the Indiana waters of Lake Michigan.
Today marked our 35th straight state with no rain, but the forecast doesn't look good for the morning. Hopefully the storms will blow through early.
Finally, we are closing in on 11,000 miles for our journey and have only two weeks before we depart our RV and board a plane for Alaska and Hawaii.
Day 31: Iowa
By Jeff Turner
We knew people in Iowa were serious about fishing when we saw a family pull over to fish from shore and pull out a bobber the likes of which I have never seen. Just check out the photo below.
But seriously, Clear Lake has been known for some really nice fishing over the years. In fact, numerous walleye in the 7-10 pound class are caught here every year. But it wasn't the walleye that were hitting today ... it was the yellow bass.
Taylor even landed a citation yellow bass, which by size may not have looked like much but by yellow bass aficionados it was huge. We didn't have time to get an official record created so we released him for another to get the credit one day.
Clear Lake was once true to its name, as it was created from receding glaciers leaving a once crystal clear water body. But nearby farming in the past century has brought the silt from farmland runoff into the lake and year by year the lake has filled in.
Two years ago an aggressive plan began to dredge the smaller bay of the lake, increasing its depth by upwards of 10 feet -- an amazing accomplishment.
The walleye fishing this year has been a bit off, as evidenced by our lack of walleye action today. In the end the yellow bass, white bass and catfish of the lake kept us entertained this morning.
Our guide, Mike Peterson of North Iowa Fishing, was gracious and anxious to put us on the fish. We caught fish at nearly every spot we tried across the lake.
The most interesting thing of the morning was the entertainment provided by two local boys fishing on a bridge just in front of us. One of the boys, about 12 years old, hooked into a 10-pound carp and fought the poor fish for what seemed like an hour, while his younger accomplice attempted to net the elusive creature over and over again.
It was one of those "should we pull anchor and go help them?" moments. But, we figured, how will they ever learn if they don't give it the old college try?
Ironically, on the near 50th attempt the poor carp, dazed and confused, ran into their net and they had him. Here's where it gets a little graphic. Let me insert here that the carp are not wanted in the lake, as they are eating the much-needed vegetation on the shorelines that help control the silt problem.
So the boys were simply doing their part to eradicate the carp as best they knew how. As the carp began his best attempt to find the water again, the boys resorted to their primitive instincts to silence the beast that lay in front of them.
A good pop on the head should do it, but all the younger boy had available was his 4 foot aluminum net. Enter the "Axe man commeth" as the young man in primal display hacked the poor fish with his aluminum net like a seasoned woodsman splitting wood.
We all thought, "Oh, that's not right." But it got the job done -- or so they thought. A minute later they turned their back on him and with one flop left in the ol' carp -- he leaped right back in the lake and swam off. Priceless.
Today marked our 34th state in a row with no rain -- clear skies on Clear Lake.
After an interview with some local press, we were back on the road again around 12:30 p.m. -- setting our course for Fox Chain o' Lakes in Illinois, where tomorrow we will make one last attempt to catch the elusive musky. Taylor has vowed that he will have his day tomorrow -- and I hope he does.
Days 1-15, including Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania