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Points North: So What Color Is Monkey Puke?


FinalCut_PN_20100722.mp38.78 MB

 In fishing, nothing lasts forever. Even the best fishing rods break. Reels wear out. Lines snap. And favorite fishing lures are eventually lost.

While my rods and reels are presently intact—including some I’ve used for decades—my collection of tried-and-true Lake Superior lures is down by two after a recent morning on the water. The first was a glow-in-the-dark spoon that hooked up when the downrigger to which it was attached started bouncing on the bottom 50 feet beneath us. The second was a Rebel FasTrac left in the mouth of what was likely a rambunctious steelhead.
Both losses could be chalked up to operator error. I was out with a newbie and the lost lures were part of the learning curve as we choreographed our trolling routine. But leaving a couple of lures in Davy Jones’s Tackle Box was painful nonetheless. You can replace a broken fishing rod or reel by buying another. But purchasing a replacement fishing lure doesn’t guarantee you are buying the luck that came with the original.
Maybe it’s just superstition, but I believe some lures are luckier than others. Two identical spoons may appear the same to you and me, but often one will vastly outperform the other when it comes to catching fish. Obviously, the fish can see a difference that we cannot, perhaps in the way the spoon moves through the water.
Nearly, every summer, I happen upon one or two exceptionally hot trolling lures. No matter how many lures you are dragging behind the boat, the majority of fish will be taken on the “hot” one. I don’t know what makes a particular lure work so well, but I never argue with success.
Unfortunately, when you lose a hot one, it can be difficult to replace. During the ‘90s, I had a small Laker Taker spoon that accounted for the demise of dozens of trout and salmon. One day, while fishing in a friend’s boat, I suggested we give it a try. The spoon promptly drew a hard strike, which was when we discovered my friend was using old and weak fishing line. My lucky spoon was gone. For more than a decade I’ve tried to replace it, but haven’t found a Laker Taker of the same size and color, much less the luck, of the original.
Another favorite spoon is still in my box, but is so worn from catching fish the original color pattern—purple with pink polka dots--is badly chipped and faded. Once again, while the brand is still widely available along the North Shore, I’ve never seen that particular color pattern. However, the search continues.
Some lures are easy to replace, but you still don’t want to lose the lucky original. A case in point is a jointed orange floating Rapala that’s followed my boat for years. The other day I pulled it out, thought about the Coho salmon it hooked over the years, and clipped it on a line. Not long afterward, I had the lure in hand once more as I unhooked a sleek Coho.
Over the years, orange has been a consistently productive color for me along the North Shore. For awhile, I was enamored with purple, due in part to my luck with a favorite spoon, as well as with a purple Apex pulled behind a small silver flasher that was death on Chinooks for a couple of seasons. Over time, I’ve found not all shades of purple have equal fish-attracting appeal. More consistent is a glow-in-the-dark finish used with other colors, including purple. Silver is good sometimes, as are hot pink and chartreuse.
Many lures in my box combine two or more colors in elaborate patterns. Great Lakes lures are often a kaleidoscope of colors with imaginative, if not descriptive, names. For instance, what color, specifically, is monkey puke? Or ‘57 Chevy, Wonder Bread, Aneurysm or Tammy Fae? And what attracts fish to any of the above?

Since none of us air-breathing anglers can think like a fish, we cannot know why some colors and lures work better than others. In fact, about all we really know for certain is what works for us and what doesn’t. And that’s why we have favorite lures. Now there are some, usually outdoor writers, who will tell you having faith in a favorite lure will lead you to rely on it even when it isn’t working and will hinder you from experimenting with other lures or techniques. While there is some truth to this assertion, most anglers start trying different things when they aren’t catching fish. And if you favorite is producing, why argue with success? And by the way, if you are like me and a little secretive about your fishing, you don’t have to reveal your pet lure. If someone asks you what the fish are biting on, just tell them “monkey puke.” It works every time.

Airdate: July 22, 2010