All of my fishing this season has been on private ponds with easy bank access and zero competition. Today's outing was different, and the whole family packed up and headed to the lake for some early Sunday fishing. As we jockeyed for space along the cattail-covered banks and competed for the best slab-netting setup, we quickly realized the fishing was going to be less than stellar. Our theory was confirmed by the half-dozen boaters trolling by, lamenting the lack of action on the water and wishing us luck with our bobbers and lures. The only part of the outing that was going as predicted was the heat and humidity, which had us shedding layers and reaching for sunblock before 9 am.
While I was on the cast, sweat, and repeat cycle, I started guessing about the animal headed my way. I was familiar with the incessant rustle of squirrels pestering me from the tree stand, and we had just released a juvenile raccoon just yards from my current fishing spot that had been robbing my parent's apricot tree at night. Last fall, I even had a coyote run practically into my lap before it scented me on the ground, but based on the amount of rustling I heard, I wasn't expecting something that large. Bowhunting had taught me the beauty of absolute stillness, so I sat tight to wait and see what was coming, since there was little to no chance of having a fish on anytime soon.
What I never expected to see peeking up at me was a little brown face on a long, sleek body. At first glance, I thought the world's largest rat was headed at me, but as it emerged onto the bank with its mother and littermate, I realized I had a mink family on my hands...or rather, on my feet. Up to this point, I had only seen one other mink in the wild as it skittered across a gravel road, so I checked again; no hairless tail to indicate a muskrat, too small for an otter, wrong color for a weasel. The kits were blissfully unaware that they had encountered a human, and the mother was fairly unconcerned as well. As she surveyed me without fear, the babies ran up to my feet, sniffing my sneakers and consulting with each other in quiet mink chirps. I held my breath and quietly snapped photos, hoping they wouldn't notice my movements and run away or attack my ankles, for getting a rabies shot was not on my to-do list for the day. When they moved on down the bank, I reeled in my lure and ran back to the rest of my family to share the unbelievable experience. I believe my direct quote was "I don't even care if I get blanked fishing today, that was the coolest thing ever!"
I probably shouldn't have said that last sentence, since I did turn up a goose egg for fishing for the day. Even after relocating to another lake, I was the only one who caught no fish; swimbaits and soft plastics just didn't compete with my mom's bucket of nightcrawlers. However, I don't really care; not only did I get to spend a beautiful day fishing with my family, but I scouted out two new fishing locations, experimented with a bunch of new baits, and had a once-in-a-lifetime experience to boot. Not too bad for a humid June morning.