“THERE ARE PLACES I’ll remember all my life, though some have changed. Some forever, not for better. Some have gone and some remain. All these places have their moments with lovers and friends I can still recall. Some are dead and some are living. In my life I’ve loved them all.” 

—“In My Life,” The Beatles




In my life, there are places I remember and though some have changed, some forever, not for the better, I still love them all.

Among those places, the lake I grew up on, Plum Lake, is one of those places I still love and always will. Despite the fact many things have changed on the lake, probably forever and in my opinion not for better, I will always love Plum Lake.

From the beginning of my time, Plum Lake has been a part of my life. My cousins’ grandfather, Millard Long, owned a large resort on the west end of the lake and from the time I was 7 or 8, somewhere in there, my cousins and I were allowed to take a resort rowboat anytime we wished to fish Plum Lake. The only caveat was that we not go beyond the narrows and no farther than the culvert separating the main lake from West Plum.

By the time we reached the age of 10, our fishing world was expanded to West Plum. Throughout the west end, from man-made brush piles in front of the resort to the long bar down by Camp Warwick to the sand bar in front of the campground and pretty much anywhere on West Plum, we caught fish.

My first big fish, a whopping 18-inch northern pike, was caught outside a bed of lily pads down the shoreline from McCormick’s resort. I was an elderly 7-year-old at the time and was fishing with my cousin, Brian.

I was casting an old-time lure, a South Bend Super Duper, which could be simply described as a 3⁄8-inch wide, 5-inch piece of steel bent in a long-legged “u” with red painted at the end of the gold prongs. A single treble hook was attached to the business end.

On the cast that made my personal history, I noticed the reel handle was very loose when I began my retrieve. After about two turns of the crank, the handle fell off. The Super Duper fell dead on the lake bottom while I found the nut and got the handle tightened down.

Back in business, I resumed my retrieve. Apparently, the pike had been eyeing up the gaudy minnow on the bottom and the second it began to swim, it attacked. The battle was fierce, at least for a 7-year-old at the controls, but in short order, Brian had it in the net and we were rowing triumphantly back to the resort to show off my trophy to Millard.

Millard, a man not given to much sentimentality, allowed as how it was a mite small, but that it would go good for the departing guests’ potluck fish fry at Millard’s Honky Tonk the evening before they all left. I took that as a great compliment and spent the rest of the day strutting around with my chest puffed out. Brian and I spent a few more hours that day trying to catch a bigger pike, but as it turned out, there was to be no more glory.

Another day, during the summer of our 10th year, there was much more glory. It was a windy day, with gusts around 25. We tried fishing the lee side of the lake near the railroad pilings without any luck. We finally decided to head for the narrows, but an argument ensued over who would do the rowing there against the wind.

We decided to have a casting contest to decide the issue. I took the first cast and sent a large Dardevle® flying through the air a tremendous distance. I grinned like a Cheshire cat, figuring I had the contest sewn up. Brian had other ideas. With a giant lead-bodied Abu bucktail clipped to his leader, he let fly with a cast that flat out whipped mine fair and square.

But a funny thing happened on the retrieve. Unbeknownst to us, we had drifted onto the end of the long bar and halfway in on the retrieve, a fish hit the Abu. Brian fought it and I readied the net. Expertly scooping it on its first pass, I lifted the first legal muskie either of us had ever caught, a 34 incher, out of the water and into the boat. 

Brian sat on the thrashing fish as I rowed without argument for the resort. After Millard approved of it, we hustled to Brian’s dad’s taxidermy shop where Uncle Neal began the process of putting the fish on the wall. To this day, it hangs in a place of honor in his house among several muskies of up to 40-plus pounds he has caught during a long career of muskie guiding.

Plum Lake has given me more memories than I could count, from my youth and right up to last Saturday evening, when I launched my kayak from what was the Camp Warwick property. Drifting and casting a tiny Mini-Mite, also called a Cubby Jig, I worked the edges of emerging lily pads and downed logs looking for bluegills.

I caught two, along with a lonely perch, all of which were released, but the highlight of the evening was the excitement of landing two largemouth, one 17-inch and one 20-inch beauty on my ultralight rig with 4-pound test line. 

I also could have easily snagged a 40-inch water snake that swam by 5 feet from the kayak. Toward dusk, I saw a strange light-colored bird flitting toward me along the shore only to discover when it got closer that it was a large luna moth, the first of its kind I’ve seen in years.

All too soon, it was time to leave the lake, the lake of my youth, the lake of my love. I shall return.