By RALPH BARTHOLDT
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which evangelist spread the gospel of garlic on Fernan Lake Wednesday that George McGinty swears is a cure for a fruitless day of fishing.
McGinty who left the lake Wednesday afternoon with five plump rainbow trout — the limit — cleaned and de-gilled, dangling from his fingers, said a man in a pickup truck told him garlic was the key to catching fish from shore.
McGinty began fishing a couple hours after sun up and had used several methods without success.
“This guy told me to get some garlic Powerbait,” he said.
The day started with rain showers, but the weather had already changed three times when McGinty drove briefly into town and returned with a couple varieties of garlic-flavored fish attractor.
That’s when things changed for him.
“It’s going to be a wonderful trout dinner tonight,” he said.
He hadn’t even intended on fishing today.
His friend and usual fishing partner was due for dialysis and McGinty didn’t plan to enjoy himself under those circumstances. But, his pal insisted.
“He told me to just go fish,” McGinty said. “So, I did.”
He parked at Codger’s Corner — named by anglers, and not found on a map — and got to work. He wasn’t sure who the man was with the advice about garlic.
“It was just a guy,” he said.
A half-mile east, standing in a quiet bay under pines when the sun came out reflecting like a lantern on the glassy water and turning the shoreline golden, Sanford Reese had not heard about the garlic phenomenon.
He was fishing for bluegills with nightcrawlers, and had six of them on a stringer in the water and another on his line.
“Stay away from there,” he grunted as the fish tried to dive under a submerged limb.
Reese, of Kingston, dropped his wife off at the Smelterville Walmart and decided to head over the pass around 7 a.m. to fish Fernan Lake’s shoreline.
Years ago, he walked the shore casting for bass. His biggest is a 5-pounder.
“There’s a lot of big bass in here,” the 70-year-old said.
But his knees don’t respond well anymore to hiking the uneven, sometimes steep and rocky shoreline.
“They don’t like it,” he said. “I was a lot younger then.”
He sometimes uses a pontoon rowboat that he launches at the docks on the east end of the lake to crawl along its southern, roadless shoreline chasing perch, although he said the perch fishing has declined over the years.
Reese casts carefully, especially with people nearby. He took a No. 8 hook in the lip once from an errant back cast, and once he hooked himself with a big treble, sinking the barb deep into his hand. He pushed the point and barb out. It was painful.
“There was sweat rolling down my face,” he said.
Poking the hook through the outer layer of epidermis was difficult.
“That’s tough skin,” he said. “I had a hard time poking it through.”
A nephew is coming up from the University of Idaho, Reese said. He plans to serve him a fish dinner.
“I’m going to need a lot of these,” he said as another bluegill bent his pole.
On a point nearby, Mike Clark and Jack LaRoque groused about progress, politics, population and land use.
LaRoque, a retired heavy equipment mechanic, and Clark, an industrial electrician, foresee blue-green algae blooms and milfoil destroying the lake in the future. Maybe sooner than later. Much of it is caused by leaking septic systems, they agree. They have fished it for decades and document the changes.
The two men helped author the garlic manifesto.
Garlic Powerbait, and garlic gel,” Clark said. “It sticks like Vaseline.”
“The fish really go after it.”
The formula Clark said, includes a 5/8-ounce slip sinker on a 3-foot leader. Glob a teardrop-shaped hunk of garlic Powerbait on a No. 16 treble hook and let the rig sit on the bottom.
A 3/4-ounce slip sinker works too.
Today Clark will buy some lead weights from Wayne Brewer of Rathdrum, who makes his own from bullet lead and sells them to anglers from a cardboard box in his car. Brewer wears an 82nd Airborne cap. The box has Made In America written on it with a felt marker.
He calls himself the “sinker maker.”
“That’s high grade lead,” Clark said.
The men — along with McGinty — prefer the planted rainbow trout that have wintered over in the lake, as opposed to the newly-stocked fish.
“The longer they stay in the lake, they become natural feeders and their meat turns pink,” Clark said.
He caught a trout on Tuesday that measured more than 16 inches.
“They are very good eaters,” he said.
Located 10 minutes east of downtown Coeur d’Alene, Fernan Lake provides easy access for anglers and contains more than 10 species of fish including trout, bass and perch, according to Idaho Fish and Game.