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Craig Lake State Park - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip

Dates: July 6, 2000 - July 8, 2000
Nearest City: Champion, MI
Difficulty: Moderate
Trip Type: Weekend Trip
Water Type: Flatwater
We arrived at Craig Lake State Park on the afternoon of July 6, 2000. After portaging our gear from the parking lot to the waterfront we loaded up our 18' Souris River Jensen Huron and departed across Craig Lake. Never having been here before, we searched the shoreline for a quiet campsite. We settled on a beautiful site atop a hill and near to the portage into Crooked Lake. We quickly set up camp and launched the canoe back into the water, leaving our newfound home and setting out to explore the area.

Paddling along the winding shoreline, we slowly made our way across Craig Lake taking note of places that might hold fish and campsites that could be utilized on future journeys. We waved at the few people we did see and they smiled and waved back, understanding a mutual respect and love for this wilderness area. A small stand of trees was growing from a rock that jutted through the calm surface of the water. This stand of trees was an ideal perch for an eagle; on later nights we determined that this must have been a favorite fishing perch for this eagle and his mate.

It wasn't long and I joined the eagle in his attempt to catch a fish or two. I decided that as long as I was paddling around the lake I might as well troll a Rapala and see if anything was interested. Soon I was into my first fish, a smallish walleye, of which there seemed to be plenty in this lake. I returned him to the water and continued on my way. Although there was rumored to be some large pike and even muskie in the lake I could find neither. I did manage to catch both smallmouth and largemouth bass in addition to the walleye. We decided that the next day we would portage into Clair Lake and fish for smallmouth.

We awoke early that morning and after a breakfast of pancakes we set off toward Clair Lake. Paddling across to the far shore of the lake we noticed a small whitetail deer, glowing orange in the early morning sun. We took this to be a good omen for the day and landed our canoe at the portage and set out to Clair Lake.

Clair Lake is a small lake and the bottom is littered with huge slabs of rock, perfect cover for smallmouth, and were there ever smallmouth. It didn't take long and we were catching fish. Tossing surface baits towards shore and watching the bronze bombers attack was a delight. None of the fish we caught were huge, but you can't beat the excitement of watching a 12-inch bass attack your lure within inches of shore. Once again we returned all of the fish to the water to grow and be caught again by other anglers. We fished the morning away and then returned to Craig Lake.

Although the fishing on this trip was splendid, it is not what I will remember most. The sights and sounds of nature stand out as the highlights of the trip. Here are just a few of the incredible things we witnessed:

  • One day, just around the bend from our campsite we were slowly paddling along when we watch a large smallmouth shoot a foot and a half out of the water. Curiously we paused to see if it would jump again, and we were not let down. Five times we watched this fish jump out of the water in an all but hopeless attempt to catch a dragonfly as it passed above. Lurking under the water this fish would watch the dragonfly and attempt to time its leap to when the dragonfly was nearest the water. Although we never saw the fish catch one, or even come close, you had to wonder if the next jump would produce a meal for the fish.
  • As we paddled across an open stretch of water we noticed two bald eagles flying high above the waters. In this case it was what we didn't see that was so impressive. Hidden by our distance from the birds was the fact that one eagle had a fish in its talons and the other was trying to take the fish away from the first eagle. We only know this because two people whom we stopped to talk to were fortunate enough to be much closer than we were and kind enough to share their experience with us.
  • The majesty and beauty of the loon is only surpassed by the uniqueness of the sound it makes. Lying in the tent at night and listening to the call of the loon is just about as good as it can get. Their song filled the air as I was quickly whisked away to sleep.

With all the beauty that true wilderness has to offer it is amazing that I made it back to work and back to civilization. If I find any solace in leaving the wilderness behind it is that I can share my experiences with others and put a sparkle in their eye as I tell tales of that weekend in July.

Have you had experiences like this? If so, why not share them with others on Paddling.net and put a spark in someone else's life as they dream of someday following in your footsteps.


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