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A good fish story is never truly finished

When it comes to fishing, some people make the mistake of thinking that all you need is a rod, a reel and a tackle box full of assorted lures and hooks. Those things will get you started. But to be a real fisherman, you also need at least one good fish story to go with all that gear. A collection of fish stories is even better.

However, a fish story is something you cannot purchase at your favorite outdoor store. True fish stories can only be obtained by spending time on the water with a fishing rod in your hand, and they are never truly finished. A true fish story continues to develop as the years go by, and its details remain somewhat flexible.

Larry Hanson, of Henderson, began working on his big fish story when he purchased his first boat in 1997 and started fishing for striped bass at Willow Beach. During the ensuing years, Hanson spent what he described as many enjoyable days on the water there, but the fish were never cooperative.

“I’ve been fishing Willow Beach for 23 years. And you know what’s crazy about that is I’ve never got a hit on anything out there. Ever. It’s amazing!” said Hanson with a hearty laugh.

That laugh reflected a change to Hanson’s story. A change that occurred June 11 when Hanson took friend Greg Berthelot to Willow Beach as kind of a farewell outing before the latter moved out of state.

Since this was a last-minute outing, the duo did not launch the boat until 3 p.m., rather late compared to the typical launch time for anglers who fish for the big stripers known to inhabit that portion of Lake Mohave. But perhaps that was just what Hanson needed to change his luck.

With Berthelot at the wheel, Hanson threw out a SPRO BBZ-1 swimbait and began trolling south from the marina. Within minutes Hanson felt the unmistakable tug of a large striper hitting the six-inch trout imitation.

“The pole just locked up, and as soon as I grabbed it out of my rod holder, I felt the tug. And I said, man I got something on here. My heart just started pumping because, like I said, after all those years (with) nothing and here it is,” said Hanson. “All of a sudden I see the fish, its body came out of the water and it really got exciting.”

Hanson’s first-ever Willow Beach striper weighed in at 18.1 pounds. The two men looked at each other and Berthelot said, “You know, I’ve never seen a fish that big. If we don’t catch another fish the rest of the day, I’m happy.”

Not a bad way to get rid of the skunk that had been hanging on for so long, but the updates to Hanson’s fish story were just beginning.

About 20 minutes later, the swimbait fooled another striper. A 32-inch bruiser that measured 18 inches around its low-slung belly, weighed just over 22 pounds and battled Hanson for about 15 minutes. At that point, “we can’t believe what’s happening,” exclaimed Hanson. “Not just one, now we got two!”

But the story took a strange turn when the anglers went to place the fish on the stringer with their first catch and found that the 18-pounder had somehow managed to free itself. Because that fish was too large for the Hanson’s metal stringer, he had used a piece of ⅝ rope instead and now the fish was gone. Undaunted, he replaced the rope with a tow strap and went back to trolling.

About a half hour later, Hanson’s rod bent over yet again.

“All of a sudden I see the tip of my pole just slam the water. Talk about excitement! And I said, ‘Greg put into neutral, I got something!’” said Hanson.

“That’s a snag, not a fish,” Berthelot replied.

Hanson’s snag turned out to be a 33-pound striper that measure more than 42 inches from nose to tail and had a girth of 24 inches. Not a bad early birthday present for Hanson, who turned 50 on Monday. And not a bad way to update a 23-year-old fish story.

I wonder how big those fish will be in a year or two.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com

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