Getting away with my life at Lake Havasu
By Doug Busey
Tribune fishing writer
Hello, fellow anglers.
Sorry I have been away so long, but I do have a good excuse. As many of you may have seen in a recent article, my last vacation wasn’t as great as I would have liked it to be.
Let me explain.
I went to Lake Havasu, Ariz., to fish with my longtime friend Steve Lightfoot, who now resides in Havasu City. The first day did take a little getting used to; I was not used to 112-degree temperatures. My biggest worry was a sunburn. That first evening we ventured out on Lightfoot’s 26-foot pontoon boat to find the giant catfish. We fished until midnight and oh, did we have fun. We kept three fish weighing between 4 to 9 pounds and lost bigger ones.
The next day we were met by another friend, Tom Schlapkohl, formerly of Carson City. We fished in the middle of Lake Havasu over the Colorado riverbed. Here we went for stripped bass, and, yes, we got into some decent fish. By this time the heat didn’t even phase me any longer, except for the ritual of putting on sunscreen every half hour .
On the third day I extended my stay for three more days. The fourth was a special night. We made enough sandwiches for an army and had a plan to fish all night for catfish. By 3 a.m. we beached the boat in a quiet cove to catch some shuteye, only to be awakened a few hours later by a passing boat.
First things first, we baited up the poles and got the coffee going. I stepped off of the bow of the boat to catch some of the beauty that Lake Havasu had to offer at 6 a.m. A perfect morning, the sun starting to come up and the temperature was 94 degrees. The view of green shrubbery lined the coves back end, while small bass jumped around the toolies.
I grabbed my camera and started to take pictures, then I found a footpath that led through the greenery. On the other side was like walking into the twilight zone. I passed from beautiful lake scenery into the middle of a desert, with wild cactus plants and landscapes that would exclude you from reality for a while. I took pictures of some of the cactus and landscape, but when I bent down to get a closer picture of a small flowering-type cactus, holding my digital camera down as far as I could get, I saw a familiar sight to my right. It was the tail of a rattlesnake shaking.
I quickly jumped back 4 to 6 feet, then looked to see where he might be, so I could go the other way. I realized as I looked at my hand, I had been bitten on my left ring finger. I grabbed my wrist, holding it below my heart and started back to the boat. As I approached the boat, I yelled to Steve what had happened.
Before I could get to the boat, the coffee was dumped and the poles were reeled in and the motor was ready to go. Steve drove straight to the launch and then quickly took me to the Havasu Medical Center. The staff on hand was fast and very professional in this dire situation.
As I was administered 12 vials of antivenom, I watched beyond belief as my left arm from my shoulder to my hand swelled over five times larger than normal. By this time, I was in excruciating pain and felt as if my arm and hand would explode from the intense pressure. I was on 24-hour watch, hooked up to a machine to watch my every vital signs, while having blood tests done every two hours.
My Naw hat is off to the staff that night. I thought for sure someone would want to slap me. But Dr. Baig and the full nursing staff had handled this type of accident before and knew just how to handle the situation.
By the next day the swelling had stopped and the pain had slightly subsided. To describe what my finger looked like would be too horrible in words. I was released later that afternoon, still with a hand as big as a balloon and an arm the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. The only way I can describe the pain is: take a latex glove and blow it up as far as you can, then blew it up a little more. When you hear that stretching point just before it pops, that is how my hand felt.
I can not tell you how thankful I am for my friend Steve Lightfoot and for the professional people at Havasu Medical Center. I am home now; next week I will find out if doctors can perform a skin graft or if my finger will have to be amputated. My only advice I can give is: Remember your surroundings and where you are. I made a grave mistake and I got caught up in the beauty of the scenery and fishing. Now I will pay the price, but this time not with my life but with a finger. The Naw will be off for a while recouping from surgery.
Here is your local report. Remember to check your regulations this time of year for closures.
LAKE TAHOE: Report from Gene St. Denis is that Mackinaw action has picked up and is rated good to excellent. St. Denis has been averaging 4 to 8 fish a trip ranging 2 to 11 pounds. Best areas have been the Cal/Neva Point to Dollar Point, fishing in 100 to 200 feet of water. Use flashers or a dodger followed by a live minnow. St. Denis also picked up an 8-pound rainbow trout in 100 feet of water off Dollar Point. Fishing at the Cave Rock ramp has been spotty. Few small to fair-sized rainbows have come in. For more information, call Blue Ribbon Charters at (530) 544-6552.
CAPLES LAKE: The marina is still open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but dress warmly as the early morning temperatures are in the 20-degree range. Fishing has picked up a bit with the lower temperatures. Most anglers have had best luck closer to the spillway. My advice is to fish right off the dam area. The cooler temperatures bring the browns and the larger Macs in to shallow waters to feed. Use a large inflated night crawlers off of the bottom. For more info, call the Caples Lake Marina at (209) 258-8888.
RED LAKE: Fishing has been fair for small rainbows and brook trout. Fishing on the opposite side of the lake has been better; this time of year you’d have to walk to the other side of the dam to get there. Please do not drive on the road as you may get stuck or damage the road.
CARSON RIVERS: The east fork has been doing great according to Chad. Very few large fish have come in , but some limits of average rainbows have. Flies have been the best bet or half a night crawler and one salmon egg. The west fork has been slow. Most people going up there have been going for the fall colors. Remember that these rivers will close to fishing Nov. 15, except for below Hangman’s Bridge, which will stay open all year for catch-and-release, artificial lures, flies and barbless hooks. For more info, call the Carson River Resort at (877) 694-2229. Special note: this year, the rivers will close, but the Carson Resort will be open all year long.
BLUE LAKES: Only report was, freaking cold and no bites.
TROUT CREEK,TAYLOR CREEK, NORTH UPPER TRUCKEE RIVER: All in the South Shore of Tahoe are closed to all fishing until July 1 2008.
INDIAN CREEK: Report from Dave Kirby. Fishing has picked up for fair-sized rainbows, with a couple limits here and there. The algae has gotten a lot better. And if you are there on Sunday, come say hello. The Naw will attempt to try to fish one last time this year before surgery.
HEENAN RESERVOIR: A couple of anglers counted the fishing surveys and came to the conclusion that the lake was slow. A total of 84 hours fished and only three fish caught and released. You figure the math.
PYRAMID LAKE: Opened Oct. 1. If you catch two fish you are doing well; any more than that, you are lucky. The wind has kept boats off the lake until after 10 a.m.
TOPAZ LAKE: Has closed for the season. To reopen on Jan. 1. Thank you, Chuck and Linda Fields for a great year.
Hope this helps to put you on fish. I will not be writing for a while, but the Naw line is always open for anyone who needs any information in our fishing world. Leave a message and I will get you the info you need and call you as soon as possible. A personal thank you to all who have called with concern. It’s been greatly appreciated. The Mac-The- Naw Fishing line is (775) 267-9722.
Good fishin’ and tight lines.