Lucky Rocks

Lucky rock or just gravel? Photo by author

I don’t understand luck, but I do believe in it. Buy a lottery ticket and win, you are lucky. Some say it’s just mathematics. Some say skill, hard work or knowledge creates luck. People who say those things aren’t fishermen.

When it comes to fishing, there’s always a measure of luck involved. Sure skilled presentations often outproduce random casts. Fishing harder or longer often produces more caught fish. Knowing the habits, life history of the fish and other seemingly random details can make you a better fisherman.

Still, dangle a hook in the water and if you are lucky, a fish will bite it. If you aren’t lucky, well, the most skilled, hardworking, knowledgeable anglers comes home with little to show some of the time.

If one believes in luck, as I do, it only makes sense to believe in lucky charms. I’ve carried rabbit’s feet. I’ve hunted for four-leafed clovers. I’ve had lucky fishing hats and lucky fishing lures.

How about a lucky rock?

I was fileting a lake trout caught from Lake Michigan recently and as the knife slit through it’s innards, an unusually shaped chunk of something icky spilled out on the cutting board. Trout, like most fish, have lots of icky things inside, so I just grabbed the hose to wash down the work surface and ready it for the next fish. The gentle stream of water didn’t wash the chunk away, it only washed it off – revealing it to be a small rock.

The fish had eaten a rock! I’ve found many identifiable things inside fish bellies. Most are things commonly eaten by fish such as bugs, small fish, frogs and the like. I’ve found hooks, worms and plastic twister tails, but never a rock.

In Lake Michigan, one of the favorite foods for lake trout is an invasive species called a round goby. As invasive species go, it’s one of the good ones – or at least one which has some redeeming qualities. Gobies eat invasive zebra and quagga mussels and apparently thrive on them.

More importantly, to a predator fish, gobies must taste like candy. Where ever in the Great Lakes gobies are found, fish like bass, walleyes, coho salmon, perch and especially lake trout seek them out and gobble them down.

If you want to imagine what a goby looks like, imagine a bullhead catfish with no sharp spines. Bullheads and gobies are similar in shape, with large heads and gaping mouths. Most are four or five inches long. Like a bullhead, gobies are brown and like a bullhead, gobies are bottom feeders. A fish wanting to eat a goby has to go to the bottom of the lake to find them.

So along comes a lake trout looking for goby-candy and it homes in on one swimming over a gravel bed. The trout thrusts it’s tail to strike forward and flairs it’s gills to create a sort of vacuum sucking up the hapless goby – and a small rock.

I can imagine it happens frequently but since I filet lake trout frequently and have never previously discovered a rock inside, I can deduce most trout normally spit out the rocks they accidentally suck up – with or without swallowing the goby. This one engulfed the rock, then swallowed the rock and I found it.

I hosed off the stone, admired its somewhat polished surface, rich brown color and slipped it into my pocket. Then I wondered, “Is this a lucky rock? Should I carry it as a good luck charm? It’s about the right size. It’s smooth enough it won’t scratch or scrape my fingers when I reach in my pocket for some loose change.

There are jillions of similar rocks in Lake Michigan. For one to be eaten by a fish and found by a human makes winning the lottery a sure thing. It makes it seem to be a lucky rock. There are millions of lake trout in Lake Michigan. Not many eat rocks. That makes that fish unique as well.

So is it a good luck charm or just another 10,000 year old rock shoved down from Canada by the last glacier? What do you think?

Personally, I have a rock in my pocket.

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Mike Schoonveld
Mike Schoonveld grew up hunting and fishing in rural Northwest Indiana. In 1986 he piggy-backed a career as an outdoor writer onto his already long tenure as a wildlife biologist with the Indiana DNR. Now retired from his DNR position, Schoonveld is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed boat captain, operates Brother Nature Charters on Lake Michigan and spends much of his time trailering his boat to fishing hotspots around Indiana and the Midwest. Mike can be reached through his website www.brother-nature.com or visit Mike's Outdoor World Blog at www.bronature.com

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