Fishing with First Choice

Vanessa Wylie reels in a fish on First Choice Charter. Photo by Sally Slattery.

“Reel it in, Sally. Reel it in!” cheer my friends aboard the First Choice Charter boat bobbing in the blue expanse of Lake Michigan. The sun is setting behind the faint horizontal line of Door County. The shiny, metal baits hanging above the captain’s seat clink against each other. Country music sounds from a radio.

I set down my bottle of Coors Light. “Oh goodness,” I inhale.

The fishermen aboard, Phil Kinjerski and Brett Anschutz, adjust the pole against my hip, teach me to pull up then reel in as I let the pole go down. I’m jerky, ungraceful, panting, and shouting, cursing at the fish fighting against me. “Get up here! You’re mine!” Adrenaline pumping, sea legs struggling for balance, the net comes out and what I consider a humongous rainbow trout is soon flopping on board.

I high-five my friends, wipe the sweat from my forehead. “Can I take a picture with it?”

“Yeah,” says Kinjerski. “Hold on.” He grips a small steel bat and slugs the head of the fish so hard scales and blood spatter.


“Oh my, god. Oh my, god!” I scream.

Phil Kinjerski (left) and Brett Anschutz celebrate after reeling in a salmon on First Choice Charters. Photo by Sally Slattery.

Apparently that’s normal, humane. Apparently Kinjerski didn’t use enough force because after I hesitantly slid my finger in the fish’s jaw and posed with a nervous smile, the fish jerked and I screamed bloody murder.

But I was ready for more. When the poles even so much as twitched those boys’ arms flung to them, their wrists reeling in the fish with a smooth, fluid motion. “Whose turn is it?”

We switched off reeling in large trout and salmon, leaving the clubbing to the professionals. When the cooler was full, we motored back to the marina, dodging waves, pointing out lighthouses.

“That was the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” I say, until the knives come out and fish heads are heaped in the corner of a cutting board. “You know what, you guys finish up here – I’m gonna go to the Cornerstone and order a pizza.”

That’s one of the many perks of charter fishing – they clean the fish, while you grab a beer. They also bait the hooks, drive the boat, cheer like you’ve scored a touchdown when you bring a fish to the surface, and make minimal fun of you when you scream at the slightest movement of the fish in your hand.

For more information about First Choice Charter visit, call 920.493.3474 or stop by Lakeshore Adventures, located at 8113 Highway 57 in Baileys Harbor.

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