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Grassy Island

 "Grassy" island is a small spit of sand and cattails tucked into the northwest corner of the mouth of the North Channel in Lake St. Clair.  It is frequented by fishermen in the summer months who are usually targeting smallmouth bass.  But to me and my family, it was always called Gull Island.

At the mention of Lake St. Clair's Gull Island, anyone in the know will immediately think of the hordes of sunbathers and partiers who annually descend on the nine acre South Channel island to celebrate skipping out of work on a summer Friday.  Such is Jobbie Nooner Day for the uninitiated.


But to the Bowers family, our neighbors and other locals in the Anchor Bay area, Gull Island will always refer to that which is more popularly known as Grassy island.  Frequent visitors, especially bass fisherman, almost always refer to it as “Grassy” island since that’s how it’s identified on the charts. Well, sort of.  I suspect that the often mentioned “Grassy Island” comes from the word “Grass” positioned next to the island’s depiction on NOAA chart 14850.  Never mind that this is a generic word that NOAA uses to describe at least a dozen other similar areas around the Lake.  Be that as it may, it’s no secret that there is excellent smallmouth fishing around the island, as evidenced by the many bass boats visiting that area during the summer.  (On a related note, there was a popular, though unsuccessful, effort to rename the island “Brunner Island” after the well-known musky fisherman and guide whose boat was often seen cruising around the island.)

This island has a special meaning to me.   As a youngster I used to stand at the window of the Bowers Boat Livery with binoculars glued to my face, watching and waiting for the bow of a gleaming white Mayea Craft to appear out of the southwest on its way back home from a morning of smallmouth bass fishing. My dad guided out of the Old Club on the weekends and Sunday was always the day (depending on his mood) when, after taking a break from his morning outing, he'd load the family up in the boat and we'd head out to “The Island” as he always referred to it, to swim.

 Dad would idle in from the west side of the island, shut off the twin 318 Chryslers and we'd hop in the water and push it up on the bar till the props touched the sand. Standing on the bow, he'd hand us the anchor, which we would dutifully haul several yards ahead and bury it in the sandy bottom. From then on the afternoon would be spent swimming and wandering around the island while trying to avoid the screaming terns. Sometimes they'd dive bomb us and you'd swear you'd get speared in the head. As little kids, we'd run and holler with glee as the terns chased us around the island.


Back then it was pretty shallow around the island. I remember there were these two huge holes on the south side between the North Channel and the island where a big boat had grounded and had to be dug out. That left huge depressions with the water way over our heads where we used to swim and dive to the bottom, if you could stand the much colder water on the channel side.


At the end of the day, and on the way back, dad would often put a couple of boat rods out and troll for musky while we'd fall asleep in Stormy II’s cabin or on top of the cushioned engine boxes (the hum of those motors were like a tranquilizer to us on the way back in).


Years later, after dad stopped guiding, he would still spend many days fishing around the island. He had a couple of favorite spots that have been passed down through generations and I still fish them today. They continue to produce smallmouth bass and perch in the summer months.  An occasional Walleye gets bagged out of those weed beds too.


So whenever I hear somebody speak of Gull Island, my thoughts go back to those formative years and the fun that we had exploring and swimming around "The Island".

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