When asking whether Paul Liikala’s aged 14-foot Mirrorcraft is safe first requires determining what one would define by the word “safe.”
If one were to suggest Paul’s much modified “Miss Yellow” is safe on the order of the Titanic the answer then is an unqualified “yes.”
Largely that approval is earned because lakes Erie, Mosquito and Pymatuning seldom encounter icebergs calved from Greenland’s glaciers.
If, on the other hand, one defines “safe” within the context of a Schwinn bicycle outfitted with training wheels and the answer becomes far less clear.
Certainly don’t expect the “Miss Yellow” to qualify for the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
The boat itself is a generation and more in age. So too are the remains of squashed nightcrawlers, emerald shiners and other bait.
All have become permanent fixtures of the “Miss Yellow’s” aluminum hull along with various pieces of wooden furniture that no doubt were built by junior high vocational students at the school where Paul was the principal. Likely too, given the Third World look of the wooden things these students must have been close to failing before Paul struck some sort of a deal.
Anyway, “Miss Yellow” is a handy platform from which to fish be it trolling for walleye in Lake Erie’s Western Basin, flipping river chubs into Mosquito Creek Reservoir’s thick willow stands for crappie or just plying the waters off Cleveland Metroparks’ Wildwood marina complex in Cleveland.
That is where Paul called me to join him in an expedition for jumbo yellow perch. I needed the fish more than did Paul and had/have less time to get the job done. The reason is simple; I’m to undergo on June 19 my forth back fusion/fifth spinal fusion in the past seven years.
A single titanium rod will replace two shorter titanium rods and will extend from T-12 to L-5. Basically that means I’ll have a stick of very expensive metal running from approximately the tail bone up to somewhere around the lower rib cage
By now such procedures are no longer intimidating. They are annoyances. My fishing will be shot for several weeks, almost guaranteeing a summer with little to perhaps no angling.
And with three qualifying fish species I have a must need for a forth if I’m to keep my string of Fish Ohio Master Angler awards intact.
So I was a willing passenger in Miss Yellow, if for no other reason than one of desperation.
Problem was (of course) Paul and I should have been there last week. Anglers leaving the Wildwood boat launch were under assault by jumbo perch, some fish even measuring one inch or more than the Fish Ohio required minimum length of 13 inches.
Or so the gossip went and so Paul’s recent perch-fishing history had added a note of truthfulness.
Even my two older brothers had fished here the week before, the pair using their cell phones to brag on the big and Fish Ohio-qualifying perch they were catching. All of which happened last week, of course.
So Paul and I hunted for perch maybe more than we fished for them. With Paul’s head stuck in front of his Humminbird fish finder and his hand on the outboard engine’s tiller, the goal was to set up a successful search pattern.
Oh, a brief word about that outboard. It is a lie, a contrivance of convenience, if you will, please. It is an early 1970-era Evinrude. And while the cowling (the cover or hood) is embossed with “9.9” as the engine’s horsepower the ‘Rude is actually a 15-horsepower stallion; thanks to Paul scuttling the original carburetor and replacing it with one for a 15-horsepower engine.
Back in the day such outboard engines were called “Pymatuning Specials,” a reference to the poorly kept secret whereby officials with Ohio and Pennsylvania decreed that no outboard engine larger than 10 horsepower could legally ply Pymatuning.
Shoot, I even know of now-retired Ohio wildlife officials who owned Pymatuning Specials while Northeast Ohio boat dealers went so far as to sell rigs using the lingo of the day.
In any event, the 10-horsepower rule was eventually dismissed by upping the rating to 20 horsepower.
Paul, however, saw no need to buy a new engine. Being cheap was only half of the reason; the other half being that Miss Yellow had over the years become Paul’s fishing right arm.
Alas, on this day we needed both a right arm and a left arm. The perch were tough to come by as Paul manipulated Miss Yellow from one possible location to another.
Nearly all of the stops were made after the Humminbird’s color display blinked the necessary blotches and such that Paul interpreted as being yellow perch hugging the bottom.
Even when the northeast wind (the weather forecasters messed up very nearly everything about the day) pushed a dense fog over the whole affair Paul kept up the search, nearly entirely in vain.
“See that boat over there?” Paul said during one break in the fog. “There aren’t any gulls behind it.”
Paul knows his fishing as well as he does Miss Yellow’s quirks. The lack of gulls behind another boat whose occupants also were perch fishing demonstrated there’d be no scraps of minnows or small and dazed perch for the birds to feast on Paul explained.
And so the morning went; the yellow perch having disappeared to heaven only knows where, the weather more contentious than the forecasters had predicted that very morning, and a growing tiredness of reeling in scabs of zebra mussels clinging to rocks.
For all of that we were the owners of a paltry eight yellow perch for our nearly five hours of fishing aboard Miss Yellow.
Yet we could fault the old girl. She did whatever Paul commanded, just as she has done since before Jimmy Carter was in the White House.
Yeah, I like to make fun of Miss Yellow, her rather garish Knight Inn-style appointments and the pavement made from fish guts and scales, nightcrawler carcasses and dropped sandwich remains that failed the five-second rule.
Still, she’s been a dependable lass and I expect that once I’ve healed enough from the upcoming back surgery I’ll pester Paul once more to take me fishing with her.
For all her failed beauty marks, Miss Yellow is still a good sport, and I thank her for that, too.
Frischkorn is The News-Herald's retired outdoors writer who also covered the earth sciences and the area's three county park systems. He still maintains a connection with the newspaper through this blog. Frischkorn also is a columnist and contribuing reporter to the Ohio Outdoor News, a newspaper-style magazine that is published every other week.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn