Two years ago, when my wife Hanna was planning a trip for women to El Salto, I reached out to my friend Dan Brovarney to see if he knew any ladies who’d be interested. He suggested that I get in touch with Samantha Sukupcak, who “knows everybody.” I followed his advice, and while Samantha couldn’t join us in January of 2017, she identified two other friends who ended up making the trip.
In January 2018, she was able to travel south of the border with us, and we had a great time getting to know her. The following month Hanna and I were up in Milwaukee — Samantha’s backyard — to ice fish, and she and her boyfriend Mike Yee joined us out on the hard water and then treated us to an evening brewery tour, complete with fishy fry and a polka band.
Fast forward another year, and this time both Samantha AND Mike met us at El Salto to escape the Wisconsin cold. This is not a case of one member of the couple being the leader and the other going on the trip just to appease his or her partner. They’re both hardcore anglers. They both have their own boats. While they travel together, and occasionally share information, they both find their own fish and compete vigorously at tournaments in Wisconsin and throughout the upper Midwest. They’re both remarkably mild-mannered in person, but I’m sure that there is some behind-the-scenes jostling for fishing superiority and semi-friendly competition, even if they’re hesitant to admit it.
While we all want our partner to do well, when it comes to fishing, all bets are off.
We were thrilled for Samantha when her first fish on this trip turned out to be a new personal best, an 8-02 brute that swallowed a Senko and looked truly immense when photographed next to her. During a week when fishing was a little tough by El Salto standards, it was good to get the monkey off her back a bit early.
Poor Mike might not have indicated any distress, but it had to be eating at him a little. As he weighed in a parade of 5- and 6-pounders he still had to play second fiddle to Samantha’s 8-plus. Through three and a half more days of fishing and a few Pacificos, he kept his chin up, smiled and kept fishing.
During his last session on the water he pitched a black and blue jig alongside a bluff and the strike came as it fell. Seconds later, he’d wrestled his own personal best into the boat.
Now, my memory may be failing me, but I seem to remember that one of them weighed their fish on a Boga Grip, which measures in quarter-pound increments, and got a reading of 8 pounds 4 ounces (8.25 pounds), while the other weighed theirs on a digital scale which produced a total of 8.2-something. Given the margin of error on those measurements, either one could’ve claimed top billing. Wisely, though, whoever documented them on the big board at Anglers Inn wrote 8.2 for both of them.
That scribe had the wisdom to ensure not only a peaceful trip home, but also many happy years ahead of them.