Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For August 31st, 2007 Edition.

Recently I read the article in the Times concerning the sale of Camp Red Pine on Clear Lake. Along with the mixed emotions it created the news set my mind to reminiscing about numerous wonderful memories I have of days spent on what is certainly one of the north’s most beautiful lakes.

My first encounter with Clear Lake took place in 1951, the year dad started me on my apprenticeship into the guiding profession. He of course had his own personal guide boat, a sleek Thompson he purchased in 1946 for the astounding sum of $79.00. We rented a flat-bottomed scow for me to row from a boat rental establishment, which was then located where the huge campground is now situated in the west bay off old highway 47.

I caught my first smallmouth bass that day, which was the first of many hundreds the lake eventually yielded over the next four decades.

Back then the lake received very little fishing pressure and pleasure boats were non-existent. The miles and miles of pristine shoreline housed both large and smallmouth bass, and the deep bays contained walleye by the carload. One of my favorite photos of my dad shows him sprawled out on the ground with a big grin on his face next to a mixed bag of walleye and bass that he and his clients, Joe and Edna Hales of Cincinnati, OH, plucked from it’s gin clear waters in 1949. (The photo appears in one of my books, “Legends of the Lakes.”)

Finding out what lay beneath the surface of the main basin took many years, and there is little doubt there is much more to the mystery than what I eventually discovered. Numerous rock, sand and gravel bars rise from the depths that are homes to feeding bass, walleye and musky. Today anglers can buy a detailed map and use their depth finders and GPS units to discover what back in the good old days took decades to discover.

I fondly recall Lillian Ken hooking what at first she thought was a rock, but 45 minutes later after a long and grueling battle winning the fight with a beautiful 48-inch spotted musky. For whatever reason, Clear Lake contained very beautifully marked spotted muskellunge, and probably still does.

The rock bar that juts southward off Red Pine Point was always a great hot spot for smallmouth. Back in the early 50s the Conservation Department installed dozens of artificial “brush piles” in Clear Lake, and a half-dozen of them were placed along the outer edge of the bar. Back in ’67 my clients boated a 21 ˝” smallmouth from one of those cribs.

The Red Pine Point Bar was a great area to fish on sunny afternoons, as the female councilors generally sunbathed on the docks along the shoreline.

Back in the early 60s one of our nations fighter pilots had one of his daughters attending Camp Red Pine. Several times while I was fishing the lake he would fly his F-89 Scorpion jet down through the narrows at the camp and then pour on the coal in a steep climb while waving the wings in greetings and farewell to the awe-struck onlookers on the beach and in the boats.

One of my clients took an unexpected swim in the narrows one hot afternoon. The guy stood up to get the kinks out of his legs and his daughter thought it would be fun to suddenly rock the boat while dad was standing. We had a good laugh out of that dunking.

Duchess Island, one of five islands on Clear Lake with dwellings on them, was first developed about 1920. One of my clients considered buying the island in the early 70s, when the unique setting was on the market for $7500.00! The real estate firm that had the property listed gave us a tour of the complex, and allowed us to read a diary that someone had recorded details from the 1920s and 30s! It was very interesting history!

For a number of years Duchess Island resembled a ghost town. The island remained uninhabited and all the buildings had been left unlocked. During this period I often rushed to the boathouse during thunderstorms and remained dry, and safe and sound in one of its four stalls until the storm passed.

I recall some interesting experiences while ice fishing on Clear Lake. The one that sticks out in my mind most sharply is the time my companion and I miraculously escaped sinking his Dodge truck.

We received a “hot tip” from one of my pals about a hot evening walleye spot off the edge of a rock bar in the north bay. To find the exact spot, all we had to do was follow his tire tracks that he had made the night before. Just before dusk was settling in we did just that. About mid-center of the bay the truck gave us a very solid jolt, as though we had run over something hidden in the snow. We stopped and walked back to see what we had struck. What we discovered was a five-foot wide hole in the ice, which the right rear set of dual wheels had broken through! We abandoned our planned evening fishing trip and left the lake at high speed! (Later we returned and placed large signs around the hole to warn other anglers and snowmobilers.)

As time marched on Clear Lake became a busy body of water. The state owned campground was enlarged and public launches were upgraded. The picnic area was opened and daytime boat traffic mirrored rush hour on the interstate.

My last memory of Clear Lake was formed during June of 2005. My son-in-law, Chris, and my grandson, Josh, dove on the outer most hump on the Red Pine Point Bar and recovered an artifact that had been placed there by Pop Dean sometime in the 1930s.

Pop had sunk a white enamel cooking pot on the edge of the bar so he could easily locate the edge of a steep drop off. Beyond the drop off and out of sight is a large boulder field, a genuine hot spot for smallmouth.

The recovery took but several minutes, and the pot now rests in the Vilas Historical Museum in Sayner, next to a short story of its history.

I’m happy to be able to recall Clear Lake as it once was, quiet, pristine and mysterious.

Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin.   Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean,  both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide.   Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email:  or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.

Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here

Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger

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