Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For August 29th, 2008 Edition.
As our days grow ever shorter, the lush green ferns of summer fade into yellow and brown and the evening air takes on a definite nip, it's easy to tell fall is just over the horizon. For compulsive anglers that have spent much of the summer chasing traditional species of game and pan fish, the time is now ripe to harvest a batch of what most folks would call "non-traditional" fish. Bullheads!
Although this member of the catfish family can be caught throughout the spring and summer, it seems to me at this time of the year, when summer is struggling to maintain its control over our environment, bullheads begin a feeding frenzy. And although its been a long time since I seriously pursued securing a mess of 'heads I have fond memories of participating in the sport.
My earliest recollection of actually catching a bullhead took place in the mid 1940s. At that time the Rainbow Flowage still contained massive amounts of floating trees, stumps and limbs from the flooding of the Rainbow Lake basin and the Wisconsin River Valley. When the Rainbow Dam was built sometime during the early 1930s the resulting flowage greatly changed the landscape for many miles upstream from the dam. Vast amounts of what was once a forest were uprooted and floated downstream to be ensnared by the newly created flowage.
Nearly all the bays in this newly formed lake contained "log jams" of epic proportions that allowed anglers to actually walk out on the floating islands of wood and fish through the cracks for many different species of fish. It was almost like ice fishing without the snow and cold! Anglers who were brave enough (or foolish) to venture out on the floating log jams needed to be nimble and quick as often what one thought was secure footing turned out to be false. Dunkings were frequent, but fishing beneath the flotilla of tree trunks and stumps was fantastic. Especially for jumbo perch, crappie and bullheads.
As I slowly began to emerge from my formative years my buddies and I began annual late summer pilgrimages to the shores of the flowage to fish for the bewhiskered fish. Armed with cane poles, a can of worms and a case of what made Milwaukee famous we'd head for Stormy Point off highway J about sunset.
At the time the unimproved road that now ends at the public boat launch at Stormy Point continued on to the very end of the point where the old river channel forms a huge bend. (For whatever reason the name of this location was changed to "Stormy Camp" and the rustic road to the end of the point was blocked.)
Upon arriving at Stormy Point our first order of business was to gather a huge pile of dry driftwood, preferably large pine stumps, and start a bonfire. By the time darkness set in the light from the inferno allowed us to see fifty yards in all directions. We were always careful to position our blaze well away from the shoreline vegetation as a safety precaution.
Next, we'd push forked sticks in the sand next to the water to position our cane poles and settle back with a brewski to await the arrival of the schools of prowling bullheads. I don't ever recall being disappointed.
One highly memorable outing took place in late August when two of my buddies, Bob and Roger Stoeckmann, and I were challenged by the bartender at Clear View Lodge. As we were stocking up on bullhead supplies, in the form of a couple of chilled six-packs, Bob informed the bartender of our plan to "get a gunnysack full of bullheads before midnight." The skeptical tender bet us a "drink on the house" that we could not fulfill our objective.
The doubting bartender was not pleased when we deposited a gunnysack full of bullheads on the middle of the barroom floor shortly after eleven, -- and collected our wager!
Another highly memorable evening occurred during the late summer of 1957. Peggy and I were engaged at the time and she was spending the summer working at my mom and dad's resort waiting table and helping clean cabins. I decided it was time to show the love of my life how to catch bullheads.
Another couple, Doug and Irene Dean, was our companions on a brisk evening as we began the ritual of organizing our expedition for bullheads. While Doug and I gathered the wood supply, Peggy and Irene spread a blanket on the sandy beach, and positioned our snacks and beverages nearby. Next, our assortment of cane poles were baited and set on forked sticks to intercept the marauding bottom feeders. As darkness slowly enveloped the land the four of us relaxed in comfort close to the crackling fire and chatted about things that old friends chat about. Then the bullheads arrived.
One of our cane poles began to vibrate announcing a bullhead had inhaled the bait. I raced to the edge of the water, firmly grabbed the butt of the pole and hauled back with all my might. The wiggling, slimy fish was launched skyward, -- but at the same time the hook parted company with its mouth! Like a well-aimed missile the bullhead landed squarely on my fiancÚ's chest!
The stillness of the evening was suddenly punctured by a series of high-pitched screams, none of which came from the bullhead! Fortunately, the spines on the fish were not embedded in Peggy's anatomy. After the screaming came to an end and it was determined all was well, except my ego, the four of us had a good laugh at the accidental chance encounter between fish and human and the festivities continued. I figured after that episode, -- my bride to be was a genuine "keeper."
Much has changed since the DNR purchased the land around the flowage as well as upstream towards Eagle River. When the area was owned by the Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company the flowage was much more "user friendly." Camping was permitted; numerous rustic roads allowed easy access to many secluded locations and fires were permitted. Now yellow signs dictate much stricter rules, such as no camping, no fires, no driftwood, no motorized vehicles, -- all that is lacking on the signs is "no fun."
It's strange, but I once was under the impression that reasonable access to the woods and water belonged to the citizens of Wisconsin. Guess I was mistaken.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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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