Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For February 13th, 2009 Edition.
I'm positive many anglers have been lulled into accepting a "hot tip" from another angler concerning a "sure thing" fishing trip. I hate to think how many times I've been suckered into launching an expedition to check out various hot tips I've received from friends, acquaintces and even strangers. I'll also freely admit I've often times convinced others to accompany me while checking out hot tips.
Over the years I've learned most "hot tips" don't pan out very well. In fact, in searching my memory for an example of a "hot tip" that actually turned out to be a bonanza, I came up empty.
After being burned so many times by following hot tips from others one would think enough failures would teach one a lesson to give up the chase. But no, I frequently still grab a hot tip and run with it. One of my most memorable "wild goose chases" is re-visited in the tale I've chosen to call;
It all began on a Thursday morning in early March of 2002 at the coffee shop in Sayner. My long time friend and companion of many wild goose chases informed me that a confidant had slipped him an inspiring piece of news! The Lake Herring were being caught by the millions just off shore in Lake Superior at Saxon Harbor!
The caller, commonly known as "The Guru Of Saxon Harbor" confided to my buddy that all one had to do was walk out on solid ice for a mere 200 yards, drill a hole, and drop down a small Swedish Pimple tipped with but a single salmon egg. The Lake Herring reportedly were so thick they were actually leaping out of the freshly drilled ice holes and landing in the angler's six gallon plastic buckets! A situation so exciting it would challenge the thrill of an NBA three point shot that hits nothing but net!
A quick call to companion number three, one Doctor Thomas "the Walleye Slayer" Tilkens of Green Bay placed a third willing contestant on board. The three would be anglers fine tuned their plan over coffee at M & M Cafe on Friday morning, and at six a.m. after loading just a few simple ice fishing jig poles and other basic necessary equipment into our vehicle, (such as boxes of lures, augers, ice dippers, padded seats, lunch boxes, bait containers, underwater cameras, wind breakers, ice fishing sleds, binoculars, boots, gloves, wool hats, and cigars,) our driver, Dr Tilkens, headed his one ton Chevy truck north on highway 51.
Upon completing a meager breakfast of eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, coffee and several sweet rolls at a cafe in Mercer, Wi. we headed north once more to Hurley/Ironwood and attempted to locate a sporting goods store where we might purchase that secret bait -- salmon eggs! A 45 minute tour of the two cities finally located the coveted eggs at a True Value Hardware Store. For a mere $3.79 cents, each of us pocketed a small jar of multi-colored eggs that had somehow been squeezed from an unsuspecting female salmon. Next stop, Lake Superior, how could we possibly miss?
Continuing west on U.S. 2, and then winding down State Highway 122, we crested the hill overlooking the fabled Saxon Harbor. The 70 miles and 2 hours on the road surely would be worth the effort and the wait.
The parking lot, which we expected to be jammed with eager anglers on a beautiful Saturday morning was empty. Our guide, JR. DeWitt, uttered a poetic comment. "Huh, this don't look good."
Upon further investigation we did view several other disturbing scenes. (One) Three hundred yards off shore was the rippling blue surface of Lake Superior. (Two) The ice field between shore and the icy depths beyond resembled the surface of some frozen unforgiving planet. Sheets of jagged, crusted and twisted ice created a landscape so rugged it would have challenged a camel with ten foot legs to cross without serious injury! (Three) One lone angler, (possibly an escapee from a mental institution) had set up a small canvas shelter and was attempting to drill a hole through the ice in which he might fish.
From the interior of Tom's truck, with the heater raging full blast, we watched in awe for nearly twenty minutes as the nimrod proceeded with his task. The four foot drill on his ice auger disappeared into the frozen surface. No water! Then an ice spud with a seven foot handle appeared and the dedicated outdoorsman spent the next fifteen minutes chiseling his way to the bottom of the ice flow!
Having seen enough to dampen the enthusiasm of the hardiest of ice fishermen, Tom turned his truck around and we rapidly departed the empty parking lot. However, by now we had "hatched" a new plan!
Ashland, Wisconsin and the fabled Chequamegon Bay lay but a scant thirty miles further west. Surely this winter ice fishing "hot spot" would yield bountiful numbers of some sort of finny creatures to satisfy out ravenous appetites for fresh fish. Tom increased our anticipation by relating a tale of catching giant yellow perch by the dozens several winters earlier. How could we possibly miss?
The side road which pointed north off U.S. Highway 2, and would take us to the plowed entrance to the bay, sported a large colorful sign. It read: "ICE FISHING CONTEST THIS WEEKEND" What luck! Maybe we would win some prizes with all the perch we were sure to bag! After all, we were seasoned veterans and experts at deceiving dumb fish. How could we possibly miss?
The surface of Chequamegon Bay was a sight to behold. It appeared that the entire population of Northern Wisconsin, Michigan's U.P. and most of Eastern Minnesota had decided to enter the ice fishing contest. Hundreds, no,....thousands of ice fishing shelters, trucks, humans, dogs and screaming kids dotted the frozen surface as far as the eye could see!
After driving out on the ice for nearly a mile we found a small space between two dozen ice shanties that allowed us to drill several holes and hopefully begin piling up giant yellow perch. How could we possibly miss? We unloaded our gear and began preparing to do battle with the millions of perch beneath the ice,
Twenty minutes passed. Tom lay exhausted on the ice from pulling on the rope of his ice auger. For the hundredth time he muttered, "I can't understand it. My auger always starts."
JR and I looked at each other and cast doubting glances. Then JR decided to try his luck. First pull -- and we heard a wondrous sound. "Put-put-put". The auger had responded to JR's tender touch!
Two holes were quickly drilled so JR and I could begin the harvest. Tom took the controls of his gas auger and started to drill a hole for himself. Two thirds of the way through the ice the auger decided to take a rest. "Puttttt-cough,.......", silence. JR and I giggled. Tom loudly ranted and raved about the ethnic defects of ice augers. But luckily for him the beast started again after a short rest.
An hour passed. JR had one light hit. I had won the battle with a six inch perch and Tom had secured two of the same year class. A vote was taken. Three to zero to "Get the Hades out of Here".
The hundred mile trip back to St.Germain seemed to pass quickly. At least for JR and I -- who napped the entire trip. Tom never said how he enjoyed the drive.
But after arriving "home" new plans were laid to attack a new frozen surface the following week end.
How could we possibly miss?
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: email@example.com 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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