Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For May 1st, 2009 Edition.
All across Wisconsin, especially here up north, angler's arms are tingling, hearts are beating a tad faster and mountains of walleye catching equipment and supplemental gear is being loaded into waiting boats! Yes sir and madam, tomorrow is the big day - opening day for walleye and pike!
I believe most would agree the traditional open water game fish opener is not as big an event as it was several decades ago. There are several factors that have changed the face of our early May opener, most recently being the downturn in our economy. But still, for thousands of anxious nimrods, the excitement leading up to that first cast, that first "tap-tap" on their jig, and the first walleye of the season sliding down the stringer can actually cause goose bumps to rise on even the most seasoned angler.
During my formative years, dad and I opened the season on walleye as soon as Escanaba Lake was free of ice. Being an experimental lake, fishing season was open all year, allowing anglers to fish its pristine waters or ice covered surface whenever the fishing bug bit.
Dad always used an excuse he needed to give his old Thompson Guide Model a "shake down cruise" to make sure it didn't leak plus allow the muscles in his arms to get used to rowing prior to the beginning of his guiding routine. Mom never objected to our late afternoon/early evening jaunts, as she was more interested in fresh walleye fillets than worrying if her husband's boat leaked!
Our pre-season fishing trips to Escanaba Lake were always taken during weekdays rather than weekends, as rarely did we encounter any competition on the water Mondays through Thursday. Generally we would arrive at the landing about an hour prior to sundown and take our leisurely time gearing up prior to hitting the south and west shores where tall pines, birch, oak and maple were already casting long shadows on the surface of the water.
Today few anglers would recognize the basic equipment we used back in the late 1940s and early '50s. Our Heddon Pal rods were constructed of tubular steel with very little flex. Casting reels were "direct drive" models made by Shakespeare or Pflueger, spooled with silk line and later the new nylon braided line. Line back then, like the old Model T Fords, came in any color you desired as long as it was black.
Our terminal tackle was non-existent, as we tied our "plugs" of choice directly to the line, which allowed the lure to perform at its optimum wiggle and jiggle. Normally we only used a half-dozen different "killer lures." Most popular were the Pikie Minnow models, both the straight and jointed varieties. River Runts were also deadly on hungry walleye prowling the shallow water shorelines in quest of supper. Another favored wooden lure was a red and white Bass-oreno. One of the first plastic lures, that quickly became popular, was the jointed L & S Bassmaster. The one with alternating black and white stripes along its sides was my favorite. Where shorelines contained steep drop offs a deep diving Cisco Kid worked well. Dad often tossed a Flatfish lure but I didn't like them much as they often tangled on my line when I cast, although a similar lure, the Lazy Ike, did not share that same problem.
Another piece of equipment we carried on board were hip boots. If a particular stretch of shoreline proved to be productive we'd beach the boat, don our boots and slowly and carefully wade the rocky shore casting ahead of us. That was another method I did not favor, as generally I'd slip on a rock and wind up soaked.
Another hot spot we'd fish after the season officially opened was the mouth of Lost Creek where it empties into Big St. Germain Lake. Back then the streams flow was much greater than it is today and hundreds of walleye would migrate upstream to spawn. This was a very productive spot, especially when ice out was late, which meant the spawning run would be late.
Again, this was a "fishing hole" hardly anyone else fished as the property at the mouth of the stream was owned by Charlie and Rose Goodyear, who were friends of my family. So, dad and I were welcome anytime to wade out and cast for walleye, generally accompanied by Charlie.
And what could be better than fresh from the lake walleye - lightly floured and pan-fried in real butter - consumed only minutes after being caught! Mom and Rose were great cooks!
Folks who have never experienced fishing for walleye, or any other species, as twilight slowly deepens into night, a gentle southwest breeze mixing the scents of pine, balsam and hemlock with cool, fresh spring air haven't really lived! Add in all the unique sounds of evening that will stick in your memory forever! The wale of a whip-poor-will, the hoot-hoot of an owl, yipping coyotes, chirping spring peepers, or your partner telling you to "get the net, I've hooked a good one." Later yet watch in awe as the lemon yellow glow of a full moon slides slowly upward into the night sky erasing stars and casting an eerie glow over the peaceful landscape. That sight will totally extract any tension or worry that was within your body or mind moments earlier. Scenes like these will also remind folks of the insignificance of mankind.
Then if you're really lucky, as the boat is being loaded for your return trip to a cozy home and a crackling fire in the fireplace, the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, just might give you a light show like you've never before witnessed!
Yes, all of these are memories I savor, memories of events, sights and sounds that compliment a fishing adventure with someone you love and admired, will be with me till my final breath.
So, all you dads and moms out there, if you haven't taken junior and sissy out for a early evening fishing trip on a quiet, peaceful tranquil lake or stream - what are you waiting for?
Good luck out there tomorrow, be safe, and leave some for seed!
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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