Fishing: Boat not required
By Ben Gruber
I wanted to talk a little bit this week about fishing without a boat. These days it seems that many of us — myself included — become gear junkies and can forget the simpler ways to enjoy the outdoors.
Since moving to central Wisconsin, I have been on a mission to grow my list of shore fishing hotspots. My fishless freezer would be good evidence that I have a ways to go yet, but I am getting there.
Thursday is circled on my calendar in red. I promised my daughter if we get caught up on our work around the farm, we can go fishing. Preparation for the excursion will take all of 20 minutes. I will load up her wagon for hauling gear, folding chairs, two rods, and some snacks; 10 minutes digging some worms from the garden; and off we go. Hooks, a few sinkers, and a few red-and-white bobbers and a stringer for the fish are all we will need.
I have not decided where we will head yet, but there are plenty of options within 30 minutes from us. Wisconsin River backwaters, Lake Dexter, Big Eau Pleine Flowage, and the Yellow River are all in the cards. All offer various shore fishing spots. This time of the year, pan fish may be found hanging out around shore trees that have tipped into the water, and a line cast a little farther our and left to sit on the bottom may attract a catfish or bullheads.
The attention span of a 3-year-old tends to run, on average, around 30 minutes, so we will also catch a few frogs; she will throw something valuable into the water and then giggle when I get wet to try and get it back; and she usually tries to eat some of the worms. If the fish are not biting, the worm eating does not bother me, but if the bite is hot, I will usually hide the worms from her. If we manage to catch a few, we will “butcher them up,” which apparently is how a farm kid describes filleting a fish. Fish for dinner makes her mother happy, and she lets us go fishing again.
Moral of the story: Do not sit on the couch and wish you had a boat so you could go fishing. At most $30 worth of equipment and 5-30 miles are all that are between you and an afternoon of fishing — and maybe dinner.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, my family just returned from a trip to Canada. The girls and I loaded up the trusty station wagon; drove all night to Red Lake, Ontario; then hopped on a float plane and were dropped off at a remote cabin 80 miles from the nearest road. No cars, no electricity, no phones — just 22-inch walleyes on about every cast.
I could fill the entire paper with stories from this trip, but I will not. I will say that the entire trip cost around $3,000 for seven days of nonstop walleyes, a sandy beach, fresh fish for dinner every night, and a few bonus northern pike and lake trout. We did not see another person for seven days. Search for Viking Outposts, Red Lake, Ontario, if you want to learn more.
Days are getting shorter. Get outside.
Ben Gruber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.