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An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 3-27-2013

by Mark Walters

Spring outing on the Wisconsin River

Hello friends,

March is by far the most difficult month for a seasoned outdoor adventures writer. Most hunting and trapping seasons are closed, ice fishing is not near as popular of a subject as it was earlier in the winter, and then there is the unpredictable weather.

This March is one of my toughest in my career, it seems like every trip I plan gets cancelled because of too much mud in a river, too much ice at the boat landings, or too cold of weather, which quite often stops a fish bite.

This week I decided to do something simple and safe, which would be fishing for northern pike out of my canoe on the Wisconsin River, very close to my house in Juneau County.

Wednesday, March 20th – High 17, low minus 2

I have to take the blame for today’s 17-degree high on the first day of spring. Back in January, I wrote “let it be cold with deep snow until the end of March”, I had no idea that I had so much pull with Mother Nature (I wonder what she looks like, think she’s single).

My plan today had me scared and to be perfectly honest, it is very rare that I am scared.

I was going to fish below the Petenwell dam from my canoe and tonight I was going to sleep in my canoe or somewhere on shore. I would use large bobbers baited with the biggest shiners that I could find, anchor in the area of the dam and probably catch a world record gator.

Here was the main problem with my plan, it has been windy for days, that is not good when fishing out of a canoe in a high of 17 and low of minus 2. To make matters worse, when I went to get my canoe out of storage, “flipped upside down on the ground with 18- inches of snow on top of it” she was thoroughly froze to the ground.

So I drive to the dam and talk to my buddy Dusty Durst who is a heck of a local fisherman and the young operator of Petenwell Landing Bait Shop.  Dusty does not have good thoughts about my plan or a good report on the fish catching (yesterday I drove down here and I was the only person to make tracks in the snow).

Anyways, I am down to 36-hours and the deadline for this column will be upon me so live or die, I gotta try!

I rig my canoe and start paddling out to sea, the pull on my homemade kayak paddle warms me up, and I am loving life.   Next, I anchor about 50-yards from the dam, throw out two shiner-bobber rigs and a dead stick with a fathead for walleye.

The very next thing that I realize is that it is scary cold out and I have the only canoe on this portion of the river, actually the only watercraft, and other then three guys from Minneapolis who were on a scheduled vacation for the “walleye run”.    After about three hours, I relocated down river about a mile and really enjoyed a non-stop flight of ducks, geese, and swans.

Towards dark, I was getting rather chilled and kept remembering the five times that I have suffered severe hypothermia, each time it permanently froze 18-percent of my brain cells.   With just 10-percent left, I looked to the west; just beyond the trees, there is a field, on the other side of that field is my house. In that house is my woodstove and I am thinking home sweet home, I will let you guess where I slept tonight.

Thursday, March 21st – High 25, low minus 4

I was totally into my fishing today and did everything that I could think of to catch a big gator.  Once I was anchored near the east side of a dam, a half-acre ice sheet came in and removed me from that spot.

I moved to a new honey hole and soon after had my chance at a big kahuna.  The large sucker bobber started running, and then vanished under the extremely cold water.  I no longer cared about anything; if I fell in I was not letting go of the rod.

I had either a big musky or northern pike on and fought it while standing in my canoe.

Three times it came very close to the canoe but was too deep to reach with my net.

On the last run, the next Wisconsin state record gator spit the hook and I was once again reduced to being just an average guy in a canoe trying to earn a living.

Later I caught a humongous perch on a fathead, which ended the skunk on this two-day adventure.

Very curious about Mother Nature!  Sunset