An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 6-25-2014
by Mark Walters
A Night in a Canoe on the Mississippi River
I had planned on taking the trip that you are about to read about three other times this spring but was flooded out each time. This week I tweaked my original plan and went on an adventure on the Mighty Mississippi despite a river that is flowing about five-feet above average.
Sunday, June 8th
High 79, low 50
My original plan was to canoe to a rock that is about the size of a pickup truck and is in, what I hoped, was some extremely bluegill laden waters. I was going to set a lawn chair on the rock and fish, enjoy life, sleep on the rock, fish the next day, and then canoe back to my faithful Chevy pickup truck.
That plan took a major change for the worse when my good buddy from Prairie du Chien “Gary Howe” rained on my party and told me that my rock was under water. My new plan had me living in my canoe and anchoring near the rock.
Plan number 2 took a turn for the worse when I talked to two boat loads of fishermen at the landing at Cold Springs who told me that they had not had a bite all day as the river was too high.
I then abandoned that location and began driving to landings, campgrounds, and asking fishermen if they had any luck. Everywhere I went I had the same answer and that was the river was too high and bluegill were not biting.
A common theme that I did hear was to head to Blackhawk Park, which is a super nice Army Corp of Engineers campground,/landing and park near Desoto, that is nestled in and around several backwater lakes. I was told that maybe I could find some hungry panfish in the shallows and so that is where I headed.
Back in the ’80’s I camped at Blackhawk Park probably at least 75-times. I was a steel fabricator at the time and would leave for work on Fridays with my boat, camping gear, and golden retrievers, Ranger and Ben. I would chain the pups to my truck, work a 9-hour day, drive to Blackhawk Park, build camp and fish all weekend. So I could fish Sunday night, I would not break camp until Monday morning and still make it to Bar Bel fabricating in Mauston by 7:00 a.m.
Today, it had been about 25-years since I saw this place and I was both impressed and living down memory lane.
I unloaded my canoe, packed it with my bedroll, food, cooler, and fishing gear. Just as important as my gear I put my daughters ten-week old kitten “Popcorn” in the canoe for her first canoe ride, which would also mean sleeping in the canoe.
The first spot that I checked out was in flooded timber and I anchored in about 2-feet of water that was completely covered in algae. I had no sooner anchored when Popcorn must have thought the algae was solid and tried walking on it. The next thing I knew I had a kitty swimming in the river.
After the rescue, Popcorn vanished under some gear and it was no more than two minutes and she jumped straight up like a rocket and landed in the river again. Instead of swimming to my canoe she swam to a tree and climbed it. An hour later I noticed that she forgot to use the litter box and instead decided that my tackle box was a great spot to leave me a treat.
Back to the fishing, I pulled anchor six times today before I found some hungry gills. In that three hours, Popcorn dried up and like the last two trips in my fishing boat truly loved what she was doing.
When I found the gills it was in an area where I actually paddled my canoe between two sunken deadfalls and went vertical with a wax worm on jig and a worm on another. I threw a worm out with a bobber and though the fishing was slow the bluegill were 7 to almost 9-inchers.
When day became night, I dined on homemade salsa, as well as, cheese, shaved ham and Ritz.
Naturally I drank a beer, watched the moon until 2:35 a.m. and then slept on my canoe floor for just over two hours.
The next day I went exploring and checked out several spots and could not find any hungry fish and heard the same thing from every other fishermen. In the end, I returned to my deadfall, caught some dandies and once again realized that I have a very cool job.
Tonight I am leaving for my annual Canada barrage of fishing and fun! Sunset
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Hiawatha National Bank