Every year since I started writing this column back in 1989, I have written a column on the last year’s highlights. This allows me to take Christmas week off, which is part of my annual plan each year to catch my breath and try to slow down a frantic pace that very few people are aware of.
Without a doubt, one of my favorite ways to spend time is winter camping while ice fishing. I like to fish as many hours of the days as possible. I do not like to go to town, and generally the best fishing of the day is at first light and at sunset.
Last winter I went on five hardcore camping/fishing trips, and I loved every minute of those adventures no matter what conditions were thrown at me. My favorite river is the Mississippi for ice fishing, because of the quality of the fish, the variety of fish, the almost 200 miles of shoreline and a non-stop view.
An annual journey that I am getting pretty good at is to the Fox River at De Pere. I go there each March as soon as the river starts to open up. I paddle after dark while pulling two blue/chrome J7 Husky Jerk crankbaits while using a left and a right planer board.
I wear chest waders, everything gets iced up and my goal is always to catch a 28-inch walleye, which I do just about every year. I put a propane lantern in the front of my canoe and the thrill of seeing a rod start bending in those conditions is awesome. Catching a 28-inch plus fish makes me a super hero in my own mind.
Another one of nature’s bounties that I really get a kick out of is fishing sumo bluegill, both out of a canoe and a boat during the spawn in late May. I head over to see my buddy Paul Bucher in Barron County, where I camp, enjoy the campfire and we do really well on what I believe, pound for pound, is the best fighting and eating fish in North America.
Last May my daughter Selina graduated from Necedah High School. Let me tell you, I really never wanted that day to come. Selina and I honestly had a blast since the day she was born, and to honor a great 18 years, we threw a weekend-long shindig that was a blast for one and all.
About that same time I also went to Canada with the group that I always hang out with. I was thinking of staying home, but my old buddy Jeff Moll said, “please Mr. Master Guide Extraordinaire, come to Canada and teach me how to fish.”
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Selina was my partner in the boat and everyone was really happy when I won the big-gator contest for the fourth year in a row.
Last August I was running bear baits with my lifelong friend Doug Cibulka. Another memorable event was a very fun over-night bachelor party on the Wisconsin River for my stepson Joey Dushek. Big fish were caught, I pretended I was 16 while trying to play Frisbee, and we laughed a lot.
To date, I have helped six people harvest their first black bear. This year, Doug Cibulka paid his dues with some bear bating that was physically exhausting and financially-consuming, but on the second night of the season, he put a hurting on a 318-pound dressed sow. It was just a great experience for a couple of old timers like Doug and I.
Forty-eight years ago I duck hunted while camping on an island on the Mississippi River for the first time. I wasn’t gonna go this year, but Jeff Moll once again said “Please Mr. Master Guide Extraordinaire teach me how to hunt ducks,” and so I made the personal sacrifice and embarked on the adventure.
Selina joined us, and folks I have to tell you, the long-term flooding is having a very grave effect on the islands, as the trees are dying, and with the loss of the root structure, the islands are literally washing away.
My bow hunting season did not go as planned. I can’t hit the broad side of a barn, my friends say I stink and the deer know it. I think it’s time for a crossbow.
Deer camp 2019 was sleepless. As my old buddy Jeff Moll recently wrote, “there is no energy on the planet like The Red Brush Gang’s deer camp.”
There are at least 30 other adventures I could write about, but perhaps what I just touched on gives you an idea why I need a bit of a break.
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