Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Walleye or not?

Wick's World

 


I realized tragedy had struck when I reached in my pocket and pulled out a single hearing aid. Where was number two?

I was in Moose Lake retrieving my dogs from the neighbor and while rushing all over town in a hurry to get chores taken care of, I had pushed my hearing aids deep into my pocket. I had to get back to St. Paul and prepare for my next journey in life. This one was to take me back home to the shores of the Missouri River for the fall walleye run.

Unfortunately, I had my car keys in my front pocket along with my hearing aids. With every Moose Lake stop — the hardware store, the library, the thrift store, the post office and the pizza parlor — I removed my keys from the same pocket in which I had placed my hearing aids. It was at one of those stops that my left hearing aid disappeared.

“LOST: $2,000 hearing aid somewhere in Moose Lake. REWARD: Call (218) 310-3221 and ask for dimwit.”

By 4 p.m. the next day my friends and I were setting on the banks of the Mighty Mo’ out in South Dakota. The rumor, “The walleye are hitting.” Nobody said they were aquarium sized; 72 million fingerlings had been released in the spring. By October they fit a sardine can.

Our first evening included a spectacular orange blaze sun setting beneath purplish manganese hills. The fish count: four skipjacks, two catfish, two bass and six tiny walleyes. There were no fish to clean that evening.

Carrying a fairly decent appetite, we stopped at a restaurant on the river where I had hung out for the past 60 years. This current version specializes in full pound steak burgers and goes by the moniker The Busted Nut. While nibbling on some chicken wings and corn fritters, a guy sitting at the next table asked my friend, “Say, are you Bart?”

Bart replied, “Jimmy Steckelberg! I haven’t seen you since high school!”

Midway through their conversation, I was introduced as Gary Fisher. That’s when Jimmy’s brother, Ron, got up and embraced me. Ron was the kid we called Ollie back in grade school and was one of my closest friends.

We both basically said, “I wouldn’t have recognized you on the street!”

We were having a long conversation when he asked if I remembered the time he hitched a ride with me and my dad to a football game in Gregory. I did not, until he embellished the story.

“I remember your dad putting the car in neutral and coasting down that steep hill at the White River. He said he was saving gas.”

Suddenly I was flooded with memories. I did remember that night and who could forget the steep hill? We gave each other a big hug and a strong handshake. Then Ron said, “Let’s not wait 50 years to do this again.”

I heartily agreed. The next day was basically a repeat of the previous one except the fish were a little larger and we added some perch to the count. The largest catch of the entire trip came later that day when we decided to head north to the Lower Brule Reservation.

We walked down a steep embankment near the locks of the Big Bend Dam, baited up and waited for the big walleyes to start biting. Just as we were ready to leave, my buddy, Jimbo, saw his pole bend in half.

He set the hook and as the fish headed for bottom, he exclaimed, “It's a walleye; a huge walleye!”

I learned early in life that there are two kinds of walleye — the small, medium and large ones you catch and the huge ones that get away. This one didn’t get away. Jimbo’s son, Ike, was leaning over the edge of the rocks to help his dad land the huge walleye.

“It’s a walleye; a huge walleye!” Ike exclaimed.

As the fish began to surface, I thought it looked pretty gray for a walleye. Then I realized this walleye had a couple of long whiskers. It was the moment when Jimbo reeled in the huge catfish that we knew our fall walleye run had ended.

 

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