Dennis Anderson: Run for freedom leads to fish on the Mississippi

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 17, 2012 - 10:25 PM

On a day like this, it'd be easy to forget to quit fishing, unless your guide is so good that satisfaction occurs early.

RED WING, MINN. — Here on the Mississippi on a March day like no other, Griz and I settled in quickly to the old routine. Not the routine of catching fish, because at first we didn't. The routine instead of impaling minnows onto jigs and leaning over the gunnels of his johnboat and peering into Old Muddy, the Mississippi. Just to see what we could see. This was on Wednesday and the temperature rose past 70.

A year ago about this time we were on the river also, Griz and me. Ol' Miss was wildly over its banks then and rushing southward in deadly currents of meltwater. You really wanted to watch yourself and your boat, and particularly watch downstream for sweepers and other debris. Eddies multiplied in concentric deadly circles along the shoreline, and you didn't want to be caught up in one.

Wednesday was different.

"Ain't noone working any more?'' Griz said as we dropped his boat into a back channel on the Wisconsin side of the river.

The parking lot at the launch site had been flush with trucks and trailers, signaling, as Griz suggested, that the unemployment rate remains "unacceptably high,'' as the politicos in Washington put it.

Either that or, more likely, Minnesota and Wisconsin residents and of course also a few Iowans had, simply, skipped work in favor of a day on the river.

"They ain't up here yet,'' Griz said when we had difficulty at first catching fish. "It's too early. The weather's nice. But the fish don't necessarily migrate upriver by the weather. They migrate by the calendar, and they ain't here yet.''

Surrounding us was a flotilla of boats that ran the gamut. Of course the big boys were out with their 21-footers all gleaming and glistening in the sun. Mixed among these was a mishmash of 16- to 18-foot tin boats whose numbers seemed endless. Also on the water was a minor fleet of rickety cartop-size craft, reminders to everyone of the importance of maintaining good credit scores.

"Looks like everyone's fishing,'' Griz said.

A born river rat, Griz was bewitched early by moving water. As a kid he wasn't so much interested in school as he was in fishing and hunting. In middle school in St. Paul he kept a scattergun in his locker and on autumn days when the sweet hint of autumn wafted through a classroom's open windows, he up and left, hitchhiking to Hugo or farther north if necessary, looking to scare up a rabbit or a pheasant or a duck.

"Finally I quit school,'' Griz said. "I needed to help out the family. Also I liked to hunt and fish too much, and school got in the way.''

As Griz spoke he stretched one leg, then another. He's 70 years old and no spring chicken. But flying off a knucklehead Harley at high speed when you're in your 20s leaves the kinds of arthritic tattoos not easily shorn. In a hospital after the mishap, Griz awoke to news that his bike had been bent like spaghetti in a spoon. Also, various allegations of flight while being pursued required his attention. This was long before Griz became one of the most famous, and most recognizable, fishing guides in Minnesota, and also before he was inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, and the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame.

"I served six months in the workhouse with a cast on my leg after that accident,'' Griz said. "So, ya, it's going to stiffen up a bit.''

• • •

Griz hates not catching fish, and we lasted only an hour or so among a raft of other boats that also weren't catching fish before Griz cranked over his outboard and threw his boat on plane, headed downriver.

The seductress here of course was freedom. The Mississippi is so big and so long, bearing between its banks so many possibilities, that river men dating to those known to Mark Twain, and further back still, could not resist its calling.

"It is a strange study, a singular phenomenon, if you please,'' Twain wrote in 1866, "that the only real, independent and genuine gentlemen in the world go quietly up and down the Mississippi River, asking no homage of any one, seeking no popularity, no notoriety, and not caring a damn whether school keeps or not.''

Griz ran us a long way to a spot he hadn't fished in 10 years. Killing his engine, he watched his depth finder as a pilot might an altimeter, deploying his electric trolling motor to align us precisely along shore, atop an underwater trench.

"There we go,'' Griz said a minute or so later, setting the hook on an 18-inch sauger.

As quickly, I caught a walleye, then Griz boated another sauger, and soon we had doubles on, each fighting a fish at the same time.

This was in early afternoon, and the sun grew warmer still.

"Boat control is the important thing,'' Griz said. "As we drift downriver, I want to stay over the trench, using my trolling motor. Our lines have to stay vertical. If they're not vertical, you're not going to catch fish. Or not very many.''

Nearly hidden behind him, in the stern of his boat, Griz keeps a vintage alarm clock of the type seen nowadays only in estate sales. The clock's purpose, once set, is to remind him to go home.

Otherwise, he can get so caught up in trying to hook "just one more'' that he forgets to get off the river.

He didn't have that problem Wednesday afternoon. By 5, we had caught scores of walleyes and saugers and mooneyes and flathead cats and channel cats.

"Let's get dinner,'' I said.

Upriver, Griz angled his boat into a joint that serves Caribbean food and, not incidentally, beer.

We couldn't get a table outside on the deck because everyone was outside on the deck. So we sat inside and listened to Bob Marley and ate jerk chicken and drank tall cool ones and watched not far away as the Mississippi rolled by.

A good warm day of fishing in March, that one.

Editor's note: St. Paul fishing guide Dick "Griz'' Grzywinski's website is www.fishingwiththegriz.com. Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Fishing guide Dick "The Griz'' Grzywinski of St. Paul on the Mississip...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 104 FINAL
LA Lakers 103
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 FINAL
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 55
Hawaii 94 FINAL
Chaminade 63
Nevada 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
LSU 78 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 45
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close