Sharing a room with another man, Pantze, 63, has no cooking facilities and only a small refrigerator.
“I was born in Glenwood (Minn.),’’ Pantze said as he airmailed a bobber rig about 30 feet from the Wirth Lake pier. “The first time I fished as a kid was right there in Glenwood, on Lake Minnewaska, with my grandfather.’’
Forty acres in size, with a maximum depth of 25 feet, Wirth Lake is home to a popular swimming beach, and on given summer days, a dozen or more canoes might be on its surface, toting kids enrolled in summer recreation programs.
At least that many two-ended craft were on the lake when Pantze’s bobber descended into the depths, signaling a bite and prompting him to set the hook, bowing his rod in the process.
Seconds passed. Then Pantze winched a bluegill to the pier, a feisty little specimen that squirmed mightily before succumbing to its fate.
“That’s what you catch here mostly, bluegills,’’ he said. “Though I’ve seen a 10-pound northern caught from this pier, a 2-pound bullhead and a 3-pound walleye taken on a night-crawler harness.’’
Pantze’s urban shore-fishing routine belies his more exotic and far-flung angling credits. In years past he’s cast lures into the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean and the gin-clear rivers of Montana, from each pulling far bigger fish than he’ll ever catch in Wirth Lake.
But for Pantze, as for most anglers, today’s catch trumps yesterday’s memories, however gilded. So with enthusiasm he re-baited his hook, and soon fooled a second, third, fourth and fifth bluegill before packing his bounty into a cooler for the hike home.
“My sister will cook these for me at her place on July 4,’’ he said.
I, meanwhile, had released back into the lake bluegills I caught, and soon angled through the park on my bike. A ribbon of asphalt led me a mile or so north to a hookup with the Luce Line Regional Trail.
Turning there, my fishing rods appeared vaguely as jousting lances, extending a foot or so in front of my handlebars, and I worried irrationally as I pedaled that I might spear an oncoming traveler.
Fortunately, almost immediately, this thought succumbed to the broader satisfaction inherent in all bike travel and its freedoms, and anyway on this weekday the trail was largely vacant, save for the odd jogger and the occasional young mother pushing a stroller.
Arriving at French Park, hard by the shores of Medicine Lake, I found the place abuzz with beachgoers, hikers, moms and kids.
Almost 900 acres in size, Medicine Lake is a Twin Cities fishing magnet, particularly for anglers seeking bass, but also for those wanting walleyes. Rowboats, canoes and kayaks can be rented here, whether for fishing or simply sightseeing.
Situated on a lagoon adjacent to the lake, the French Park fishing pier, I thought upon my arrival, appeared a likely launchpad for frog imitations and other bass baits rigged weedless.
But in a hundred or so casts, I couldn’t raise a bucketmouth, and soon yielded my efforts to the bluegill fishing acumen of Hummel and Stryker.
In time, 15-year-old Gerald Ittner also was casting from the pier, as was Roger Anderson, 66, of Edina.
“Every Memorial Day I fish Horseshoe Lake near Pine River, and the first week of August I fish near Ely. But this is the first time I’ve ever fished here,’’ Anderson said, adding, “I hope I don’t catch anything. Then I’d have to clean it.’’