Every once in a while we meet people that are different. Just not the regular person a guy meets in their day to day business dealing. I'm talking about the people that when you talk with them, they just stand out as people that truly care about other people. I've met 10 people like this in my life.
It was back in about 2001 I locked through all the locks in the Mpls/St Paul area taking a tour of the Mississippi River. Then I came to Lock and Dam #3. It was about 11 in the morning. I didn't know it at the time, but I was about to meet one of those people that made a difference.
His name was George Mead, US Army Corp of Engineers.
I'm in my fishing boat heading down stream, while waiting for the water to drop in the lock chamber, this white haired lock operator leans over the rail above me and starts talking. He asked about how fishing was and talked about the water levels. Small talk, but until that time no one had talked to me in a lock besides for giving out directions. I remember thinking "well he sure is a friendly guy". I left the lock and didn't think much more about it.
Fast forward a few years and I started my guide service that brought me to the lock around 7 pm and then again sometime between 1 and 3 am. Sure enough, when that white haired guy was working and the time allowed he would come out of his big glass control room and chat. Always having something positive to say. Heck even when a boater did something that wasn't so smart, he could correct them without injuring their self esteem. Once when a boater was giving him a hard time, I heard George say over the radio in a very firm but calm voice "if you would like to argue I would be happy to have the sheriff stop by and you can argue with them". End of that conversation.
Now I'm not knocking any of the other lock operators I've met. Far from it. They do their job well and always have a friendly "HI!" or "Catch Anything?" It was just that George would stop what he was doing to come over to the wall to see us or it might be just a friendly "good night" over the radio but he always made a person feel welcome. Speaking of the radio, he would kid with me about calling the lock to let them know I was coming. He wanted me to call in as Captain Catfish. I did it once or twice. When I went by the lock control room windows, I could see his big white smile and a friendly wave as the lock gates opened.
Although most of us think being a lock operator is all fun and games watching the pretty ladies in their warm weather gear as they passed through the locks, the job does have its dangers.
It was a windy day when a tow was being pulled through the lock by cable. That cable snapped and almost took of George's ankle. When I heard about it I called the local hospital thinking I would get the nurses station and find out how he was doing. To my surprise I was transferred directly into his room and George answered the phone! Turns out I was the first person to talk to him after his surgery although he wasn't in much of a condition to chit chat considering the medication he was on. It took George a good while to heal up and get back to work after that, if that cable would have been higher, well lets just not think about that.
So why am I talking about George Mead? Well today, Friday, November 21, 2014 along with the last barge heading down stream and the Corp unofficially closing the Upper Mississippi for the 2014 navigational season, George closed the lock gates for the last time. Today George Mead, arguably the friendliest lock operator on the Upper Mississippi River retired.
In 17 years I've given out 8 Starfish Awards. This one is engraved #9. What is it? It goes like this...
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. It look like the boy was dancing along the beach but as he drew closer the old man could see he paused every so often, and he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing lad?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
That friends, is what George Mead did to each person he had contact with..."he made a difference to that person."
Best wishes to you and Sue in your retirement George. The Corp is losing a 'ell of Starfish Tosser. You'll be missed.
Captain Catfish South bound out of Lock #3.
The Father/Daughter team that was to fishing with me last night had a 90 mile drive to the St Croix. When I saw the white caps in the afternoon (winds gusting to 34 mph) I checked the weather for the night. Winds 10 to 20 mph, T-Storms with possible heavy rain. Not sounding like a good night to be out on the water.
I left a message for Mike but it was too late, he was on his way and we would fish until well, the lightening removed us from the river. To my surprise when arriving to the launch, the Ol' Croix was almost flat. Just a noticeable breeze but the dark clouds still looked like they could kick us off the river at any time.
While motoring to our first location we took a moment to go through the safety check list. "Everyone needs to watch for approaching boats" was repeated a few times. Urinal, bucket and tp locations along with the locations of towels. Life jackets and throwable locations and a few other safety items were covered. By the way, we normally are wearing the PFD's at all times but I was looking for some photo and needed them taken without the vests being worn.
Once the anchor was set I gave a little instruction on how to bring in a sturgeon, where they should stand, where I would be with the net and finally, where I would place the fish in the boat. Knowing these things ahead of time helps because once the Sturgeon Dance starts, it's not over until it's over and it can get a little wild when the fish is leading! I set the Sturgeon Traps. Cut bait and crawlers on Team Catfish Double Action hooks has been the ticket lately.
I don't think it was hirty minutes before the tap tap tap of a sturgeon filled the boat with electric anticipation. So much so that while Samantha was fighting what turned out to be a 52 inch Lake Sturgeon, no one really noticed the short down pour of rain and the distant lightening. By the time Sam had the fish close enough for me to net the rain was over with and the waters still flat. Perfect.
Mike had a number of channel cats caught all pushing the digital scale just past the 7 pound mark. They are a very good fighting fish at that size using the heavy(er) rods needed for Sturgeon. I believe Mike ended up being deemed the "Catfish Queen" by the end of the night. He did get a chance to feel the pull of a Laker although the fish wrapped it's tail around the line and that reduces it's fighting ability. I call a Mulligan.
Next up was Nicole Michel. This was not her largest or even first Lake Sturgeon but it was her first tagged fish. The tag number F 39791 is on it's way to the MN DNR for the history of this fish and I'll post it in this thread once the info comes back.
Please take a moment to jot down the numbers of any tagged fish and send them into the MN DNR . They like the length, girth, weight and approximate location of the catch along with the bait that was used. If the fish is not going to be harvested, please leave the tag in the fish. This will allow more history to be collected in the future.
Here's the website.
MN DNR Tagged Fish Reporting
I was very happy, actually elated that no bets were made this time out with Nicole. I wasn't up to eating any minnows. If you haven't seen her on Minnesota Bound, the episode airs tonight (Saturday, September 20th) at 6:30pm on KARE 11 where Nicole makes a bet with Host Travis Frank. It's worth a watch.
Many folks I've taken out over the years are appreciative to the fish. Many will say "thank you" as the fish splashes them in the face, happily swimming away to be caught again. I'll just say there is no one that enjoys and respects a fish of any species more then Nicole Michel. You can follow more adventures of Nicole at https://www.facebook.com/Coleycrawler
Although the weather was threatening, it was a beautiful night on the St Croix River. There was a fantastic warm breeze that made the fishing just that much better!
See you on the water!
While most fisher people of Minnesota are looking for a limit of the golden walleye, others are going after the pre spawn bite of the Channel Catfish. John and his son Alex Steinhauer of Red Wing, Minnesota decided to just that. Target channel cats from shore in some of the slower current backwaters of the Mississippi River. Here's Alex proudly holding his first channel cat of the year.
Alex was using Secret 7 Dip Bait and a sinker to keep the bait near the bottom of the river. It wasn't long and the tug of his first catfish was bending the pole! FISH ON!!
That's what's nice about fishing for channel cats. For $40.00's a person can have a rod, reel, line, hooks, sinkers and Secret 7 bait that could last a summer of fishing. If you have or can borrow most any rod and reel a person can be fishing for under a ten dollar bill. Just add adult supervision near water and maybe a 5 gallon bucket to sit on.
But walleyes taste better! Well there's many catfish eaters that would argue that point. With a little care in the preparation (just like with walleyes) I will say they taste just as good if not better in my opinion. I'll still take a meal on skin on, bone in sunfish over both the channel cat and a walleye though, but that's just a personal opinion.
I never did get the hang of skinning them like a bullhead. I just filet them like the walleye although I'll start behind the rib cage.
Some folks soak the filets in milk over night while I just prepare them like I would a walleye. Dampened filet dusted with Sturdiwheat's Cajun fish coating and dropped in the 360 degree low priced olive oil. Don't let the word Cajun scare you off. I would call it more of a slightly spicy fish coating. Excellent for catfish and walleyes for that matter.
Now is a good time to start fishing for channels. They bite all year but from now until September they are fairly easy to find and catch. Get the kids out there and watch their eye's pop open when fighting and aggressive channel cat.
For more information on locations and channel cat fishing in general, just send an email to Brian.Klawitter@In-DepthOutdoors.com
Last Friday I attended the Doctor Sonar class that was to cover Lowrance, Huminbird Electronics and Navionics Mapping Chips and Apps.
The first thing Doctor Sonar aka Bruce "Doc" Sampson said to our group was "You'll have too much information at the end of the day". Yeah, he was right. I seldom take notes, but there is no way a person can retain all the information from this class without recording it or taking notes.
The goal of Doc's classes are to help us understand how we can make this technology work for us. After all, we spent the money on these units to help us catch more fish right?
Doc utilizes the latest in technology as well. If we had a question, we just spoke into a voice activated microphone and it was transmitted right into Doc's little hearing aid looking receiver. No matter where the student was in the room, Doc heard the question, repeated it and gave the answer.
The Power Point presentation started off with the basics to ensure we were all on the same page as far as understanding how the "2 D" sonar we are all use to worked.
Then it was on to figuring out what the heck all those different colors and marks were on the display. Now anyone can tell just by reading the owners manual that the color yellow is the most dense return, then red followed by blue.
What Doc does to help translate the colors in our brains is to show the display and the actual underwater video at the same time. Watching the bottom change from the blue (soft) bottom into a yellow (hard rock) bottom really help a person understand what your expensive electronics are showing the user.
Doc used the underwater video camera to show what bait fish, walleyes, suckers and sunfish look like on the sonar screen. Of course you'll still have to know the hang outs of these types of fish because your sonar will not label them for you. Confused? Here's one good example.
In looking at the sonar, there were some fish having a short fat arch in 45 feet of water suspended over a hard bottom. What species were they? Using the underwater camera, it became clear they were bluegills. So knowing how fish behave and where they like to hang out helps in making the ID off the sonar display. In the end making a good decision if I should spend the time to fish them.
Now I'm not trying to give a class here and couldn't anyway. The above chewed up the morning and spilled over into the afternoon.
At this point the Humminbird folks went over to one area and Johnny Candle covered off on the specifics of running the 'bird sonars with the SideScan technology.
I stayed to listen to Mark O'Neill go through Lowrance's StructureScan and DownScan along with how they work.
(Just a note, if you haven't looked at a StructureScan/DownScan sonar, do it! These are coming down in price all the time and they are HUGE in fish and structure finding!)
Mark covered off on way too much to touch on here, but I'll try to list a few.
*Basic functions and how to utilize the settings to optimize your unit for your kind of fishing.
*Organizing of waypoints and other waypoint tips/tricks.
*Trails and Routes - what are they and how to best use them.
*Why is backing up your info important to you and how to accomplish this quickly.
*What is Sirius In-Land Weather.
Then we moved on to Kirt Hedquist the expert on Navionics mapping chips and Mobile apps.
There is so much going on with these map chips and applications for smartphones and tablets it's unbelievable.
Beside the standard plug and play chips that have been around for years, you'll be able make your own map of waters that you fish. In other words, people that couldn't find contour map of the smallish lake they liked to fish or poor quality mapping on their favorite lake Navionics can help you with SonarCharts. You drive around the lake logging sonar to a blank chip, this info is then uploaded to Navionics and they will then update the cartography (depth contour lines) on these lakes. This new data is then downloaded to your existing qualifying Navionics chip thru the Freshest Data program. Next time your out fishing repeat the above process and Navionics will update your lake again.
What you'll end up with is a very detailed map of your lake! Heck, Doc had a hole on the St. Croix that's not on any commercial chip! Truly amazing technology that easily affordable to Joe Sixpack fisherman today.
There is no way I can cover the 8 hours of info Doc and team tried to pour into our heads here.
After spending a good chunk of change on today's sonar/gps units and using them for just over a year, it was well worth Doc's fee. I know there will be more fish in my boat this summer because of it.
If you're befuddled by your sonar or just want to get to know it better...check out the Doctor Sonar Classes. Doc will help you find fish faster.
I asked the men's group I am a part of to pray that God would reveal Himself to me and show me His power in a very real way. Here is what happened just four day later.
On December 2, 2006, it was early morning and I pulled the boat down to the river. I was listening to a Christian radio station and they announced the temperature was a chilly 5 degrees with a wind chill of 12 below. Nevertheless, I was eager to get on the water and do some walleye fishing.
I backed the trailer into the water and fired up the boat. Having tied it up to the dock, I turned on the graph to let things warm up while I parked the truck and got my cold weather clothes on.
Walking back down to the boat, I slid most of the way on ice that formed from pulling the trailer out of the water. The graph showed the water temperature was 33.7 degrees, and I thought, "That's cold! It's going to iced up soon."
I headed up river to a spot which the weekend before had produced some nice fish and plenty of action. I cranked the throttle wide open on the 60 horse and started breaking waves.
Suddenly, the boat hit a submerged log and my body was airborne--I slammed into the freezing water and sank like a rock. Three big strokes later I broke the water's surface and struggled to get a big breath of air, but sank again as I fought to get my big pack boots off.
When I got to the surface my limbs were numb and my face was freezing. My immediate thought was, "Get to the boat!" but it was going wide open in a circle. I tried anyway but the waves the boat were making, along with the wind were just too much. Also, I could very easily be run over by the boat. I turned and glanced towards shore and it hit me, "Oh my gosh, I am going to die in this river over a bunch of stinking walleyes."
For a few moments I considered just breathing in the water and letting myself drown. Then I thought of my three grandkids and I cried out to God, "Please Lord help me make it to shore. Lord, they need their grandpa."
I flipped over to a back float and slowly paddled my way towards shore trying my best to keep my head above water. My body was gasping and shaking due to the cold. I knew I had to get my breathing under control and try to relax. Waves of freezing water were crashing on my face. When I got water in my mouth I swallowed it instead of trying to cough it up. I kept praying over and over again, "Lord, let me make it to shore."
All a sudden I kicked the bottom and turned over and caught sight of two men on shore. They were yelling to me saying, "You can do it! Come on!" I got to about waist deep water and I told them I could not go any farther. My clothes were to heavy and I was overcome with exhaustion and cold. The two fellows ran in and got me up the steps to a waiting squad car with its heat on high.
The wife of one of the men who helped bring me out of the water got in the seat next to me and kept talking until the ambulance arrived. She told me she was making coffee when she heard a boat coming up river. She could not believe someone was out when it was so cold! She got to her dining room window just in time to see me fly out of the boat and hit the water. She screamed to her husband, "Oh no! Someone just flew out of a boat into the water."
She called 911 and the dispatcher told her not to watch because, "In that cold water he will not make it out."
The Pierce County Water Patrol was called to drag for the body and a Hastings, Minnesota ambulance was also called to pick the body up.
She watched anyway while her husband and a neighbor friend ran down to the shore. (At that time of the year there were no boats along the shore because they were all stored for the winter) By the grace of God they were there to pull me out of the water and help me up to the waiting squad car. After a short visit with the lady, the paramedics arrived and walked me up to the back of the ambulance.
They stripped off my wet clothes and wrapped me in a pile of blankets. The paramedics were asking me questions and talking to me and laughing. I was telling them how big my God was and to call my wife to bring me some dry clothes. When I got to the hospital, I was put in an air mattress that had thousands of holes which circulate warm air around the entire body. It's called the Bear Hugger--and it felt great.
After being out of the water and under the Bear Hugger for and hour and a half, they took my core temperature and it was still only 93 degrees. At 93 degrees your organs are supposed to start shutting down. The doctor figured out my core temperature and been somewhere in the 80's when I was helped out of the water.
While laying under the Bear Hugger my daughters, my sons-in-law, and grandchildren came to see me. Tears were flowing. It was hard for me to believe I almost lost my life and the privilege of having an impact on my grandkids' lives. (let alone the rest of my family and friends)
A Pierce County Water Patrol officer showed up to file a report and was amazed that I had survived. He told me that when the call came in stating that a guy flew out of his boat into the water and that he would need to drag for the body he thought,"What in the world is a guy doing fishing on such a cold day anyway." But, when he was on his way to the river he got a call that I had made it to shore and was on my way to the Hastings Hospital.
After I was released from the hospital five hours later, my two sons-in-law and I went back to the river and retrieved the boat.
The next day I could not move. I was sore from head to toe and had a hard time breathing. I ended up back in the emergency room.
A week later I was hospitalized again for further testing. After getting settled into my room a nurse came in and stated, "You're that guy!"
I said, "What?"
She said, "You're that guy that went swimming in the river!" She then gave me a big hug and said,"I cannot wait to get home to tell my husband. He was one of the paramedics that picked you up that day. He said they got a call to pick up the body of a fisherman that had gone in the river. But, when they got there the guy was alive and laughing and telling them how big his God was." She then went on to say, "tonight when I get home I am going to tell him, "You may have picked him up but I am his nurse!"
I had about every test done that's possible . My file is a case study at the hospital and many of the doctors around the hospital stopped by to say "Hi!" They were amazed that with a core temperature in the 80's no damage was done to any organs and that I never lost consciousness.
According to the world I should not have survived. On March 6, 1968, nine elite Marines trained as water survival instructors at the Marine Corp Physical Fitness Academy, capsized while paddling a war canoe across the Potomac River. They wore sweat suits and they had seat cushions but no life jackets. The temperature was 36 degrees Fahrenheit. None of these men were able to swim the 100 yards to shore. This is the bluntest of messages for all of us.
Doctors stand amazed and just say I'm one lucky guy to be alive!
Yes, I am but it's not luck. God spared my life once again. He is the reason I am alive today. He showed me His power in a very real way. Friend, God wants a personal relationship with you.
River Dan's Guide Service (651) 503-6624
This weekend River Dan will be holding his 7th Annual "It's Great To Be Alive" party for his family and friends.