Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For January 1st, 2010 Edition.

I believe I'm previously mentioned as outdoors persons advance in age many of their reminiscing sessions begin with a phrase similar to "Do you remember the time ...?" Such began a recent phone conversation with a long time pal of mine that I no longer get to spend much face-to-face time with.

My buddy called to wish Wifee Poo and I a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, but as expected our conversation drifted in the direction of reliving past outdoor experiences we'd shared over the years. Towards the end of the conversation he inquired as to the present ice conditions on our area lakes. Well, that simple question opened the door to a flood of by-gone memories concerning time spent during the season of hard water.

I don't know if other folks store a disproportionate number of memories concerning what I like to label as "wild goose chases" and "Murphy got me that time" experiences. But I certainly do! And for whatever reason, most of these types of memories are some of my very favorites.

On one of my earliest ice fishing trips to Escanaba Lake back in the early 1950s I pulled a bonehead stunt that haunted me for years. My companions that memorable day were all adults and included Toby Anderson, Charlie Goodyear, Chuck Wiesse, and my dad, Andy Anderson. We were in quest of jumbo perch, which required us to walk a considerable distance on the snow covered surface of the lake to reach the perch "hot spot" well out into the main basin of the lake. The senior members of the expedition put the kid in charge of carrying our one and only ice chisel, commonly called a "spud."

After a brisk fifteen-minute walk we joined forces with a small cluster of other nimrods that were already harvesting the basic ingredients for fresh perch dinners. Scattered throughout the area were numerous "old holes" from past outings, their outlines faintly visible under a thin layer of drifted snow. Wanting to act as if I were an old pro at opening frozen ice fishing holes I plunged Toby's ice spud into the nearest snow covered hole to start the process of removing the layer of ice that had formed since someone had last used it. Unknown to my juvenile brain only a fraction of an inch of ice covered the hole.

To my horror the spud slipped out of my grasp and rapidly disappeared into fifteen feet of water, no doubt striking the bottom of the lake and remaining in a vertical position! Laughter erupted from the assembled anglers, but my four companions, and especially the owner of the submerged ice spud, saw no mirth in the situation.

The ensuing tongue-lashing I received only lasted for several minutes, during which time I contemplated joining the lost ice spud on the bottom of Escanaba Lake.

Once normality returned to the area, dad borrowed an ice spud from another fisherman after assuring him the kid would keep his hands off of it!

Years later, when I acquired my first electronic depth finder/fish locator, during the months of open water when I was scanning the interiors of numerous lakes I'd occasionally spot some mysterious object on the lake's bottom jutting straight upward. Is it possible these mysterious mid-lake objects are ice spuds that were lost by boneheads like me? It's only a wild guess.

For years I heard tales from some of the local old timers concerning huge bluegills that infested Beaver Lake. One confidant, Pop Dean, indicated the 'gills were the size of slab crappies with an appetite like Amazon piranhas! Hank Maines and I decided we needed to thin out the bluegill population in Beaver Lake.

The lake in question is small, listed at a miniscule seven acres with a maximum depth of twelve feet. The portion of the lake that lies adjacent to a well-used town road is privately owned and "no trespassing" signs are liberally posted along the right-of-way. However, the entire west and north shore of the lake is bordered by state land! It was sometime during the early winter in 1972 when my pal and I planned a massive attack on the rumored giant bluegills in Beaver Lake.

Our battle plan involved snowshoeing a quarter mile over state land to reach the Shangri-La of giant bluegills. Our equipment list included the aforementioned snowshoes, plus a sled to carry a bucket of small minnows, grub worms, ice spud, a half-dozen rods, tackle box, thermos of coffee, sandwiches, snacks and a small shovel.

Our route involved fighting our way through a balsam thicket for a hundred yards or so, after which the landscape opened up exposing an open bog swamp complete with numerous small "hummocks" covered with deep, fluffy, snow. It was here the first disaster took place.

While attempting to bypass a particularity large, rounded hummock our sled loaded with equipment slid sideways - tipped over - and among other items, deposited our four-dozen minnows into deep, fluffy snow! (Should you wish to experience searching for wiggling minnows in two feet of snow, I'd strongly suggest you should consider canceling the idea.) We did rescue a dozen or more of our original supply of minnows, but without water to sustain them, well; you get the picture as to the eventual fate of that portion of our live bait.

Undaunted by Murphy's intrusion we pressed on and reached our destination without further mishap.

The next three hours were highly memorable. Hank and I chiseled holes in the lake's center. We chiseled holes near the shoreline. We chiseled holes in all points in between the shores and the middle. Net result - sore muscles!

Nary a bite did we get! Our best excuse for our failure to catch some of those crappie sized 'gills was they were all probably hiding in the beaver house!

Happy New Year, and may all your "wild goose chases" be memorable!

Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin.   Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean,  both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide.   Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email:  or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.

Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here

Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger

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