Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For April 16th, 2010 Edition.

A Northwoods event many folks await with great anticipation is "ice-out!" And this spring the event arrived at just what might be an all time record - the earliest ever! A suggestion I made in an earlier column, that we'd get to hear the lion's March roar, never came to pass.

Dad was a meticulous record keeper concerning a number of natural occurring events - such as ice-out and freeze-up dates. The small lake we lived next to for many decades has only become ice-free three times prior to April 1st since dad began keeping records of the annual spring event in 1938. The first recorded pre-April ice out on Kasomo Lake occurred March 28th of 1946. On that date dad penned the following in his daily diary: "Very warm, 80. Cut a pickup load of white birch, fixed the wood cutting machine. Mommy washed clothes. Ice went out of the lake!"

March 1946 was very similar to March 2010 except for the fact the north received several liberal doses of rain in 1946. No so this spring as the drought continues.

The second pre-April ice out on Kasomo Lake took place on March 25, 2000, and this year the event took place on March 26th. Big St. Germain Lake generally becomes ice free three to four days after Kasomo, and this spring Big St. shed its winter skin on March 30th, the earliest date ever recorded during my lifetime.

Looking at averages concerning ice-out dates - Kasomo Lake is normally clear of ice by April 12 and our larger lakes thaw out soon after.

Conversely, we've experienced some very late ice-outs! In 1950 dad had to cancel his opening day clients, as most lakes were still ice covered in mid May! Dad's first day on the water that year was May 20th! He recorded the following: "May20- Louie Metz and Judge Boileau. Big St. Germain. Water still too cold, fish not hitting. 5 walleye, 2 pike. Nice day."

Years ago the opening date for game fish took place on the Saturday closest to May 15th. The DNR eventually pushed the date back to the second Saturday in May and later still decided to open the season on the first Saturday in May.

The weatherman slapped anglers in the face again in 1996. I tend to be a bit more long winded with what I pen into my daily diary than dad did, as the following quote will prove.

"May 4th, opening day! After one of the worst winters in history all the lakes are still ice covered. Much snow still remains and people are still ice fishing! I cancelled out the Mann party and rescheduled them for the third weekend."

By Mother's Day weekend of '96, most lakes were still ice covered. Kermit Momsen and I spent May 10, 11 and 12 on tiny Fawn Lake, which is a wide spot in the St. Germain River that was free of ice due to the current flowing south from Big St. Germain. We caught few fish, due to the ice cold water and raw northwest winds, (18 walleye and northern), and dodged large chunks of ice that were meandering their way downstream! What fun!

Mid April marks the normal date for another traditional Northwoods event - the annual spring sucker run! Interest in this event is considerably less than it was decades ago, but a few dyed in the wool sucker harvesters still keep an eye on the "cricks" for the spawning run to begin.

Weather is always what dictates the beginning of most all of Ma Nature's events, fish spawning being one of them. Water temperature is what triggers the urge to spawn. Yellow perch spawn first, sometimes while lakes are still ice covered. Walleye and northern pike spawn next, followed by crappie, musky, bass and bluegill, all of which have a specific water temperature which triggers the reproductive urge.

The sucker run generally takes place sometime between mid April and mid May, depending on weather conditions and water temperature.

I really got lucky during the spring of 1946. I came down with a mild case of measles and Dr. Lindstrom quarantined me for two weeks! That meant no school - and the sucker run was in progress! I was only sick for about three or four days and as I began feeling better I began to drive my mom nuts by begging to go sucker fishing. She finally relented and allowed me to venture down to Lost Creek and spear suckers - which at the time was a legal method of harvesting suckers and redhorse.

With dad's oversized hip boots to keep me from getting completely soaked, a four-tined pitchfork and a wheelbarrow to haul my harvest home, I walked into paradise!

Well, within several days I was also driving dad nuts! His smokehouse was belching smoke round the clock trying to keep up with his kid's wheelbarrow loads of suckers. However, our neighbors were happy - getting fresh smoked suckers to nibble on and the patrons of Rose's Tavern at the corner of highways C and 155 also enjoyed the smoked treat that complimented their cold beer!

Another popular method of converting the bony fleshed suckers and redhorse into edible table fare was to run the fillets through a meat grinder and make fish patties out of them. Also, in our house, there always seemed to be lots of leftover mashed potatoes. Mom would mix the ground sucker into the mashed spuds and fry them into what looked like thick pancakes.

Lost Creek was a highly popular destination for sucker harvester's years ago, and back then those bony bottom-feeders numbered in the thousands! Today the run amounts to possibly a few hundred fish and the main harvester's are the resident eagles, mink and otters.

I also have many fond memories of helping others gather the spring bounty from Lost Creek. Pop Dean and his family annually anticipated and looked forward to the spring sucker run. Pop designed and produced the ultimate "sucker catching" devise. He bent a slender maple sapling into roughly the shape of a huge bow and attached a large bag made of seine material to the bow.

This contraption would be placed in a shallow, narrow portion of the stream and while Pop held it in place his kids, Carol, Jim, Tom, Gary and Janice - plus yours truly, would be sent upstream to make a "sucker drive."

Waves of frightened suckers would race downstream attempting to outrun the gang of howling kids that pursued them beating the water with alder branches, only to become captured in Pop's sucker trap!

Ah yes, those were the days my friends!

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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