Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For April 30th, 2010 Edition.

An event that tugs on angler's heartstrings, stirs various emotions and stimulates the recalling of numerous memories is the opening of fishing season! For the serious and not-so-serious nimrods alike, opening day is likened to a national holiday.

I'll freely admit my adrenalin does not pump nearly as fast the night prior to opening day as it once did, but I still get a rush sufficient in strength to rouse me out of bed at five a.m. with great expectations on my mind!

Tomorrow will mark the 55th Wisconsin opening day I will spend trying to outwit some finny specie in an area lake or stream. Since 1947 I've only missed eight opening days, the explanation of why will be revealed later.

I began keeping a detailed, daily diary of every day I've spent on the water in 1953, which now contains over 5000 entries and allows me to take you on a trip back in time as I reflect on some of my most memorable opening day fishing adventures.

Between 1947 and 1952 I was pretty much alone during my opening day quests for a meal of fresh fish. My favored body of water was Plum Creek and the quarry I sought was brook trout. Back then the season opened on the Saturday closest to May 15th. My first major opening day memory took place on May 14, 1949. While fishing off the culvert where Plum Creek flows under highway C I landed a 19 ˝ " German brown trout. After dad returned from his day of guiding he surprised me by taking my prize to Neal Long to have it mounted! Back then the going rate to mount a fish was $1.00 per inch! The treasured trophy presently resides on a wall in our den just above where I'm typing this column!

From 1950 through 1959 a large group of male anglers from the Wausau area annually spent opening weekend at my folks resort, Kasomo Lodge, in St. Germain. Nate Deutch was the group leader who organized the expedition, which included Wausau area businessmen plus executives and announcers from Channel 7. To accommodate this group dad needed to hire a number of additional guides. In 1953 I obtained two important licenses - a drivers license and a guide license. My first day as a licensed guide took place on May 16th of that year.

I fished with Al Langlois on Big St. Germain under clear skies, temps in the upper 60s and little breeze. My boat came in 2nd out of 7 boats with 5 walleye and 7 northern. Who ranked first? My dad!

For the next six years I continued to be part of the team of guides that served the 'Deutch Gang" each opening weekend.

Opening day in 1959, May 16th, was cold and nasty. At lunchtime the five boat loads of angers only produced four fish for lunch. My young head grew several sizes that day as my boat secured three of the four fish! Dad made a quick trip back to our resort and secured a generous supply of hamburgers as the main course at shore lunch! The weather warmed slightly after the noon feast and all five boats did well on walleye and pike. Such is fishing!

From 1960 to 1966 I taught school in Orlando, Fl and missed opening day up north. During that six-year period my personal opening day in Wisconsin took place in mid-June.

Once my family and I returned to Wisconsin on a permanent basis my first open water fishing took place on Escanaba Lake as soon as the ice disappeared. Escanaba Lake is legal to fish year-around and is a popular destination for anglers who can't wait for the traditional opening bell. For those of you not familiar with the experimental "Five Lakes Project", of which Escanaba is the main lake, for the most part there are no seasonal, size, or bag limit restrictions. (Although presently there are restrictions on walleye.)

May 6, 1967: Wes and Pat Pavalon. Fished Escanaba from 5:30 to 7:00. Beautiful evening, 64 degrees, southwest wind but no fish! Wes dropped his new Ambassador 5000 and Heddon Pal rod overboard into 17 feet of water. Efforts to retrieve it failed. Some start to a new season!

However, on June 20 another of my clients, Herb Peters, snagged Wes' rod and reel, which I cleaned and returned to him.

1971 marked the first time I did not spend opening day on Big St. Germain Lake. Kermit Momsen and Ed Winsinread fished with me on Frank Lake enduring temps only in the 30s, raw north winds and cloudy skies. However we had a limit of 15 walleye by 10 a.m. I took two of Kermit's friends out in the afternoon on Escanaba Lake and added ten more walleye to the days catch!

In 1974 the DNR moved opening day to the first Saturday in May, which I think was a big mistake due to the fact many times walleye have not yet spawned due to very late ice out.

For those of you who enjoy fishing while it's snowing, my clients and I did just that on opening day in 1969, 1973, 1979, 1989 and 2008. In 1976 the snow held off until the second day, when I shoveled 5 inches out of my boat prior to heading out on the water!

May 7, 1977. My 25th season! Don Capoccia and Bob Parker. Big Saint had at least 250 boats on it today! I recall dad complaining back in the 1950s if he counted 25 boats! The weather was too nice, sunny and calm. Fished hard for 5 walleye and 2 pike.

May 5, 1979. Woke up to find a blizzard in progress. Don Capoccia cancelled and Ed Petras picked up the day. We spent all morning in the Petras' living room overlooking Big Saint watching waves break over their dock and large chunks of ice pounding the shore! The storm finally let up enough by noon to allow Ed, his two sons, Doug and Ken, and I to venture out in Ed's big boat. We fished from 1:00 till 4:00 and came in with 13 nice sized walleye and 2 pike! Wow, who would have believed it?

May 1, 1982. John Harbaugh & Jim O'Connor. Most lakes still ice covered. Tried the Wisconsin River for two hours in the a.m. - along with 500 other diehards. Not a bite. Moved to Irving Lake, which opened yesterday. Same results. Fished Lost Creek for a couple hours in the p.m. Saw lots of pike spawning but they were not in the mood to eat. We did catch two dumb ones. Lousy opening!

May 6, 1989. Tony Mann. Cold and snowing! 19 to 34 degrees, with a raw northwest wind! Starrett Lake from 8 till 10. Tony forgot his boots and almost froze his feet! We made a quick trip to Harry Flemming's Sport Shop in Sayner to buy heavy wool socks! Got 4 walleye and called it a day at 10. Cooked an early shore lunch at the Mann cabin on Found Lake and sat by the fireplace watching it snow.

May 2, 1992. Tom Tilkens and Duke Munger. Another late ice out, so we took a long shot and fished Lake Superior at Bayfield from noon to five. A northwest wind was gusting to 30 and not a bite. Tom cooked liver, bacon and onions for a great sandwich lunch. Rain started at 5:00 so we quit. A Royal Skunk on opening day!

Again in May of 1993 most lakes were ice covered so I cancelled my day with Tom Tilkens and we hunted turkey together. Tom scored, I didn't.

On opening day of 1996 all our lakes were still ice covered and some local anglers started the season by ice fishing. I cancelled my date with the Mann family.

Beginning in May of 1998, and continuing to the present, my opening day routine changed. Rather than a solo trip with clients, additional boatloads of expectant anglers join ranks to create an armada that resembles a party more than a serious fishing trip.

Most frequently my opening day companions are Don Capoccia, Bob Zahnen, or Tony and Gary Mann, or Tom Tilkens and JR DeWitt. Duke Munger joined our ranks in 1998, our son, Chris and daughter-in-law, Linda, added a third boat to the flotilla in 1999. Other friends soon accepted our invitations, including Craig and Shelly Long, Steve DeJardaine, Ed Petras, and Patrick Durkin.

Tomorrow two additional anglers, Steve and Debbie Clemens will increase the group's numbers to eight or ten, depending on weather conditions. If the weather is "too yucky", the gals may opt out..

We begin opening day with breakfast at Wolf Pack Café, then head for our chosen body of water. Semi-serious fishing takes place from about 9 till 11:30, then we break for a group lunch prepared by Chef Thomas Tilkens, while the remaining multitude stands around telling fishing fibs and consuming what make Milwaukee famous.

We rush to get back on the water by 1:30 - fish till 3:00 - or maybe 2:30. Then it's back to the Anderson residence to clean the combined catch and prepare for the Saturday evening fish fry and bash.

By 5:00 P.M. May 1st somewhere between 18 and 20 bodies will be whooping it up on our deck overlooking Lost Creek celebrating another opening day experience!

Ah yes, life is good!

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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